Benefits of Feeling Gratitude
Many of us practice gratitude throughout the year. Feeling and expressing gratitude has been shown to benefit us in multiple ways. Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful has health benefits? Having gratitude helps improve sleep, lowers blood pressure, reduces pain and may even make you exercise more often and that’s just the physical attributes! It also helps improve your relationships and self-esteem, increases your creativity and productivity and makes you more kind and giving.
Developing Feelings of Gratitude in Children
Many families have a tradition of expressing gratitude around the Thanksgiving table, reflecting on what we have that makes us grateful. If there are children at your table, there are several ways to encourage and develop gratitude. This is something that is learned over time and there are ways to help foster this important quality.
Start by being genuinely grateful yourself. Children model behavior, especially young children. Make sure you take time to share with your children what you notice through everyday opportunities. Say things like “Look at the beautiful leaves, aren’t we lucky to live in a place where the leaves change so dramatically!” or “I appreciate this warm blanket on such a cold evening, it feels nice.” You don’t always have to use the word “grateful”.
Often children grasp the concept of gratitude more easily when it is applied to something tangible like a gift. In this case ask your children leading questions about the gift to get them to think about why they are receiving it, or why the giver wants to give it. You may say, “Your aunt gave you this toy because she loves you and it makes her happy to know that it gives you joy.” The idea here is to get your children to start thinking about receiving something and not feel privileged or entitled to it. On that same note, try opening gifts one at a time, taking a moment to appreciate each one and enjoying others’ gifts too.
Feelings are an important part of gratitude. Upon receiving a gift, ask your child how they feel. Young children may need prompting like, “Does this toy make you feel happy that your aunt was thinking of you? Let’s share that with her!” There are many age-appropriate ways to show appreciation: your child could draw a picture of how the toy makes them feel; older children can practice writing thank you notes, or make something in return. Make sure to comment on how good it feels to thank someone and how nice it will make your aunt feel when she receives your appreciation.
Gratitude is a way of being that improves with practice. Reflecting on how fortunate you are is something that you can do every day for yourself and your children. If you haven’t already started, Thanksgiving is a great time!