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Teaching Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

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Teaching Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, while kids may be making paper turkeys, helping in the kitchen and baking pies, has your family deliberately made gratitude and thanksgiving a part of the season. Or has gratitude been resigned to the simple activity of going around the table and listing one thing you are thankful for?

As followers of Jesus Christ we are taught to give thanks to God without ceasing, but there are also some serious health benefits to living a life of gratitude. Hang with us as we briefly explore what the Bible has to tell us about giving thanks, the science of gratitude and our health and lastly provide some great activities to start your family on a journey of gratitude.

Biblical Gratitude


"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV


The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church in Thessalonica, gives instruction to pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks. But it starts with something even more powerful, the introduction to the sentence Rejoice Always! The word Rejoice literally means to show joy!

As Christians our joy is found in the abundant grace of Christ, who died for our salvation. To cover our sin and wash us clean. We should walk in such a way, that regardless of what is presently going on in our lives, others can see that our joy sets us apart, that something is different!

James reminds us that, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." James 1:17

With such a gift of grace, we should have nothing but an abundance of gratitude, but do we show it on a daily basis?

Your Health and a Life of Gratitude

Gratitude as we see in Pauls writing is not a choice, it isn't a once a year occasion, it is a mindset that we should consistently display throughout our daily lives. It is also clear that people who live a life of gratitude may be healthier both physically and mentally.

Harvard Health Publishing, in an article entitled Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier states, "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

This statement is backed by a number of published research, but perhaps the research that caught my eye the most was that out of the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology.

A study entitled Attitude of Gratitude: Exploring the Implementation of a Gratitude Intervention with College Athletes published by Nicole T. Gabana et al. (2019), found that after attending a 90 minute Attitude of Gratitude workshop, athletes had an increased perception of social support, increased self esteem, reduced psychological distress, increased team cohesion and a positive life outlook.

It goes to show that not just having a mindset of gratitude but publicly acknowledging that gratitude has profound mental health benefits and even can help you grow closer with family, friends and teammates.

We all know that environments that are negative or groups that aren't content with their jobs or lives fosters conversations about all the negative things. That negativity can permeate through every interaction, causing a contagious epidemic of lack of motivation, lack of gratitude and a poor outlook on life.

Create an Environment of Gratitude in Your Family

This holiday season is the perfect time to instill an environment in your family of gratitude.

  • Catch yourself every time you want to tell your spouse or family how much you dislike your work.

  • Catch your kids every time they want to complain about school, their team mates or social groups.

Change this environment with questions that get your entire family discussing the gratitude they have in their lives:

  • What was something great that happened at practice or school?

  • What relationship in your life are you thankful for today?

  • What situation improved today that yesterday may have been challenging?

  • What is something kind that somebody said to you?

  • What have you done today to show gratitude towards someone else?

  • What gifts has God blessed you with in your life? How have you used those gifts to show gratitude to God?

Having trouble getting started? These Gratitude Topic Cards are an excellent resource to get the conversation brewing!

Start your kids on the experience of gratitude journaling. Just a couple minutes a day can help your kids explore what they are thankful for each day. Make it a family activity every evening before bedtime.


Nicole T. Gabana, Jesse Steinfeldt, Y. Joel Wong, Y. Barry Chung & Dubravka Svetina (2019) Attitude of Gratitude: Exploring the Implementation of a Gratitude Intervention with College Athletes, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 31:3, 273-284, DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2018.1498956

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