This past October it seemed that so many terrible things were happening around me. We all experience negativity in our lives but seeing loved ones experience loss, sadness, hardship, and illness all in a short time, was becoming soul-crushing. It was like everyone around me couldn’t catch a break. It was hard not to feel sadness and negativity, it was overwhelming, and I knew I needed to do something positive to change my mindset.
The Science Behind Gratitude
By practicing gratitude, you are practicing a life of thankfulness. It helps us appreciate the simple things in life. We can gain so much joy from the little moments each day. Studies have shown that gratitude can reduce cardiac issues, inflammation, and degeneration of our neurological system. Practicing daily gratitude journals or other gratitude rituals can also help people fight mental health such as anxiety and depression and decrease burnout. It elicits positivity and hope and can even improve mood and sleep.
I have heard a lot about practicing mindfulness and gratitude over the years. I have also scrolled through endless versions of gratitude journals on the internet but have never got around to buying one. Ironically, before experiencing this difficult period, I had purchased the Five-Minute Journal, a daily gratitude journal (thanks to a fellow contributing writer Kate Hayes).
This practice of answering daily questions in the morning has helped change my mindset and set a more positive tone for the day ahead of me. At night I can reflect on the little things that matter so much to me and what made my day great. Each day there are even encouraging quotes or challenges to keep you in that positive mindset as well.
Gratitude For Children
Another important aspect of practicing daily gratitude for me was to display healthy reactions to difficult times for my children. This was important to me because hard times are an inevitable part of life. Children are so in tune with their surroundings, and we all see how much children learn from watching others. I feel that how we express ourselves nonverbally and through our emotions is just as important.
Currently, I am homeschooling my son, and this made me think about an important topic to include in his day-to-day learning. I looked at social-emotional learning opportunities that I could do with my son, including books, activities, and games. By teaching children these social-emotional skills, we are assisting children to learn how to manage their own emotions, feel and show empathy for others, and build social skills.
Social-emotional learning provides a strong foundation for children when started at a young age. Those with these skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and have effective problem-solving skills and self-discipline. I knew this was an important aspect that I wanted to help my children develop to allow them to be healthy well-rounded individuals.
Practices for Children
For my son, I created this simple gratitude journal to tie into our daily routine. I also love the idea of a gratitude jar because it’s something we can do together as a family. With the jar, we can discuss what we are grateful for or what made that day great. We can wait until it fills up or go through them each week/month to look at reminders of what we were grateful for. Our Central Mass Mom site also has free printables for Thanksgiving that include a gratitude activity as well! The most important thing to remember with these practices is to have children take the time each day to think about something they are thankful for.
Whichever practice works best for you and your family, I hope that it will bring more gratitude into your life and your family. I know I will continue practicing gratitude, and I hope that I inspired you to do the same!