Expressing Gratitude: Transforming the Lives of Young People
With Thanksgiving around the corner, more than any other time of the year, we’re reminded to be grateful. Everywhere we turn, there are pumpkins or different home decor items with the word gratitude or grateful written out.
I believe this awareness of gratitude and its benefits should be around us 365 days of the year. And here is why: to quote Zig Ziglar, an American author, and transformational speaker, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” So why not experience this emotion every day?
Science has well-documented that gratitude has been positively linked to human well-being. Studies have shown gratitude helps decrease anxiety, depression, improves sleep, builds empathy, and makes us happier. Gratitude also helps us to be more resilient, improve our social connections, and helps with school performance.
So what is the magic behind gratitude?
Gratitude is powerful because it shifts our focus from what we don’t have, or are missing, to noticing how much we do have. Often we take so many blessings in our life for granted. Clean water, a warm bed, food on the table, friends, and family that support us.
An old saying “what you focus on, it grows”, so when we focus on what we have, we increase positivity and happiness in our life.
Gratitude reduces fear and brings us peace. When you are feeling grateful, your mind is not focused on worrying about any lack or negative circumstances. You cannot be grateful and fearful at the same time. Those two feelings can’t co-exist. Gratitude brings the focus to the “now” and invites inner peace within us.
Our life choices, when made from a positive, peaceful and happier perspective as opposed to the standpoint of not having enough, transform the quality of our life.
How important is that?
More than ever we need gratitude in our lives. We live in a fast-paced, digitized, and disconnected world.
When we bring gratitude practices into the family and school life early on, our youth have the opportunity to build happiness, resilience and stronger connections.
If you are curious about how to bring gratitude awareness into the lives of our youth let me share 3 easy strategies to begin with:
- Conversation: Ask your child what was the best and “not so good” part of the day? It is important to note the positive aspects of the day, yet the key here is getting the insight on what they interpret as “not so good.” This will be an opportunity to talk to your child about the lessons learned from the challenging experiences and help them find positive.
- Gratitude Journal: The benefits of journaling have been well documented in many research studies. Writing out 3-5 things we are grateful for at the start of our day evokes mindfulness and shapes our minds to embrace the day on a positive note.
- Writing “thank you notes” for gifts or acts of kindness/acts received. Being able to express and write a gratitude note is invaluable. The research shows when written, gratitude has double benefits. It is beneficial to the writer, and it evokes the feelings of gratitude and appreciation to the recipient.
Gratitude is contagious – it starts as a ripple and it turns into a tidal wave. My hope is for each and every one of you to view every day as a Thanksgiving.