November is, traditionally, a month where in America we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. We gather with loved ones, over indulge in food, and then turn around the next day and frantically shop all the sales. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong about a good sale! But what if our “attitude of gratitude” didn’t last just one meal on one day of the year, but stayed with us through each day. Especially as we enter into a busy holiday season where the to-do lists are getting longer and the pressure of memory-making is mounting – wouldn’t it be great if we were able to sustain a piece of the joy and gratitude we long for?
Why is gratitude important?
Science has been looking at the effects of gratitude for years now and has actually give us some interesting studies on how gratitude affects our physical, emotional, and mental health!
For example, some studies have shown that gratitude improves relationships of all kinds! (Romantic, family, and platonic.)
Some of the physical benefits include reducing depression, reducing blood pressure, improving sleep, and generally improving your overall physical and psychological health! For example, in 2017, researcher Chih-Che Lin discovered that even when controlling for personality, a high level of gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well being, self-esteem, and depression.
And participants who completed a four-week gratitude contemplation program reported greater life satisfaction and self-esteem than control group participants.
Those are just a FEW examples.
So, how can we practice gratitude and bring a more grateful attitude into our everyday lives?
Here are 4 Simple Gratitude Practices you can add to your day:
- Journaling – Simply journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10%! Find a journal that brings you joy and just calls your name to fill it up. Pick a time each day that’s realistic for setting aside 5-10 minutes to reflect on the day. Another way to practice gratitude is to keep a journal with you all the time and every time you notice something that brings you joy, write it down! Things as little as a gentle breeze on a warm day and big moments like quiet children for 10 minutes! There is nothing too small to be grateful for.
- Gratitude Jar – Similar to a gratitude journal, it’s a jar or box filled with reminders of what you’re grateful for. Find a jar or something similar and place it somewhere you can see. Throughout the day or at the end of the day, write down a few things you’re grateful for from that day and put it in the jar. Seeing how full the jar is, is a visual reminder of how much you have to be grateful for and if you’re having a down day, pulling at note or two out can remind you of those things to improve your mood;
- Gratitude Rock (or other small object) – The secret to this exercise is that the rock is a symbol, a physical object you can use, to remind yourself of what you have. Find a rock you like and keep it with you throughout your day. Whenever you see it or touch it, pause to think about one thing you’re grateful for.
- Meditation – Unlike a normal meditation where you intentionally become aware of your breath and try to clear your mind, during a gratitude meditation you visualize all the things in your life that you are grateful for.
How can we take all that we’re learning and transfer that knowledge to our little ones? Let’s be honest. No one is perfect. And all our kids at some point or another have been so ungrateful you wonder what you’re going to do. Whether the chicken nuggets are alphabet and not dinosaurs or a sibling got a new jacket and they didn’t, or they just can’t seem to find anything good about their day…we all want to do our best to raise grateful children! So, what can we do? Practice! And model it!
4 Ways to Teach Gratitude for Kids
1. Ask Gratitude Questions
The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill has revealed that gratitude has four parts:
- Noticing – Recognizing the things you have to be grateful for.
- Thinking – Thinking about why you’ve been given those things.
- Feeling – The emotions you experience as a result of the things you’ve been given.
- Doing – The way you express appreciation.
In one study, it was found that most parents stay focused on what their kids do to show gratitude, but miss the “noticing, thinking, and feeling” portion. Ask your kids questions that walk them through all four parts of gratitude to encourage the “doing” (like saying “thank you”) more often!
2. Perform Acts of Kindness
Find ways to involve your kids in acts of kindness like helping someone in need, holding a door open for a stranger, doing a chore for a sibling without asking for something in return…these things involve your kids in the joy of serving others!
3. Model Gratitude Out Loud
Like most things in life, we have to model the behavior we want from our kids. Say “Thank You” and express gratitude often. Talk about what you’re grateful for instead of complaining.
4. Establish a Gratitude Ritual
Make it a habit to regularly express gratitude in your family. For example, everyone can take turns at the dinner table sharing one thing they’re grateful for. Or one day a week, everyone can write a note to someone they appreciate.
Eventually, even though a lot of these rituals feel rehearsed, the habit will become more natural, spontaneous, and second-nature for both you and your kids!
Podcasts to Listen To
Books to Read
Books to Read with Your Kids