Contributed by expert contributor Lauren Butcher, founder of Mini Mindfuls.
As a Mindfulness Coach for families, I am commonly asked about gratitude and how to get our kids to be more grateful. My answer is always the same; Gratitude must be nurtured in children. It is something that should be regularly modelled to our children so that they can fully grasp the idea of gratitude and begin to adopt its principles. But, how many of us as adults can truly say that we grasp the entire concept of gratitude? Sure, we all have basic manners and take the time to say ‘thank you’ on queue. And while this is an excellent example for our children, gratitude itself goes much deeper than a simple ‘thank you’.
Practicing gratitude on a daily basis has incredible mental health benefits for people of all ages. It is one of the most widely-studied topics within mental health and according to a 2015 article from Psychology Today, culminating years of studies, regular practices in gratitude have been shown to:
1. Open the door to more and better relationships
2. Improve physical health
3. Improve psychological health
4. Enhance empathy and reduce aggression
5. Help you sleep better
6. Improve self-esteem
7. Increase mental strength
So the saying ‘from gratitude comes growth’ really is true and absolutely backed up by the research. But how can we ensure we are practicing gratitude to its fullest? Here are just a few of our top tips to keep gratitude front and center in our lives.
Build 10 minutes into your day (perhaps at the dinner table) to chat about your gratitudes for the day. What happened in your day that you want to say thank you for? What actions did you take in your day that someone else may have been thankful for? Taking this time as a family to chat gratitude builds connection and helps to bring the day to a close with a positive outlook. It’s also a great way to perpetuate the lookout for gratitude in the following day. And when our children start to think about what they can do tomorrow that might make someone else grateful, we are simultaneously creating a world of little do-gooders!
Finding a few minutes each day to jot down your gratitudes is a brilliant way to cultivate a thankful heart. If your little ones aren’t yet writing, encourage them to draw a gratitude. Our Complete Toolkit features an entire module with our Grateful Giraffe and includes a ‘Seeds of Gratitude’ practice for them to draw and/or write their gratitudes!
Notice, Think, Feel, Do
At Mini Mindfuls, we have adopted the ‘Notice, Think, Feel, Do’ ethos within our gratitude module. It’s a 4-step system to learn about and practice gratitude in a well-rounded way. Instead of the quick ‘thank you’ when we receive a gift or compliment, we actually take the time to consider the entire cycle of thankfulness, from NOTICING the good deed to THINKING about all that went into the deed itself, how we FEEL about the good deed and what in particular we might want to DO to express our appreciation.
It sounds almost too simple, but actually practicing mindfulness helps all of us to pause and sit within the present moment. When we are fully checked into the moment, it means that we are able to truly experience everything that moment has to offer. When we are fully in the moment we have the ability to gain perspective and truly feel, which means that feelings of appreciation and thankfulness can be fully embraced.
Ultimately, living with a grateful heart is an incredibly positive and enriching way to be. By adding these easy-to-adopt principles into your day, you can fully live gratitude; turning it into a verb within your life. Make it an action, something you do everyday, and the benefits will be far reaching for your life and the lives of everyone around you!