Practicing Gratitude: 6 Books to Boost Your Happiness + One Kid Friendly Activity

I love fall, which, you would think, would make daily gratitude practice a snap. The weather, the clothes, the recipes, the colors—I love all of it, especially the desserts.  Of course I also love the holidays. I mean, who doesn’t adore a passel of costumed kids?  Who isn’t crazy about that one family heirloom platter piled high with perfectly roasted turkey?  Who doesn’t get all fluttery when she thinks of first frosts and carol singers? 

Ever since I became a mom, though, my love of fall and the approaching Chrismukkah season has been tempered a bit by all of the things I need to do and buy and attend between October and December, from acquiring Halloween attire to throwing classroom parties to grocery shopping for weird dishes I only prepare once a year to buying teacher gifts and fulfilling tiny people’s wish lists—you get the idea. It can be overwhelming.

For the past few Novembers, I have tried to purposefully cultivate gratitude by reading books that inspire happiness, so I thought I’d share my favorites with you.

Happiness-Boosting Reads:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: This is the classic place to start if you want to read about happiness. Rubin is a brilliant writer and thinker, and she makes the process of cultivating happiness both fascinating and attainable.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin: Okay, yes. I LOVE HER. This book is terrific, and it gives you a practical plan for making your home a happiness oasis.

How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields: This book is terrific! It sounds really daunting to think about taking your life apart and building it up to be the life you’ve always imagined for yourself, but Fields offers manageable steps. You can use this book like a kind of workbook, and it offers 30 days of good life projects. To be honest, all 30 of them didn’t work for me, but a surprising amount did. This would be a terrific book club book, and it would be fun to hear how members of your club implemented it in different ways.

How to Meditate by Pema Chödrön: I am easing into a meditation practice, and I found this book to be helpful, clarifying, and inspiring all at once.

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott: Anne Lamott is probably the reason I have a PhD because her brilliant Bird by Bird is the reason I was able to climb a mountain of self doubt and write my dissertation. Hallelujah Anyway, her latest book, is about being merciful, and she argues that mercy starts with the grace we show ourselves.

One More Book + An Activity for Your Kiddos

daily kindness

Daily Kindness by National Geographic: This book is like a bound up Instagram feed. It’s a collection of the best inspirational quotes of all time illustrated with National Geographic photography. There is a picture and quotation for each day of the year, ad every month has its own theme. November, for example, is strength, and December is gratitude.  This book is a wonderful stocking stuffer idea, and it would make a terrific hostess gift.

Here’s how I read this book with my kids: Every morning they take turns reading the quotation of the day—well the two who can read, that is—and then we all talk about what it means. This gives them practice interpreting research, a skill they’ll need when they write papers, and it lets us all talk about kindness and gratitude and joy first thing in the morning.  Then, they draw a picture of what they think the quotation means, and they take turns showing their pictures to the group (pro tip: HAVE SO MANY CHILDREN THAT ALL ACTIVITIES CAN BE TURNED INTO PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOPS). It’s a fun gratitude exercise at the breakfast table, and it is one thing that consistently makes me smile before my coffee kicks in.

daily kindness

Earnestly drawing their daily kindness pictures

For me, the key to happiness is mindfulness, especially when I am in the thick of the holiday rush. When I get too harried trying to make the fall magic happen, I think of the Bright Eyes lyric: “These are the days we dream about when the sunlight paints us gold.” To me, these words exemplify the grim gray fall days that are so busy but also so full of potential for happiness. I just need a favorite book to give me a nudge. Let me know if you read any of these books or if you have another happiness-boosting title to share.

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