I’ve always been one to try and see the good in people or the good in the day. I try and practice gratitude daily. For years, there has been a jar on my desk with the quote “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day,” by Alice Morse Earle. It is filled with small things that make me smile. Little glimmers of positivity.
And although others view me as an optimist, I’m also one to fall down the rabbit hole of negativity. You know the saying, ‘negativity breeds negativity.’ And when I fall sometimes it feels hard to crawl back out. And sometimes it feels nice to acknowledge the negativity, but I don’t want to stay there long.
Gratitude Dinner Traditions
I knew all the research about having a gratitude practice and decided a long time ago it would be a forever value of mine. When I had a family, I knew I wanted this to become a family value. We began a family practice of sharing gratitude around the dinner table every night (okay, not every night, we are human, but most nights). In fact, it became such a routine that when my child was 3 she would ask anyone at the table, “What are you grateful for?” This progressed (begrudgingly to others around the table) to “tell me 10 things you’re grateful for.” Ha!
And then one day it slowed down. And it felt like a ‘chore.’ Life changed, in fact the whole world changed, and it felt more and more like a struggle to come up with things to be grateful for. You can only say “the sunshine” so many times…
We were struggling to come up with a “new” thing to be grateful for that we lost sight of all the glorious small things.
Something had to give. We started to either avoid the question itself or unenthusiastically shared. This was not the purpose of sharing things we were grateful for. I knew why we needed to do it, but didn’t know how to make it work for our family.
A twist on gratitude
Then, one day I sat at dinner and rephrased the question, “Tell me one bad thing about your day and one good thing.” My child’s eyes bulged and she instantly started sharing.
It felt as if a weight had been lifted at the dinner table. For over a year now, we ask each other, “Any bad things today?” followed with “tell me about the good things!”
Life isn’t only sunshine and rainbows. It’s important to talk about the negative things too. And now most days we struggle to come up with a “bad thing.” Because by the end of the day, the “bad things” aren’t nearly as bad as they initially felt, especially in the moment. And giving ourselves permission to talk about them takes the power away from them too.
As much as I try to avoid “good” versus “bad” labels, right now my child is young. And this works for our family. But just like our original gratitude practice, I envision it evolving. I know that one day, the question can morph into:
- “Tell me one hard thing about your day and one success?”
- “I’m curious, what is one thing that made you smile today and one thing that made you frown?”
- “What is something that brought you comfort and something that brought you discomfort today?”
- “Tell me one negative thing and one positive thing about today.”
The options are endless.
Creating your own dinner traditions
I share this simple twist on gratitude when working with families that are either struggling with dinnertime or looking for simple ways to acknowledge positive things in their family. Thus far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Children love it. I urge you to give it a try or create your own unique dinner tradition.