The key to happiness and health
Research consistently shows that kids who express gratitude are happier in their family and social life and have higher levels of self esteem. Grateful kids also tend to have better grades, sleep better, have less depression, stronger hearts, and live longer. I tell my patients that gratitude actually changes their brains. Isn’t that cool? Thoughts can make our kids healthier and happier.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to produce grateful thoughts in our fast paced and materialistic world. There is not much time to reflect. There is not much space, physical or digital, that is safe from ads, marketing, and shiny, techy things that the Joneses keep buying and flaunting.
So how can we teach our kids to be more grateful?
Start with basics – thank you
When it comes to training our brain, I always say fake it til you make it. By encouraging and reminding our kids to say thank you, we are strengthening the connection in their brain between receiving kindness and feeling grateful. The act of saying “thank you” makes them pause what they are doing, and consider someone else’s consideration of them. Practicing saying “thank you” also creates a space to acknowledge the kind act or gift. Taking time to notice small acts or gifts teaches kids to notice and to appreciate other small things and simple moments in life and finding joy everywhere.
Seek gratitude in everyday moments
It’s not everyday that kids receive gifts, but there are still plenty of opportunities for gratitude in everyday moments. We can use questions to help kids pause and reflect on small gestures, convenient objects, and cozy corners of the home. We can have intentional conversations to encourage kids to be a gratitude detective and search for what they appreciate about their body, in their environment, and in the people around them. Talk early and often with kids about gratitude so that it becomes as natural as blinking!
Take a look at this downloadable Joy and Gratitude Journal Bundle for more activities to practice gratitude. See the side bar for a discount code!
Model gratitude for our kids
Kids watch our every moves. They try to mimic the adults around them. Give them a grateful attitude and appreciative actions to mimic. Let them hear kind words when we speak to customer service representatives on the phone. Let them hear us say thank you to our restaurant servers and the grocery checkout cashiers. Let them see us helping a family member with a task or errand. Let them see us writing a card to a friend. Have conversations about why we feel it’s important to do those things.
A little bit goes a long way
If you can only do something small to practice gratitude today or only just implemented gratitude into your family’s routine, you are well on your way to making a big difference. Plenty of research projects on gratitude studied only a short intervention – sometimes just one motivational speech thanking people for their efforts – and the results still demonstrated an improvement in productivity or happiness. Just a tiny drop of gratitude starts a chain reaction in the brain and body to be more healthy and joyful. Anyone can do this. Any kid can do this. I would love to see how you do gratitude. Share and tag me @betamomma.