According to science, gratitude is one of the most important ways for us to feel happier. Expressing gratitude provides us with so many wonderful psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits. It improves our health, reduces stress, and helps us focus on the positive. Stepping back and being thankful for what we have gives us energy, inspires us, and transforms us. It helps us realize that life is truly a gift.
Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, conducted studies involving gratitude journals and found that when people regularly engage in gratitude, they experience the following benefits:
- Feel better about their lives overall
- Experience higher levels of positive emotions like optimism, enthusiasm, love, and happiness
- Are kinder and more generous to others
- Have fewer physical problems including pain
- Exercise more regularly and eat healthier
- Sleep better
- Visit the doctor more regularly for checkups
- Feel less stressed
- Able to cope with stress more effectively and recover more quickly from stressful situations
- Live longer–on average, being thankful adds 7 years to our lives!
Why does saying thank you have so many benefits for us? When we count our blessings, we interrupt the cycle of negative and fearful thoughts, which allows the stress system in our bodies to recover. Research shows that when we are thankful, we love our lives and want to make sure we stick around long enough to enjoy them. Also, when we receive praise from others, our brain releases the chemical dopamine, which encourages us to do more to receive such praise. This makes us want to thank others and make them feel good as well.
We can encourage our children to express gratitude in a number of creative ways. One of the most popular and effective ways is to keep a gratitude journal. It encourages us to acknowledge the positive moments in our day, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Whether it is a smile from a stranger, a good grade on a test, a gift from a relative, or an awe-inspiring sunset, we begin to feel calmer and more joyful by appreciating these experiences.
Creating A Grateful Book
We can take the idea of gratitude journals one step further by putting together gratitude books with our children. Diana Smith wrote a beautiful children’s book, My Grateful Book, that is an amazing example for all of us. She highlights a number of the little things in life that we can be thankful for, such as the food on our plate, rainbows, animals in the ocean, playing on the beach, learning at school, and our home. She presents all of these gratitude nuggets using colorful images and attractive text on each page. She uses soothing colors and happy looking pictures to focus on what the character of the story loves.
She ends the book by saying, “So as I close my eyes at night I remember all the good things that happen everyday. And looking forward to tomorrow and more good things still to come my way.” I love this concept of sharing thoughts of gratitude with our children before they go to sleep each night. It becomes part of the bedtime ritual and is a wonderful way to bond with them. You or your children can start writing down each night what they are thankful for and then use those ideas to develop their own personal grateful book.
Grab some construction paper, crayons, markers, old magazines, glue and scissors to get started. Ask your children to dedicate each page to one thing they are thankful for. They can draw an image or make a collage using old magazines. They will have a blast recording their gratitude thoughts in such a unique and creative way.
You can turn their grateful books into very special birthday, holiday, or teacher gifts by having your children focus their pages on a specific person. For example, your kids can make a grateful book for grandma by including all the things they are grateful for about her, such as her hugs, kisses, cooking, etc.
Another idea is to make grateful books part of your Thanksgiving holiday tradition every year. While you are preparing the food in the kitchen all day, set up a craft center for your children to work on their grateful books. Then they can read them aloud during the family feast.
About The Author
Diana Smith is an early education professional, “mompreneur”, busy wife, and mother of two adorable kids. They live in the gorgeous beach town of Yanchep, Western Australia. Originally from Dunedin in New Zealand, Diana’s love of reading came from her mother and big sister reading the wonderful stories of Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter to her at a young age. She plans to produce an entire series focused on life lessons for small children. For more information about Diana’s work and to purchase her book, please visit her website.
We would love to see your children’s grateful books. Please feel free to tell us all about it in the comments here and on our Facebook page. Be sure to include pictures!
*This post was sponsored by author Diana Smith.