A few years ago when visiting family for Thanksgiving, we decided to put up a Gratitude Tree. Without much fanfare, the kids and their cousins passed around autumn leaves and markers and asked everyone to share what they were grateful for.
Leaves magically appeared on our tree throughout the visit. Each of us stopped and read the newest additions on our way in and out of the kitchen. These signs of thanks brought smiles to our faces, exclamations of “me too!” and led us to lovely, gratifying conversations.
Creating a Gratitude Tree in your home is a wonderful way to reflect on the people and things you’re thankful for while tapping into your crafty side. This activity is great for adults and kids alike and can be done in person or “together apart.”
- Brown paper shopping bags, brown cardboard, Kraft paper or other material to create the trunk and branches of your tree
- Red, green, yellow, gold, orange and brown construction paper to cut out leaves (you can use paper of whatever colors and patterns you like for the leaves)
- Black or other dark colored Sharpie or marker for writing messages
- Painter’s Tape
- Find a blank wall or space where you can put up your tree
- Create a trunk by tearing the paper bags and twisting them or cutting out a trunk shape from the cardboard. There’s no wrong way to do this, so be creative!
- Similarly, twist pieces of the brown paper material to create branches
- Use the Painter’s tape to put the trunk and branches up in whatever form you like
- Cut out leaf shapes from the construction paper. You can also find pre-cut leaves online or in many arts and crafts supply stores.
- Ask members of your family to write down what they’re grateful for on a leaf. You can do this with friends and family distantly, too. Ask them what they’re grateful or thankful for, write their message on a leaf and add it to your tree!
- Tape finished leaves to the branches of your tree
- How did it feel to write down what you’re grateful for?
- Looking at the leaves on the tree, do you see any that express something similar to what you wrote on your leaf?
- Is there a leaf that reminds you of something else you’re grateful for?
- How does it feel to read what other people are grateful for?
The Science Behind the Smiles
Recent research shows there are several benefits to consistently expressing gratitude, including increased happiness, stronger relationships and decreased stress and anxiety. Read on to learn more about why practicing gratitude is good for you:
Giving Thanks Can Make you Happier (Harvard Medical School)
14 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science (PositivePsychology.com)
The Science of Gratitude (Greater Good Science Center)