Gratitude is a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation. It is being aware of the good things that happen in your life and taking the time to appreciate them and return kindness.
“People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.” (Derrick Carpenter, MAPP ww.happify.com)
Neuroscience has shown the act of being thankful releases dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Dopamine is what makes you feel good and serotonin is a neurotransmitter that activates the happiness center of your brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work.
So how do we raise our children to be grateful? Here are 5 easy ways to start.
- Teach them to say thank you
This is a good start but it’s not enough.
- Teach them to appreciate the things they own
There is nothing worse than seeing a pile of clothes and toys strewn across the room looking discarded and unloved. By simply asking children to keep their room tidy and look after and value their things you are teaching them gratitude. They learn to be thankful for and look after the things they have.
- Teach them the value of money
If your kids receive pocket money then get them to do age appropriate chores to justify the money they receive. If they see another soft toy that they just have to have or *insert here a similar item that can’t possibly be passed by * then help them to work out how many chores they will have to do to buy that item. Don’t cave in and buy it for them this only teaches them that there is an endless pot of money in mum or dad’s pocket. Soon enough that toy will be added to the rest of the discarded pile because they haven’t earned it and are less likely to appreciate it.
- Teach them how to be grateful
Children look to their parents as role models to guide them. Everything we do they will see and mimic – good and bad. So be grateful for what you have as parents. Have your own gratitude list on the fridge and add to it. Recognise the good in your life instead of focusing on the negative. Teach them what they have is what is important and not what they haven’t.
- Teach them compassion
Teach them not everyone is as fortunate as them. Watch programmes which highlight the difficulties of children their age living in third world countries for instance. Talk to them about the hardships others face. You could donate items to a food bank and take it there with them or do something kind for a neighbour or friend who is having a difficult time.
Gratitude is not just saying thank you it’s stopping to pay attention to and appreciate the things that we often take for granted. It might be noticing that your lunch was delicious today or it could be that you enjoyed your walk to school because it was sunny or you may have spotted signs of Spring or you could be grateful that your friend gave you some encouraging words when you were worried about something. Whatever it is, by writing down positive things that happen to you and actively acknowledging those who have helped you, you become better at recognising the good in your life.
Learning gratitude and being grateful can help instil resilience. Children who learn to see some good in each day can carry this through to times which are tougher
To start you and your child(ren) off on your gratitude journey you can print off this downloadable sheet to fill in together. Use them at tea time or bedtime and discuss 3 good things that happened to them today. Remember the small things are equally as important as the big ones.