You might be wondering what gratitude really is. I believe that gratitude is the quality of feeling or being thankful or grateful, which is an appreciation of something received. This does not have to be a material item.
So many studies show us how important gratitude is in our lives. For example, a study by Dr. Robert Emmons reveals that cultivating gratitude increased overall happiness levels in his participants by 25%.
In one study conducted by the Great Good Science Center, those that practiced gratitude consistently reported the following benefits:
● Stronger immune systems
● Lower blood pressure
● Higher levels of positive emotions
● More joy, optimism, and happiness
● Acting with more generosity and compassion
● Feeling less alone and isolated
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others” ~ Cicero
What I love so much about gratitude is that it does not involve equipment or expense. It is all about the work that goes on in our heads and our hearts. It is a mindset, a lifestyle. It is not just about good manners — it extends way beyond material possessions. It allows us to see our situation in a way that can open up our thinking to new solutions, especially when we are fearful, overwhelmed or feeling an imbalance.
Gratitude is a powerful and magical force — what you focus on truly does grow. The more grateful you are, the more you find things to be grateful for. Gratitude puts situations in perspective – when we see the good as well as the bad, it becomes more difficult to stay focused on the things that keep us in “complaining mode”.
“No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to be grateful and depressed.” ~ Robert Holden
Gratitude is a free gift that we can offer to ourselves and the world. Gratitude keeps on giving and regenerates itself as we use it. Gratitude can help break down barriers, resentments, allowing for forgiveness, and opens ourselves to feelings of love, peace, and compassion.
“Gratitude is a currency we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”
~ Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
There is a catch, though — it does require a daily practice in order to build the gratitude muscle. It is just like going to the gym. Here are a few simple techniques to practice gratitude, individually or with your family:
● Create a “Gratitude Journal”, to track the good things, events, or gifts you see in yourself and in others.
● Use visual reminders for yourself to keep your gratitude in front of you.
● Focus on prayers or meditations that offer you gratitude each day.
● Create an exercise or practice every night with family offering gratitude.
● Take the bad and reframe it so that you can find a way to be grateful for the lessons in life (for they are important, too).
● Be grateful for your breath every day when you wake up. Isn’t that a gift?
● Begin each day by thanking God, spirituality, something for your life that guides you.
● Be grateful for those in your life – extend your appreciation to them.
● Give at least one compliment daily.
● Invite someone to share in your appreciation (sunset, sunrise).
● Be grateful for your body and its abilities as you engage in exercise.
And here is a challenge we can try together: Commit to not complaining, gossiping or criticizing for a period of time. You probably don’t engage in that anyway, right?
Showing gratitude for one another is not only simple but also one of the most powerful things we can do for each other. How do you foster this in your life, workplace, home, and family? Translating this to our kids and family is such an important task.
Here are a few ideas:
● When you encounter a challenging situation with your child, together, find the silver lining. Talk about the good that came out of the situation, and how even the most challenging lessons can serve a purpose. ● Give at least one compliment daily. ● Invite your child to share something you are appreciating. ● Make do with less, for a week or a month. This can be a great family project. ● Have your child pitch in and save up for something that they truly want, instead of buying it for them. ● Schedule acts of service as a family. Come together to brainstorm ideas. ● Create a gratitude jar for the family to participate in. Write down things you are grateful for, things a family member has done that make you feel good, etc. When it’s needed most, pull something out and read it together. ● Give thanks out loud – to your children and to others in your life – modeling your own gratitude. ● Look for the teachable moments. ● Write thank-you notes, or notes acknowledging others just because.
We can all benefit from being more intentional about showing gratitude. By incorporating this feeling into our daily lives, we can reframe the way in which we experience both the good and not-so-good parts of everyday life.
Listen to the Conscious Parents, Thriving Kids podcast by clicking the play button on the audio player below.