A Gratitude Practice in the Palm of Your Hand

Brother David Steindl-Rast is quoted as saying “Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in the palm of our hands . . .” I love this idea. It’s so empowering to believe that gratitude, which is always available to us, can be used at any time to help us cultivate feelings of happiness and relax, focus and trust in our own self-worth.

I’m also inspired by the idea that gratitude, and by extension, happines, is something we literally have the power to hold in our hands. The things we experience physically can create powerful kinesthetic memories that may be used to help us access thoughts, feelings and memories during even the most difficult times, when we might otherwise have a tendency to freeze up or shut down. This is the idea behind using manipulatives to teach difficult math concepts, and even using the rosary to pray.

Keeping that in mind, I offer you this simple arts and crafts practice that will leave your kids with a string of gratitude beads they can use whenever they need help settling down, or a quick way to relax and focus. This tool can be used while taking tests, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, during a difficult conversation with a friend or teacher – anytime your children might be feeling stressed and could benefit from a reminder of what is truly important and good in their lives.

For this project you will need:

  • Plastic lacing
  • 4 – 6 beads
  • some kind of charm or key chain ring

All of which is available at any art supply store. Or you can also use most beading kits available in toy stores.

Step 1 – cut an 8-inch length of plastic lacing;

Step 2 – feed the lacing through the loop of a charm or key ring, and tie a knot to secure the object to the lacing. You should have two equal lengths of lacing hanging loose;

Step 3 – you will eventually feed both loose lacing ends through the first bead, but first ask your child to take a moment to hold the bead in his hand and share with you his most favorite memory . Explain that every time he sees or holds this bead it will help him remember the happy feelings associated with that memory;

Step 4 – repeat Step 3 with another bead, but this time have your child share something in his life, a person or object or situation, that he feels grateful for;

Step 5 – repeat Step 3 with a third bead, and this time ask your child to describe a major accomplishment or something about themselves that they feel very proud of;

Step 6 – repeat your choice of Steps 3 – 5 (or ask your own questions) until you have used all your beads;

Step 7 – after you have laced the last bead, tie a double knot and trim the lacing to a length that feels right to you.

Your child now has a string of gratitude beads that he has associated with happy memories and other positive feelings of self-confidence and gratitude. Encourage him to hold his beads each day to strengthen that association. The more often he remembers these happy, grateful thoughts as he holds his beads in his hand, the stronger the connection will be. Eventually he won’t need to actually think the specific thoughts, the physical sensation of holding the beads will naturally elicit a sense of well-being and calm.

And then he will hold the key to happiness – to settling down, relaxing and focusing under pressure – in the palm of his hand. And that is truly something to be grateful for.

You might also like:
Just Like Heaven
Gratitude Journaling with your Kids
A Halloween Hurricane Lesson in Gratitude

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