Expressing (and receiving) gratitude has even greater benefits than you might have known. Not only does it help us to create a more positive mental outlook, but it can enhance our physical and emotional health as well. There are so many studies that have been done about the benefits of gratitude, and I sum it all up for you here.
With this new knowledge of the greatness of gratitude and how it can benefit us in our daily lives, I hope we bring these lessons to our children so that they can reap the benefits of a better, more grateful life as well. I also give you a couple simple ideas on how you can implement some easy gratitude practices with your family.
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Hi Moms! How are you today? I am doing pretty good. I sound a little funny (getting over a cold). But I wanted to start today by thanking those of you who have shared with me your favorite holiday tradition. It’s been so fun to get your email.. If you haven’t emailed me already, I would love it if you sent me a quick note of one of your family’s favorite holiday traditions. And I’m not being picky about which holiday your tradition falls under. Share whatever is your favorite tradition. It’s for an upcoming episode I’m working on that I will release in December. So get those emails into me quickly, I love hearing your ideas and it also makes me feel like I’m talking to actual people each week when I do this podcast and not just to myself, so thank you! You can reach me at [email protected]
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Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when we start talking about gratitude and giving thanks and teaching our children what it means to be grateful. Such a very important lesson to learn in life with such amazing benefits. That’s why I chose the title, The Greatness of Gratitude. Until I really got to studying it, I thought that it was something that is good to do, of course-- to keep a positive attitude and count your blessings, but there’s so much more to it than that. And there are actually benefits to being grateful and expressing gratitude that I had no idea were even part of it. So, if we can help our children foster an attitude of gratitude--which comes mainly from our example of expressing gratitude--that will carry them through many hard times in life.
I wanted to give a shout out to my friend Cindy. She encouraged me to write a class for young women, teaching them about their mental health and how their thoughts created their feelings and things like that. It has been so fun for me to teach these girls. So fun, in fact, that I’m picking up a second group and I’m starting it all over again. I teach it live on Zoom on Thursday nights, so if you’re interested in this course for your daughter, please reach out. It’s not even on my website yet because it’s so new, so just email me or something. Anyway, I teach them about their mental health and one of our lessons is about how social media can affect us in so many negative ways. I can tell that this class is really eye-opening for them.
And when I teach this particular class about social media, I couple that with teaching them about gratitude. A lot of what happens when we go on social media is that we start to not think our life is as great as we may have thought it was before we started “the scroll.” For example, my kitchen needs a face lift. Big time. My cupboards are water damaged over by the sink area and it’s just looking its age. But I love my kitchen so much. I think it’s beautiful, especially if I don’t concentrate on those things that need to be fixed. And I love to be in there and cook and bake for my family. It’s my happy place. And the little bit of stuff that needs to be spruced up usually doesn’t bother me. Probably because interior decorating is not one of my strengths. So most of the time I just don’t think about it or let it bother me. But if I start to scroll through kitchen remodel ideas on Pinterest, it doesn’t take long before I hate my kitchen and my house isn’t good enough and I fall into that scarcity mindset where I need all of these things for my house and done to my house and I don’t have enough money or time to do it. And I start to get into a kind of a bad mood. So, you see, it’s not just seeing what other people are doing on social media that gets us down, it’s seeing what other people's lives and houses and clothes and hair and makeup looks like, and that gets us down, too. It can get really bad for us, especially if we stay on too long. And then most of the time we realize what is happening and take a break from social media and try to get our head in a good place again, but for our kids it’s even worse and they aren’t sure why they’re feeling so down. We need to teach them what is happening. And we need to teach them how to remedy it. So much of the solution to not feeling so down on our life and our luck is to try to feel gratitude about our life, our situation, and what we do have. Gratitude is one of the best solutions to the social media problem and the comparison trap that we all fall into.
Saying things to myself like, “My kitchen is beautiful, and I’m so lucky to have such a nice roof over my head. It’s getting colder outside and I can sit in here with my blanket and my fuzzy socks and eat warm cookies that I just made from my beautiful functioning kitchen, and there’s just no place I’d rather be than right here sharing these moments with my family in my home.
Sometimes we are having such a hard day that we have to dig really deep as moms to truly try be grateful, especially when things around us aren’t going our way and life is just challenging. Period. Having a grateful heart and finding things to express gratitude in will change so much of what’s happening in your mind, in your attitude, and in your life. Even if the things you find to be grateful for are very small.
