Child eating fruit leather

One Happy Thing

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In my house, we’ve started what is essentially a daily gratitude practice. Every night at bedtime with my preschooler, we tell each other our “one happy thing.”

Mindfulness for preschoolers and those with their attention spans

I’ve talked about wanting to be more proactive with mindfulness and gratitude at other points in the past.  What I talk about doing and what I actually do are two different things however.

Leave it to kids to make you follow through!

All you have to do is read through my blog, which, admittedly I have been neglecting, to see my family has had a rough two years.

Active positivity is not my strong suit.

Through my tumultuous last two years I’ve been able to keep a pretty positive mindset.  Yes, I am often self deprecating, sarcastic and I complain a lot, but all in all I have held up pretty good.

Now that we are home (all the time currently) and finished up my son’s cancer care, it’s time to start focusing on some of the “smaller things.”  

Given that the pandemic has me on a leave of absence from work and home all the time, days and weeks start to blur.  I’m sure the same happens for my son.

Bringing Focus to “The Blur”

To bring some focus back into our days, I decided to start asking my son what his “one happy thing” that happened that day was.  Also known as “gratitude practice for preschoolers.”

I’m not really sure what inspired me to do this.  Likely I was inspired by seeing Emily Guy Birken’s #OneGoodThing frequently on twitter. I decided to ask  him one night what his favorite thing that happened that day was. In return I got a blank stare.  I decided it was time to be a bit more proactive in cultivating gratitude for our days.  A fun side effect has been that I have gained a bigger understanding of what is important to my son.

What is 4 year old grateful for?

Most days it is whatever happened most recently involving a treat or watching television.  Those are both things that he doesn’t get to do on a regular basis.  They also typically fall closer to bedtime.  Sometimes it’s just a relatively fun thing that happened later in the day.

Kids, force us to be better versions of us.

The fun couldn’t stop at finding out what little guy’s one happy thing was.  Of course, my son has to know what Mama and Daddy’s “happy thing” for the day was. 

More often than not, mine involve food I have cooked.  I’m pretty impressed with my budding pandemic baking skills.  Always a good excuse to increase my self sufficiency.  If I’m not happy that another bake turned out well, it’s usually something fun that my son did, or that he did a good job listening (a skill we’re actively working on around here at 4.5 years old).  Funny enough, my husband’s “happy thing” is usually similar to mine.

My son has really taken to this.  On occasion when I’m tired and start to go to sleep with what is now at least a month long established part of our nighttime routine, I’m quickly reminded.  The boy will bolt up with the lights off and say “we forgot our happy thing!” and yell for Daddy to come in so we can all talk about our happy thing together.

I appreciate that this has brought a bit more daily mindfulness and gratitude to my more “glass half empty” inclined husband as well.

This seems like such a small practice, but it’s important and it is achievable. 

My son looks forward to this daily practice so much, he often starts asking me by noon what my happy thing is.  As I’ve been reminding him regularly that I don’t know until the end of the day, he’s taken to asking me what it was yesterday. 

Sometimes I remember my gratitude for yesterday, sometimes I don’t.  I guess this brings us back to the point of why this is a daily practice.  Half of the time I can’t even remember the specific thing that brought me joy the previous day.  But I know I thought about it, appreciated it and reflected on it then.

Above Our Grade Level

This has nearly backfired a bit. After a few weeks of doing this, my son also tries to get me to say what my “NOT happy thing” was.  A few times he has offered this up himself after we talk about the happy thing.  “Mama your NOT happy thing was that I was being mean to Hank (the dog) today.”  Though I am grateful that the preschooler is taking time for daily reflection this way, I don’t wish to turn this into a daily airing of grievances.  Currently I am discouraging this.

Perhaps as his gets older, should he choose to journal, I can encourage him to reflect on both things daily. 

For now, I am happy to end our nights in mindful and grateful reflection of our “one happy thing.”

Do you have a gratitude practice?

Do you have any tips or tricks or simple ways you have implemented mindfulness or gratitude into your family life?

If not, do you think you could start doing this?

Hey- while you’re here – let’s talk money mindfulness:

I’m now in my 4th month of leave of absence due to the pandemic and my son’s cancer status.  A really important part of me being able to make informed financial decisions is having a very clear idea of what my weekly finances look like. 

If you’re not already tracking your accounts, debts, and net worth, please consider signing up for Personal Capital.  I check it like a bazillion times a day.  Right now, we each get $20 if you sign up and no one will complain about that during this hell of a year.

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Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

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