With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

With an Easter Basket or Flower Pot, Start Growing Gratitude

Here's how to begin a "Happy Gratitude Day" tradition.

While keeping the tradition of spirituality and one’s own faith story, this might also be a time when people of any religious or non-religious persuasion can create a new tradition – one of Happy Gratitude.

Because we lived in a community in Rye, New York that celebrated both Easter and Passover together, we came to a new understanding of religious tradition. Today, there is a greater openness to interfaith marriages. When our Aunt Chris married Uncle Art, his family sat shiva. Recently, the Pew Research Center survey in 2013 said that of Jewish marriages since 2000 six in ten reported a non-Jewish spouse. The Center also addressed questions of assimilation, diversity, and heritage.

The legend of the Easter bunny has roots mixed with the celebration of springtime and rebirth -- in addition to rewarding good little boys and girls. Today with no religious significance -- the Easter basket is catching up to Santa in terms of popularity. Here are thoughts on using a recycled Easter basket, a beautiful vase, or a flower pot to start growing gratitude by choosing a special holder to fill with ideas for catching happiness.

Our mother’s baskets

Our Mother's basket
Our mother, who ran her own antiques shop, was a basket collector.  When she turned 92 she gave me two signed Longaberger Baskets dated 1992. Today one sits on a table filled with egg warmer chicks made by our mother’s mother "Grandma Water" at the age of 81. And one basket is being filled with gratitude sayings. 

How to start? Spend a half an hour one day and find quotes on gratitude and love either from books or the Internet.  You can type a group on a long sheet and cut strips of sayings or tape them to index cards so when one resonates you can put it up on a mirror or the fridge. Every few days add a new quote.  Whenever you begin to feel joy slipping through your fingers, reach in and remind yourself to be grateful.

Children’s thoughts

For people with children, you might ask them to draw a picture on an index card of a gratitude moment from the day they caught a frog to a happiness with a new doll. To reinforce gratitude, researchers tell me that it is important for children to see parents in practice.  Dr. Jeffrey Froh says:

  • Thank your child often even if he or she is doing required chores.
  • Encourage children to send pictures to grandparents, relatives, or friends explaining that they will be grateful and happy to receive their beautiful artwork.
  • Generate an attitude of giving. Ask children to select clothes or toys that you might give to children in need or share with neighbors.
  • Say “thank you” to spouses and friends in the presence of children and explain why you are grateful.  4 Ways Children Learn Gratitude

For couples

To make your basket, vase, or flower pot more couple-centered each of you over time can add color index cards designated as “risk” so that once or twice a month you can expect a surprise.  A new article from the Greater Good Science Center, “Is Your Marriage Losing It’s Luster?” inspired the idea of revealing yourself emotionally, taking an out of character risk, and starting a bedtime gratitude ritual. When you reveal yourself emotionally you are essentially taking a risk by telling someone you love a secret, serious or silly.

A risk can also help spruce up your routines. Add to your gratitude holder out of character suggestions such as: going to a karaoke bar and singing; signing up for couple’s baking class; or taking dancing lessons. Out of character experiences are bonding mechanisms and your brain remembers the excitement which triggers the love hormone.

An offshoot of the gratitude plan is one of the easiest and perhaps the most fulfilling ritual which takes place at bed time. Think of a different compliment each night that you will share with each other before turning out the lights. Couples with longtime marriages often find ways to create a memory. A gratitude tradition will plant seeds for joyful memories and perhaps lifelong love.

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

References:

  • Pew Research: Religion and Public Life Project, Chapter 2, Jewish-American Intermarriage Patterns and Other Demographics,October 1, 2013.
  • Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D. and Giacomo Bono, Ph.D, “Making Grateful Kids: A Scientific Approach to Helping Youth Thrive.” Templeton Press, Mar. 2014.
  • Christine Carter, Ph.D., “Is Your Marriage Losing It’s Luster?” The Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley,Jan. 28, 2014.

Rita Watson is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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