“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.” – Melodie Beattie
Gracias, tak, merci, shukran and efharisto, are just a few examples of how the international community show gratitude by using the words: ‘thank you.’
Whilst it’s important to say thank you, gratitude is about more than just saying these words or showing kind gestures. Gratitude is also an internal sensation that comes from within, usually in response to an external situation. For example, you’ve just been given a bunch of flowers and say ‘thank you’, whilst also experiencing feelings of warmth and appreciation.
Gratitude is a form of mindfulness which can be used as a calming strategy to give children a sense of belonging in the present moment. When children understand why they should say ‘thank you’ and the importance of having a positive outlook, even when things don’t go to plan, they are more likely to develop an attitude of gratitude. In addition, the benefits of gratitude are endless.
The American Psychological Association (APA) uncovered that when people regularly show gratitude it can result in better sleep, decreases stress and anxiety, and gives us that ‘feel good’ factor. Taking things one step further, the following diagram uses research from positive psychology to demonstrate how consistent gratitude can enhance a person’s overall well-being, resulting in their long-term happiness.
“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” – Steve Maraboli
The words, actions and feelings that adults use around children have the ability to shape their beliefs and behaviours during childhood and as they grow into young adults. The best way for adults to help kids develop an attitude of gratitude, is by showing them what gratitude is. To do this, adults can:
- Use their words to give thanks for what they have (big and small) e.g. ‘I am thankful to have food on my plate and a roof over my head.’
- Respond positively when someone makes a kind gesture and celebrate when something good happens!
- Use negative situations as learning opportunities to grow from, then afterwards, reflect on the lessons learnt and how far they have come.
- Show compassion by helping others e.g. charitable projects.
- Connect to what gratitude actually feels like in the present moment. Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy or happy and compassionate?
- Take part in anything that ignites a sense of gratitude; like going for a walk and feeling grateful because the sun is shining, or having a workout at the gym and feeling great afterwards.
When adults consistently show and communicate an attitude of gratitude in front of children, and encourage them to get involved they begin to mirror this behaviour for themselves.
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest humans on the Earth, for what they believe is what they will become!” – Brook Hampton
I personally love to use gratitude journals, also known as happiness journals or ‘what went well’ books with children. These are visual learning tools which can be used by adults and kids for a variety of things, including to help boost self-esteem. Within these journals I get children to write, draw or stick in pictures of the things they feel happy about or grateful for. Some lovely examples I’ve seen from children are: ‘I made a new friend‘, ‘I scored a goal at playtime‘ or ‘I finished my work all by myself.’ Afterwards, whilst reflecting on children’s happy moments, I remind them why its important to be grateful for each of these.
So, as the research suggests, teaching kids how to be grateful can make all the difference to their overall wellbeing. I hope this inspires you to take nothing for granted and to adopt an attitude of gratitude for yourself. But most importantly, to share your experiences and inspire the little ones in your life to do the same.
Miss H ♥
For more tips and mindfulness activities for the little and big ones in your life, check out my new book Mindful Little Yogis, which is available for purchase in all good bookstores and online.