Moving the family conversation from a negative to positive mindset through Gratitude.
The intentional practice of gratitude has been proven to improve wellbeing and increase happiness. As parents it is important that we model good self-care practice. It is all too easy to orientate our thoughts and conversation to the negative but the consequence of this negative talk is usually low mood and anxiety. Our brains are designed to be alert to danger and thus we tend to foucus on the negative. However, what we focus our attention on is what shapes our brain and our thinking. When we take time to count our blessings and include more positive reframing talk into our every day life, our mind set shifts from negative to positive. Taking the time to actively include more positive reframing into our lives improves resilience and overall Wellbeing. We start seeing more Good Things in our lives when we actively look for them. The 3 Good Things activity is a proven and effective wellbeing intervention which can increase happiness levels. It is not about artificially creating positivity in your life but rather intentionally drawing your attention to the positive things already in your life.
Daily gratitude sharing or Three Good things
Setting aside some time each day to consistently focus on building up our ability to see the good in everyday life. Don’t add undue stress to your family life by trying to create positive moments, this exercise is about finding the positive in everyday life.
Incorporate a daily sharing of ‘a good thing that happened today’ at family meal time. If each person takes a turn to share, ‘something nice about today’, then the family is sharing connection, building their gratitude muscles and learning how to reframe the events of the day positively. Some examples could include; favorite dinner was cooked, got to the next level on a video game or got out for a short walk.
Bedtime three good things-, when you are winding down your day or putting the children to bed, take a moment to reflect on three things that went well that day or three things you feel grateful for.
Positive memory jars
Another way to actively include gratitude in your life is to create a memory jar. Choose and decorate a jar and keep in a central place. When a nice moment/memory/thing happens jot the details down on a scrap of paper and pop in the jar. These happy memories are a great resource to turn to on days when everything goes wrong (those days happen) or when someone needs some cheering up. Over the year, the jar gradually fills up and it makes a lovely resource at Christmas and birthdays to review the year through a positive lens.
For the older children and adults in your family, an extension of the Three good things exercise is to keep a journal and write down the three good things and reflect on why there are good. This simple practice gets you into the habit of focusing on the positive and gives you space to reframe a tough day through a positive lens. The act of writing thoughts is important as it helps you clarify your thinking and focuses your mind. For best results this exercise is best done either every day for a week or once a week for six weeks.
So what are Good Things?
- What made you smile today? Did you laugh?
- Did you feel supported by someone today?
- Did you make a connection with someone today?
- Did you experience a moment of beauty to savour and appreciate?
Examples of Good Things could include
- Laughter and conversation with family
- Appreciation of nature- spring bulbs, birdsong, sunset
- The scent of fresh laundry, the satisfaction of chores completed
- A moment of peace and calm, that cup of tea that stayed warm whilst you drank it uninterrupted
- Embracing the silliness and joyful imagination of children at play
In these difficult pandemic times of no school- at least no head lice checks or uniforms to iron😊
Learning to reframe events in a positive light is a habit and takes practice but it has well evidenced benefits for your and your family.
For more information on Three Good Things and other positive psychology interventions see
Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), 410.
Bolier, L., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G. J., Riper, H., Smit, F., & Bohlmeijer, E. (2013). Positive psychology interventions: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. BMC public health, 13(1), 1-20.