Family Time & Gratitude
Family and friends are often our pillars of support for our well-being, especially in times of difficulty. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, after fulfilling our physiological and safety needs, we need to satisfy our social needs through a sense of belonging to a larger social group such as family and friends (Oved, 2017). Building and maintaining a network of people who we trust will establish a strong sense of connection, which will support us in times of difficulty.
As most of us live busy lives, we spend less time connecting and being there for our loved ones. For those fortunate enough to have a loving relationship with their families, it is possible to grow and create even deeper bonds with them through gratitude and mindfulness practice that we will be sharing with you.
For others who might have difficult relationships with their family members, practising gratitude will help you recognise your emotions and help reduce negative feelings you may experience, allowing you to enjoy your life rather than living in animosity.
Gratitude and Mindfulness
According to Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention to the present moment and non-judgmentally.” As we cultivate mindfulness, it grows the spirit of gratitude within us (Gregoire, 2014), and makes us more aware of things we can be grateful for. For example, being aware of the support of our family members when at the dinner table will make us feel grateful for their presence.
Gratitude is defined as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself” (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). Gratitude has physical, social and physiological benefits linked to reduced anxiety, higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction (Chowdhury, 2021). It also extends to familial networks through increased feelings of interconnectivity and caring for others, and reinforces social actions that foster feelings of belonging in the family (Kong, Ding, & Zhao, 2015). To cultivate gratitude and mindfulness among family members, our group has chosen four formal and informal practices!
These practices can be broadly categorised into Individual Practices and Family Practices. Individual practices such as gratitude meditation and gratitude journaling foster a sense of awareness of the individual’s needs. These practices ground the individual to analyse their own feelings before connecting with others. Family practices such as mindful listening and dinner conversations encourage a sense of connection and support among family members.
Gratitude meditation refers to meditation that focuses on expressing gratitude for the things in your life (Selva, 2020) and this includes both good and bad things! Although some of them might not seem pleasant currently, it could be a blessing to you as a memory in the future, or an opportunity for you to learn and grow. It has been proven that gratitude meditation can reliably increase feelings of gratitude, allowing you to reap the benefits of gratitude (Rao and Kemper, 2016). Don’t be afraid to give it a go as gratitude meditation is beginner-friendly as well!
Gratitude meditation can be done both as a formal and informal practice. For formal practices, you can find guided meditation tracks online or follow this track from the Ohio State University website (Gratitude Meditation, n.d.). If you find it difficult to allocate time for formal practices, you can consider doing informal practices instead as you can do these anytime, anywhere!
To help you with your practice, here are some prompts to think about:
The next time you are on your way to school or getting ready in the morning, consider this short informal gratitude meditation to improve your overall well-being!
Gratitude journaling is the habit of recording and reflecting on things (or people!). Keeping a gratitude journal is a popular practice in positive psychology - the scientific study of happiness. Many researchers have found gratitude journaling to be beneficial as people experience better adjustment and satisfaction with life, and positive affect (Işık & Ergüner-Tekinalp, 2017). Another study also found that gratitude writing helps to improve mental health and reduce negative emotions, even if the participants do not share their writing (Wong et al., 2018).
If you are new to gratitude journaling, here are some tips for you to get started!
Once you are more comfortable with gratitude journaling and want to take your practice to the next level, here are some tips for you:
According to Ozum Ucok (2006), Mindful Listening is the practice of listening by being fully present to oneself and the person to whom one is listening. This embodied practice towards gaining insight and understanding requires self-awareness and awareness of the other. While this may sound difficult to accomplish, breathing and listening are two very simple but powerful ways to bring yourself back to the present moment and to filter out distractions!
So how can you become a better listener? We suggest the following two techniques (with catchy acronyms!): H.E.A.R and R.A.I.N. When you are feeling strong negative emotions like anger and frustration, these techniques are very useful!
A great way to end the day is by eating good food with your loved ones. Instead of sitting in silence, we recommend that you take the initiative to speak to your family. According to research, an improvement in the quality of family communication (Weigel, 2018) enables higher general gratitude (Lam & Chen, 2021), which results in more effort being put into maintaining relationships (Lambert & Fincham, 2011). Isn’t that great? You’ll not only get to eat good food and have good conversations, but improve your relationship with your family through the expression of gratitude.
“Aiyah, but very awkward leh. How?”
No worries! Here are 3 discussion topics for you to adopt when having dinner with your family:
Do note that you and your family should adopt mindful listening practices when someone is speaking, so that everyone is engaged in the conversation and the speaker feels heard.
● Don’t feel pressured to journal everyday. Sometimes we are busy with school or work so it is difficult to make time or there could be days when the day is not worth journaling.
● If setting aside time to journal or meditate at home is not feasible for you, try doing these during your commute!
Given these mindful and gratitude interventions, our group gained valuable insights on appreciating family members and life. Through mindful meditation and journaling, we cultivated the art of gratitude within ourselves. This results in greater self-awareness to source joy in everyday moments and create space to connect with others. Communicating through mindful listening and dinner conversations with family members enrich a supportive home. We hope these tips and tools support you to cultivate mindfulness and gratitude with your family!
By Ho Jia Min, Karthiayini D/O Silverajoo, Michelle Ng Hui Min, Monica Goey, and Tan Hong Xuan
Chowdhury, M. R. (2021). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Gratitude Meditation (Greater Good in Action). Greater Good in Action - Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life. (n.d.). https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_meditation.
Gregoire, C. (2014). Jack Kornfield on Gratitude and Mindfulness. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/jack_kornfield_on_gratitude_and_mindfulness
Kong, F., Ding, K., & Zhao, J. (2015). The Relationships Among Gratitude, Self-esteem, Social Support and Life Satisfaction Among Undergraduate Students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(2), 477–489. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9519-2
Lam, K., & Chen, W. (2021). Family Interaction and Depressive Symptoms in Chinese Emerging Adults: A Mediation Model of Gratitude. Psychological Reports, 1-21. doi: 10.1177/00332941211000662
Lambert, N., & Fincham, F. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 11(1), 52-60. doi: 10.1037/a0021557
Oved, O. (2017). Rethinking the Place of Love Needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: III. Young Perspectives. Society (New Brunswick), 54(6), 537–538. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-017-0186-x
Randolph, S. (2017). The Power of Gratitude. Workplace Health & Safety, 65(3), 144–144. https://doi.org/10.1177/2165079917697217
Rao, N., & Kemper, K. J. (2016). Online Training in Specific Meditation Practices Improves Gratitude, Well-Being, Self-Compassion, and Confidence in Providing Compassionate Care Among Health Professionals. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(2), 237–241. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587216642102
Selva, J. (2020, September 1). Gratitude Meditation: A Simple But Powerful Happiness Intervention. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-meditation-happiness/#:~:text=Gratitude%20meditation%20is%20a%20type%20of%20meditation%20that%20focuses%20on,the%20blessings%20of%20their%20life.
Ucok, O. (2006, December). Transparency, Communication and Mindfulness. Journal of Management Development 25(10),1024-1028. DOI:10.1108/02621710610708676
Weigel, A. (2018). Mindfulness and Interpersonal Relations at Work: The Relationships of Mindfulness and Active-Empathic Listening to Team-Member Exchange (Masters). Maastricht University, The Netherlands.