The week this episode airs, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the US. But do you think we should only be grateful one day a year? Nah, no matter what season it is, what kind of year or week or day you’ve had, you can still have an attitude of gratitude. See what I did there?
Maybe it’s being thankful for your blessings, appreciating someone’s help, not taking things for granted, being happy with what you have and letting that be enough, being mindful and focusing on what’s happening now in the present.
Have you ever considered gratitude to be a choice? Think about it … we choose how we respond to situations, whether something good or something bad happens. And even when we feel sad or hurt, we can still choose to be grateful in that emotion.
Practicing gratitude — call it practice because practice makes progress, and because no one is perfect! So practicing gratitude has a powerful effect on your brain. Even though gratitude won’t make all of your problems go away, it will help you reset your mindset, improve your outlook, give you perspective on things, make your lows not feel so low, and clear your head so you can work on solutions to your problem.
Robert Emmons is a top expert on the science of gratitude. He has studied thousands of people, both adults and children, to examine the effects of gratitude.
In one kids study over a three week period, those who practiced gratitude and counted their blessings were …
- Overall more grateful
- More optimistic, looking on the bright side
- More satisfied with their lives
- More satisfied with their school experience
— Plus, practicing gratitude had both immediate and long-term positive effects on them. In other studies, the science showed that people who practice gratitude regularly …
- Feel better about their lives as a whole
- Feel more giving, forgiving, joyful, and enthusiastic
- Feel higher levels of positive emotions like joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism
- Protected from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness
- Sick less often, with fewer symptoms, and recovered more quickly
- Able to cope better with everyday stress
- Have better self-control, self-regulation, and coping abilities
- Get more sleep and a better nights’ rest
- Feel up to 25% measurably happier
So — how can you start practicing gratitude? Let’s identify some tools:
First tool, start by simply saying, “Thank You!” Gratitude isn’t just for grand gestures. Thank others for simple things. Thank your family member for helping you with your schoolwork or getting you a snack. Thank your neighbor for dropping off a treat. Thank a stranger for holding a door open. Thank your sibling for playing with you. Make saying, “Thanks,” a habit.
A simple Thank You can go a long way and mean a lot to someone.
Now, if you want to level up, the next tool comes from the Raising Grateful Children project at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Their research shows that gratitude can actually be a four-part experience:
- What we NOTICE in our lives that we can be grateful for
- Why we THINK we’ve been given those things
- How we FEEL about those things we’ve been given
- What we DO to express our gratitude for those things
NOTICE: look around — what do you have in your life to be grateful for — things, people, gifts, experiences, etc. Notice them.
THINK: consider why you have those blessings you noticed. Did someone give it as a gift, did they work hard to help you have it? And why did they want you to have it? Think about why.
FEEL: How do you feel about those blessings? Do you feel happy, excited, loved, etc. Connect your blessings to positive feelings.
DO: what can you do to show how you feel about those blessings? You could express your gratitude, give back to show your appreciation, pay it forward to someone else, etc. Do something.
If you want to conduct your own science experiment to change your own life, I recommend this final tool, a Gratitude Journal. Like those participants in Robert Emmons’ studies, regularly write down what you’re grateful for AND why.
Gratitude is not just about listing blessings in between commas. By naming what you’re grateful for AND why you’re grateful for it, you attach meaning to that blessing, cultivating a deeper sense of appreciation for it. You even can use the last tool, Notice – Think – Feel – Do, to help you with your why. And the act of writing it down helps you focus on it for a moment, it’s practicing mindfulness.
For the next seven days keep a Gratitude Journal. Yes, Thanksgiving will be over but you can still be grateful! Every day write down 5 things you’re grateful for AND why. As you work on it over a week, see if you notice any changes in your mood, your interactions with others, and how you feel about yourself. My hypothesis is that, if you commit to this challenge, you’ll notice a difference. And you’ll want to keep doing it.
No matter your circumstances, you can choose to have gratitude and practice it with these tools:
Say Thank You
Notice – Think – Feel – Do
Keep a Gratitude Journal — plus a 10 for Tweens Tools Challenge!
To help you with the 10 for Tweens Tools Challenge, I created a “Gratitude Journal” page for you to print out and personalize each day with 5 things you’re grateful for AND why. Print a few pages and make a booklet. Put it on your pillow where you’ll see it, remember to write in it, practice gratitude with it, and believe in it — that’s the important part.
A few of my favorite books that illustrate gratitude are:
Being Thankful by Mercer Mayer
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Movies that explore gratitude are:
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,”
The original animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
(Yes, they’re both holiday movies but the message resonates year-round)
If you have favorite books or movies to add, I’d love to hear from you! Ask your parent’s permission to share your favs by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.