It wouldn’t be a true Mommy Whisperer podcast if I didn’t tell you a little bit about the studies that are out there.
There are so many studies that have been done on gratitude and the findings are really interesting!
For example, the Greater Good Science Center offers a plethora of information on this subject. In a paper titled, “The Science of Gratitude” in 2018, they shared several benefits that we could have by practicing gratitude in our lives.
I was really curious about that better physical health thing, so I looked further into that, and the physical benefits of gratitude include: a stronger immune system, less body aches and pains, optimum blood pressure and cardiac functioning, and better sleep/wake cycles. Oh, and also I found one that said you are more aware and awake during the day.
Those all sound like things I would like in my life, and things I would like my children to experience throughout their lifetime also. And it all comes down to having a grateful heart.
Showing gratitude is not merely saying, “thank you” but really feeling it deep down inside. And that’s what we need to teach our children.
There was another study I found, and they wanted to know more about how gratitude affects us, mentally. And their study involved assigning students into three groups. These were college students coming in for some mental health help.
Group one wrote a gratitude letter to another person every week for three weeks. They didn’t have to give it to the person they wrote it to, they just needed to write it. Group two wrote about their thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. And group three didn’t write anything. All three groups received counseling services, too. Well, group one (the ones that wrote the gratitude letters for three weeks) reported that they had “significantly better mental health” when they were asked 4 weeks and 12 weeks after the intervention ended. So by writing one letter a week for 3 weeks, these students felt better even 12 weeks later.
The people doing this study said, “The positive effects of gratitude writing compound like interest. You might not notice the benefit of a daily or weekly practice, but after several weeks and months, you will.”
These studies have found that if a person could do only one thing to increase their health and happiness, expressing gratitude might be it.
And this is super interesting: Every time a person expresses or receives gratitude, dopamine releases in the brain. Dopamine, the happy hormone, is produced in two areas of the brain when we express gratitude: the part that has to do with movement and speech, and the part that has to do with reward. So, when a person expresses or receives gratitude and that dopamine is released, it is making a connection between behavior and feeling good. And the more a person practices gratitude, the more often dopamine is released.
So how do we teach this important concept to our children? How do we give them this life-long gift of knowing what expressing gratitude can do for us and also how to become more grateful?
One of the most popular gratitude exercises is the daily gratitude journal. One study found that materialism among teens decreased when they implemented this practice. Isn’t that pretty interesting? This generation of spoiled and entitled children (not necessarily yours but just in general) will be much less likely to be that way if they keep a gratitude journal.
I have to admit, I started this with my kids years ago, encouraging them to write in it at bedtime. And we all did really well for a while, maybe just a few months. But I let it go by the wayside, and I forgot about it and I forgot to remind them about it, probably because I didn’t realize then the amazing effects it would have on my children by keeping it going. My poor last two children who are at home right now, they are in for it. The gratitude journals are coming back out, kids.
Now, there is conflicting research about how often a person should write in their gratitude journal. Some studies found that once or twice per week is more beneficial than daily journaling. So, we don’t have to be perfect at it, is what I feel like this is saying. I’m going to still encourage my children to write in it daily and I’m going to write in it daily, but if we miss a day we’re still going to reap the benefits.
And don’t forget that letter writing activity, just once a week, of writing a letter to someone to express gratitude.
I wonder what we would see happen in our family’s lives if we implemented these two practices. Would we look back and really start to see and notice these changes that they said would happen?
But these two activities alone, gratitude journal writing and weekly letter writing isn’t going to do it all. We need to be an example to our children of this. We need to tell them that we are thankful for them and for specific ways in which they bless our lives. They also need to hear us expressing thanks to our significant other, to the server at the restaurant, and the checker at the store. Your child is always watching you, whether you think they are or not, it’s actually quite interesting how much they pick up on. Your child will grow up emulating you. Automatically. They just will. So our example is powerful.
I’m going to step up my gratitude this holiday season. And I challenge you to do the same. We seem to be raising a generation of entitlement and ingratitude, and the best way we can combat this is to model what it looks like to have true gratitude.
Regardless of who you are, or the circumstances of your life, the health benefits of gratitude are undeniable.
It is the best medicine. It heals your mind, your body, and your spirit!
Thank you for joining me today, and I’ll talk to you next time.