For many parents, "putting the kid(s) to bed" is a predictable routine that often includes a series of tasks such as bathing, teeth-brushing and book-reading. In my home, it's no different. However, we recently added a new dimension to our routine that has had a surprising impact. It has changed the way we process nearly every aspect of our daily experience. Here is the difference: At the end of our routine, we each declare three things for which we are most grateful. We call the exercise our "grateful for's."
Sounds easy, right? It was, at first. Then, we discovered, it wasn't always. To prevent gratitude fatigue, we established some rules. First, each "grateful for" must be brand new. Second, it must have impacted life that day. Third, it must be unique from another person's "grateful for's" that night. Many nights, it's easy to crank out three items for which we are grateful. It might sound like this: "I'm grateful for the delicious spaghetti dinner, for discovering the little birds nest on our porch and for my friend Laura who took the time to care about me today." But some days we feel beat down by life and coming up with three "grateful for's" can seem impossible. We do it anyway.
Declaring gratitude every night has become a non-negotiable part of our routine. We learned that, when we can't be grateful for what we've got, we can shift our thinking outside ourselves."I'm grateful for having clean drinking water today. I am grateful for our refrigerator that works all the time. I am grateful that I didn't have to survive a natural disaster today."
Think about this for a moment. You may be grateful for your draw in life, but consider the depths of the blessings in your life as compared to millions of humans who have stumbled into, or were born into, less fortunate circumstances. Do you have an education? Do you live above ground? Have you and your family been persecuted? Do you have access to medical care? Are you homeless? Hungry? Trafficked? Mutilated? When you ponder these questions, it can bring your gratitude game to a whole new level. And it can certainly put life into perspective.
It's amazing how shifting our mindset to one of gratitude -- true, deep, fundamental gratitude -- changes lives. We have learned that we can go on for hours declaring the things we are grateful for, from our health, to the health of our family members, to our military protection, to our justice system, even our paved street. We are grateful for sewers, in-home bathrooms, friendships, farmers, educational opportunities, shoes, scientific breakthroughs, bees and coral. The gratitude mindset has been a game changer for my family. We are quick to realize that what may seem like unpleasant experiences are simply by-products of our significant blessings.
There is no limit to our gratitude now. And for that, we are grateful.