Feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everything going on right now? We are all living through an extremely challenging time, no doubt. When we are faced with constant stress, the key to getting through it and coming out better on the other side is resilience. One way to build resilience is to have a daily gratitude practice so we shift our mindset from the negative to the positive. Teaching our children a practice of gratitude can help them get through these tough times, and give them a tool that they can use throughout their lives.
What Is Gratitude?
Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s foremost researcher on gratitude, defines it in his book as the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life and recognizing that the source of this goodness lies at least partially outside the self. According to science, gratitude is one of the most important ways for us to feel happier and provides many incredible 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.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for boosting our mental health because when we are grateful, it is hard to dwell in a negative frame of mind. When we count our blessings, we interrupt the cycle of negative and fearful thoughts, which allows the stress management system in our bodies to recover. Research shows that when we are grateful, we love our lives and want to make sure we stick around long enough to enjoy them. Expressing gratitude for the fantastic aspects of life provides us with a sense of wonder and appreciation. It elevates happiness because it allows us to savor positive experiences and keeps us from taking them for granted.
Being grateful also makes it more likely that we will want to give to others. As we know, volunteering and giving back is also another way to feel better in tough times. Learn more about why kindness is good for you.
Ways To Start a Gratitude Practice
We can introduce the idea of gratitude to our children at any age. It’s never too late to start a daily gratitude practice!
Begin by reading books about gratitude together with your children. There are so many beautiful books about gratitude for various age groups. Check out my book review of My Grateful Book by Diana Smith.
Make gratitude a part of your family’s routine. This could be during dinnertime; eat together as if it were Thanksgiving every night. Enjoy your time with your family and encourage your children to tell you all about their day and the things they are grateful for. Some families find it helpful to put together a gratitude jar to collect their thankful statements all year, and then they can go through everything they wrote each year on Thanksgiving or New Year’s. You can also incorporate a gratitude practice into your children’s bedtime routine by going around the room and saying one thing each of you is thankful for that day. It is such a special time that you can share together, and a bonus is that it will help them feel more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Finally, your children can create a daily gratitude journal to capture the special moments in their day that bring them thanks. Keeping a gratitude journal is the backbone of gratitude scientific research, shown to increase our sense of happiness by forcing us to acknowledge the positive moments in our day. Parents who teach their children to write in a gratitude journal notice a number of benefits, including stress reduction and increased optimism. Some kids, however, may find gratitude journals cumbersome. It is important that we keep it fun for them so it does not feel like a chore.
Here are several creative ways for your children to express gratitude:
Books. Grab some arts and crafts materials and ask your children to develop a book in which they dedicate each page to one part of their day that they are thankful for. They can write, draw, or paint their moments of gratitude.
Blogs. Have your kids write a story by creating a blog so they can easily share their grateful experiences with others digitally.
Collages. Not all gratitude journals have to be filled with flowing prose. Another approach, especially if you have a visual child, is to use collage to capture special moments.
Audio Recording. Some children are more verbal. You can have them record their gratitude journal on a phone or iPad. Once you have the recordings, you can get really creative by posting them online for others to listen to or you can even put it to music and create a song or rap using highlights of what they said.
Videos. You can take it one step further by encouraging them to record a gratitude video log (a.k.a. vlog). They can create dramatic skits or pretend to be reporters presenting their gratitude news of the day.
Being Grateful for Nature
As I often mention, nature can help us feel calmer and happier. Practicing gratitude around nature can give our children a double boost of happiness that I highly recommend. By taking a few minutes out of our day to look out the window or go exploring outdoors and stopping to be thankful for all that nature offers us, we can feel more balanced and put our worries into perspective.
If you are looking for more ways to connect to nature to feel grateful, then grab your FREE 30-Day Eco Happiness Challenge Calendar. It is filled with fun and relaxing activities for your family to enjoy together without even leaving your own neighborhood. All of these activities can be done from inside your home, on your balcony, or in your backyard. You can start this challenge at any time, so sign up now to get your calendar right away. It is the perfect way to find more things to be grateful for in your day.
How does a gratitude practice help your children feel?