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Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #6: Gratitude Through Humor

We’ve all had those days, the ones where you have a lousy morning, and a series of unfortunate events seems to carry over right up to the moment you go to bed at night. Why is that when one bad thing happens, nothing seems to go right at all? Sometimes, it can feel like the universe is against you, and you may even catch yourself lamenting, “why me!?” Having bad days is a universal concept, felt by both children and adults. 

On those gloomy days, where negative thought patterns keep firing, my go-to tool is gratitude.  Now, I know you’re probably thinking that in the face of adversity, asking a child to be grateful isn’t always realistic. That’s why we will use humor to flex that gratitude muscle. By teaching kids David Scott Marley’s entertaining word game called Fortunately, Unfortunately, we can show kids the fun in looking on the bright side of things.

Here’s a great breakdown of how the game is played in a group from Wikipedia:

  • One person begins with a sentence (e.g., One day Little Johnny walked to the local shoe shop).
  • The next person tells of something unfortunate that happens (e.g., Unfortunately, Little Johnny was hit by a car.).
  • The following person contributes a fortunate event (e.g., Fortunately, the car was made entirely of marshmallows.).
  • The fourth person will contribute an unfortunate event (e.g., Unfortunately, Johnny was allergic to marshmallows.).
  • The fifth person will contribute a fortunate event (e.g., Fortunately, Johnny didn’t eat any of the car.), and the process is repeated

So for this week’s Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge, let’s try a version of this game your child can do on their own.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Grab a paper napkin.
  2. At the top, write down a challenge.
  3. Write a story about the challenge and alternate the beginning of each sentence with the words “Fortunately…” and “Unfortunately…”
  4. Next time your child faces a real adversity, ask them to play the game.
  5. Remember, after your child does the exercise, have them teach one other person!

Here’s my version of the game to help get you in the zone:

Have an anxious child? Get tons of research-based techniques to help them at

Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #6: Gratitude Through Humor

Renee Jain, MAPP

Renee Jain is an award-winning tech entrepreneur turned speaker and certified life coach. She also holds a masters in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Renee specializes in cultivating skills of resilience in both adults and children. Her passion is taking research-based concepts and transforming them into fun and digestible learning modules. For children, she has created one-of-a-kind anxiety relief programs at GoZen! delivered via engaging animated shorts.

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APA Reference
Jain, R. (2017). Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #6: Gratitude Through Humor. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Nov 2017
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