Thanksgiving is upon us once again! It’s easy to get caught up in the planning and preparation of the turkey and stuffing and we often forget to embrace the true spirit of the holiday… giving thanks. Everyone knows gratitude is important. It’s meaningful, and sometimes vital, to express gratitude for what (and who) you have in your life. However, did you know gratitude can improve your physical and mental health?
“Gratitude is clearly associated with physical and mental well-being. It’s linked to better sleep. People who are more grateful seem to have more energy, less depression and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease. Those positive associations hold for both the trait of gratitude — that is, being a generally grateful person — and the state of gratitude — a temporary behavior or feeling, says Philip Watkins, a professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University.”
Gratitude is more than than stating what we’re thankful for, though that’s a great place to start! The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and their “Raising Grateful Children” project studied 100 families to look at what parents do to raise grateful kids. They found gratitude is an experience that has four parts:
- What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
- How we THINK about why we have been given those things
- How we FEEL about the things we have been given
- What we DO to express appreciation in turn
Gratitude does not come naturally to children. It’s a learned skill. An article from Greater Good Magazine, entitled What Parents Neglect to Teach about Gratitude, explained “older children and adults are more likely to spontaneously engage in all four parts of gratitude, but younger children may only engage in some of these parts, only when prompted. Children may show more gratitude as they gain cognitive skills, collect practice with those skills, and begin to connect the NOTICE-THINK-FEEL parts of experiencing gratitude with the DO part of expressing gratitude.”
Simple tips to teach gratitude
- Talk about the best parts of your day: On the car ride home or at the dinner table, ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”
- Say “thank you:” It’s important to remind children to use their manners but how often do you say thank you to your children? Thank them for being kind, making good choices, etc. Model the gratitude you want to see from them.
- Teach them how to give instead of receive: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. You can also talk to them about donating some of their old toys or clothes to another family.
- Assign some simple chores: Take some time to research age-appropriate chores and begin giving your children a sense of responsibility.
- Don’t be afraid to say no: When a child always gets what they want, when they want it, it can teach them the world is endless rewards and no disappointment. We ALL know this is not true. So, don’t be afraid to say no from time to time.
Start with these five simple strategies and you’ll watch your children grow into the kind, thoughtful, giving and grateful people you know they can be!