The Gift of Gratitude; what we can learn from Van Gogh

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It's Okay to express gratitude.

In our busy lives, we can be so caught up 'doing' we can forget to appreciate all the wonderful people, places, experiences and things we have in our lives.  We are busy being the best we can be, yet missing the little moments.

Yet being grateful and expressing gratitude for what we have is one of the best ways to slow down, be mindful and connect with the little things (and people) that bring meaning to our lives.

Van Gogh and gratitude

Earlier this year I was doing some reading about the famous Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh.  As I researched, I was surprised to learn that he practiced daily gratitude.  He was always grateful for what he had, even when it was very little.  His mother had taught him that as part of his Protestant upbringing.

From the research, I learned Van Gogh was often without money.  For more than ten years he was provided an allowance by his brother.   It is well-known that Van Gogh suffered with mental illness and had times of quite severe mental instability, as evidenced by cutting his own ear off, and shooting himself in the chest.  Therefore, I found it very interesting to read that he practiced daily gratitude.  Yes, daily.

Clearly, the importance of expressing gratitude was a life-long habit for him, and I loved learning that it was his mother who taught him this habit.

Daily gratitude with children

As a parent, I know it's my role to encourage my children to be grateful for the many blessings in our life.  We are fortunate in so many ways, and I want to ensure my kids realise this.

So, in our home we express our gratitude, and also encourage our children to do so too.

The simplest, and most enjoyable is around the dinner table.  Each person recounts the following about their day;

  1. Three things for which they are grateful (ideally, something that occurred that day). For example; "I'm grateful for a yummy dinner, a lovely sunny day and I got to play with my best friend".

  2. One thing they learned (or a previous learning they were reminded of). For example; "I learned listening to others is important".

  3. One act of kindness (or as my youngest calls it, 'active kindness') - either that they undertook, they received or they witnessed. For example; "My act of kindness was I helped my brother with his homework".

  4. One self-love (one thing they love about themselves from that day). For example; "I love that I am able to show empathy by comforting and helping my classmate who was upset".

Why more than three?

Many of us would be familiar with the idea that we simply need to record three things each day that we are grateful for.  I do that in my personal gratitude journal.  But with the family, we have taken a broader approach.

Why?  Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding!  We found by widening our focus to encompass the three additional areas, we ALL experienced significantly more awareness, gratefulness, genuine connection between each other and the big one, more happiness.

The additional items open our discussion into other things that happen in our day.  This discussion and the listening that goes with it, helps us all feel we are heard, our experiences matter and it also enhances our positive feelings toward each other.

And we all enjoy being happier, more positive and feeling more connected with our loved ones.

What a wonderful outcome from simply expressing our gratitude.

It's Okay to express gratitude.

Feeling like you don't have much to be grateful for?  Then get in touch and we can have a chat about changing that for you.