“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible,” writes Harvard Health. Gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratis, which means grace or graciousness. So when we are being thankful, we are acknowledging goodness inside and outside of ourselves and recognizing the positive things in our lives. This concept and action is just as important for us as it is for children.
You can practice gratitude in a lot of ways, such as:
- Keeping a gratitude journal or list (I use the notes app on my phone)
- Paying attention to the small things in life, the now-moments, such as birds singing in a tree or an insect on a plant or the way the light reflects off of a building, window, or a car. Kids are often more attuned to these things than we adults are with our mental distractions.
- By telling someone you are grateful for them or for something they did (in the moment or even a long time ago)
- By doing something kind for others as a way of saying thank you or “I’m glad I know you” such as making the neighbors some soup or asking an elderly person if they need help
- Meditating on the positive in your life
- Saying thankful prayers
- Thinking gracious thoughts
Benefits of Expressing Gratitude
Psychology says that expressing gratitude causes greater happiness in our lives and helps us feel more positive emotions, relish our experiences, deal better with adversity, build stronger relationships, and improve our health. Being thankful may make us feel more positive emotions which can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and have other mental health benefits.
The physical benefits are also plentiful: A 2012 study in found that grateful people experienced fewer aches and pains and reported feeling healthier. Another study found that people who “count their blessings” at least once per week experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure, and that people who did a quick “count their blessings” download into a journal or on a piece of paper before bedtime increased their sleep quality.
Being consciously grateful can also help boost your immune system as it helps lower stress responses, according to a study published by researchers from Princeton University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And it may reduce the risks associated with heart failure, according to a 2016 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Expressing gratitude frequently has also been connected to wanting less stuff (meaning being less materialistic) since we are appreciating what we have as opposed to being fixated on what we don’t have or on obtaining more.
And if we are in the workforce and speak words of gratitude regularly, this is seen as enhancing our managerial skills—that we are motivating and giving and a good mentor to others. (This could contribute to reduced employee turnover rates.) Expressing gratitude on the job helps us find meaning in our work which in turn can reduce our work-related stress.
The social benefits to expressing gratitude are numerous and include making people like us more (than if we were Eeyore-like), improve our friendships and romantic relationships because the people around us feel good and loved when we kvell over them. And expressing gratitude to others can help smooth over our relationships in times of stress.
These are all of the reasons why we should express our thanks not just at Thanksgiving but all year long.
And if you need some books to get your children in a mindful mood of thanksgiving, here are some recommendations.
Gratitude Books for Children (in alphabetical order):
When we stay in an attitude of thanksgiving, which is a form of personal responsibility, we can make the world a better place.