Attempting to Incorporate More Gratitude into your Life?
This month provides us with a wonderful opportunity to express gratitude and give thanks, a practice we know to be beneficial, but one that has the potential to fall by the wayside in our busy lives. The holiday season is an especially good time to consider all that we have to be grateful for and to reflect on the ways that we practice gratitude in our lives. Of course, it’s also a busy time in which it’s easy to fall into a trap of stress, overwhelm, and negativity. How can we avoid the latter and focus on the blessings in our lives, so that we not only reap the benefits of gratitude ourselves, but also serve as models of appreciation for our children?
The practice of gratitude is one of the simplest, yet most transformative practices you can incorporate into your life. Acknowledging your blessings and expressing thanks activates neurons in your brain that shift thought patterns from a sense of lack to one of abundance. As your brain becomes rewired, your perspective on life becomes increasingly positive and more expansive. Further benefits include an increased sense of compassion, appreciation, and love. Expressing your appreciation for others also helps nurture strong and healthy relationships. In short, it feels good!
In the classroom, one of our favorite grace and courtesy lessons is that of teaching the children how to say “thank you” when they feel appreciation for something or someone. This practice allows the children to focus on the good, thus helping them cultivate an attitude of gratitude from an early age. Even young children can show appreciation. They are typically thankful for tangible items such as their toys, their blanket, or their favorite snack. As children grow older, they begin to express appreciation for more abstract items such as friendship, love, and kindness.
Of course, there are times in our lives when this is easier said than done. On occasion, we spiral into patterns of negative thinking that we know are not serving us or our children; however, we may find it difficult to know how to shift our thinking. The good news is that it’s always within your power to shift your perspective. In her recent post on gratitude, Maren Schmidt explains that in any given situation, the possibility to see good or bad exists. When we choose to shift our focus to the good, our entire perception changes.
At home, you can incorporate the practice of gratitude by modeling appreciation through your words: “What a beautiful day! I am so grateful we can spend time together outdoors.” This practice is especially helpful in shifting your perspective when you find your child’s behavior particularly challenging. “Wow, I appreciate your enthusiasm. You really like to make us laugh!” If this proves challenging, Schmidt encourages you to take a thankful walk. Shifting your environment sometimes helps shift your perspective. During your walk, you might find it helpful to acknowledge things you are grateful for with your child or, upon returning home, you might talk about, write, or draw pictures of those items.