This year has been incredibly challenging for me … and it’s not even over yet! I could give you a laundry list of what’s happening in my life, but that’s not really the point, we all go through tough times. The point is, that as I reflect back on the year I realize that I still have so many things in my life to be grateful for. The real point is … practicing gratitude.
For starters, what is gratitude? To me gratitude is feeling or expressing thanks or appreciation. It’s often hard to put your finger on it as a personality trait. When people are grateful they just seem so much kinder. Isn’t that something we should all strive for? Definitely something we want to instill in young people.
Now, practicing gratitude? Gratitude doesn’t just happen. Sure, it’s easy to be grateful when we are having a good day and all is right with the world. The hard part is being grateful when you have a crappy day, or 5, and it seems like nothing is going right. Gratitude is something you have to work on … just like any new skill you want to learn.
Why is gratitude something we want to practice?
There are countless benefits to practicing gratitude. People who practice gratitude are:
- Sleep better.
- Less stressed.
- Less self-centered.
- More optimistic.
- More resilient.
- Have better relationships.
These are just some of my favorites. Basically good feelings create other good feelings. And I bet you know a young person that could use some more good feelings.
We all know the stereotype of the brooding, moody teenager. (It’s a stereotype for a reason) Teens face many challenges but sometimes it seems like they just want to wallow in their self-pity.
Taking just a little bit of time to think about good things in their lives can help a lot. Even if it’s small “I didn’t go hungry today” or “I’m healthy and can play my sport”. Remembering what you have (and what others may not have) can really put your life in perspective.
How do we practice gratitude?
Now we know why we should be practicing gratitude so how do we do it? It doesn’t need to be complicated or take a lot of time. Here are some ways to practice gratitude:
- Say thank you more often.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Daily – write down 1 thing you are grateful for that day. Anything.
- Weekly – write down what you are grateful for that week. Take 5-10 minutes and just write, it doesn’t need to be fancy or even grammatically correct 🙂
- Share something you are grateful for during your family meal. (Most of us do this on Thanksgiving but why limit it to one day a year?)
- Reframe an ungrateful thought. For example: “My teacher always calls me out in class, it’s not fair!” could be “My teacher cares about my learning and that is why they check on me in class”.
With practice, you can develop an attitude of gratitude. Let the good feelings flow!
Remember that what we (grown-ups) do speaks louder than what we say with young people. If we are practicing gratitude, teens will notice.
Take special care this holiday season to express your thanks to the young people in your life. Everyone wants to know that they are appreciated.
I would love to hear from you! How do you practice gratitude?