Gratitude Helps Kids Feel Happier (and how grown-ups can help!)
Gratitude – the practice of being thankful for what you have – has long been touted as a way to increase happiness and emotional well-being. By focusing on all that we have and appreciating it, and not dwelling on what we don’t have, we can increase satisfaction and happiness in all areas of life. And it stands to reason that a gratitude practice can help our kids feel happier, too.
Experts have been researching the effects of gratitude for years. They even developed a scale for measuring gratitude levels called the Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Scale (GRAT); a 44-question survey that asks you to apply an agree/disagree scale to statements such as “ I feel grateful for the education I received,” and “I think that life has been unfair to me.” A study by The American Psychological Association found that recognizing and giving thanks for the positive aspects of life can result in improved mental and physical health in patients with asymptomatic heart failure. According to other research, a daily gratitude practice leads to a positive, self-renewing, feedback loop – the more gratitude we display, the more our subjective well-being and resistance to negativity increases, and the more grateful we are likely to be.
Teaching our children how to practice gratitude could be one of the most important gifts we ever give them. The Journal of Motivation and Emotion conducted a 6-month study of 700 middle school students who were asked to incorporate a daily gratitude practice. The study concluded that practicing gratitude can have a lasting impact on this age group. In fact, rather than just creating momentary happiness, gratitude seemed to improve middle schoolers’ longer-term social and emotional well-being.
So how do we go about teaching our children to be grateful for what they have?
Teach kids to be grateful by practicing gratitude!
The first step to teaching kids to be grateful is simple – be grateful yourself. When you walk in the door with your kids after a chaotic day of school and work, tell them how thankful you are for your cozy home. As you sit down to dinner, verbalize how grateful you are for the delicious dinner you’re about to eat. Don’t ask them to be grateful at this point, simply be grateful yourself. The more you can do this, and the more you stay away from complaining and negativity, the more your kids will follow suit.
Teach kids to be grateful by creating a family gratitude practice!
The next step is to create a daily gratitude ritual for your family. Get creative! Maybe get a white board and have each family member write down one thing they’re grateful for at the end of each day. Or make a gratitude jar where each day you each write words of gratitude on small pieces of paper and place them in the jar. Whatever your approach, your kids will likely begin to respond to this gentle daily reminder of gratitude.
Teach kids to be grateful with the help of technology!
Why not leverage your child’s love of “iPad time” with a program like Ninja Focus; designed to teach kids to be mindful, calm and grateful. Among many other wonderful things, Ninja Focus features gratitude meditations for children which are a wonderful way to incorporate gratitude into your child’s life. You’ll find meditations focused on gratitude and compassion designed just for kids and guided activities for gratitude. They don’t even have to look at the screen! Try it now!
Regardless of which gratitude method(s) you choose, you’re sure to see the positive impact on your child’s level of compassion, kindness and overall happiness.