Now is a time when everything feels relentlessly challenging and tiring. This leads us to feel defeated, stressed, and depressed. Science has found the best way to fight these feelings is with gratitude. Gratitude simply means thanks and appreciation. Research has shown that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness and better health. Gratitude turns a negative thought into a positive one.
HealthStart helps children to build strong brains and bodies so they can reach their full potential and contribute to our communities. While good nutrition and physical activity are a big part of that, we must also look at practices that improve our social and emotional wellbeing. That is where gratitude comes in. We know that kids form habits by the age of 5 so it is never too early to start practicing gratitude in small and big ways to promote a healthy mind and body.
Benefits of Gratitude
One of the many benefits of practicing gratitude is a positive mindset. This translates to a number of benefits like increased self-esteem, compassion for others, and overall happiness. All of these things lead kids to have a better attitude towards school and their families, as well as reduced stress and a better sense of self.
In addition, gratitude works to increase optimism and encourage kids to be more present and mindful in their day to day lives.
Gratitude also helps children appreciate what they already have. For example, children often fail to understand how or what it took to prepare a good meal or give them a present. This can result in a lack of appreciation and satisfaction with the opportunities and gifts they are given. Expressing thanks helps kids to be happier with what they have instead of always wanting or needing something more. A little gratitude goes a long way!
Practicing gratitude can be as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for each day, but there are lots of ways to help your kids express a little thanks. Below are 5 ways to get you started.
1. Share what you are thankful for each night before bed.
Sharing gratitude right before bed promotes relaxation and better sleep, and we all know how important sleep is for our health. Sharing your gratitude with each other is also a great way to bond and deepen your connection. Try building a gratitude practice into your regular bed routine to keep it consistent.
2. Start a gratitude jar.
Write down one thing each day on a piece of paper and add it to your gratitude jar. Your gratitude jar can be anything from a mason jar to a glass vase, just make sure you can see through it. Being able to see how many things you have to be thankful for can be extremely comforting and helpful when you're feeling down or stressed. At the end of the month go back through every piece of paper together and see all the wonderful blessings the month has brought.
3. Take gratitude walks.
Gather up the family and take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, park, or nearby hiking trails. Take this time to slow down, get outside, and appreciate the beauty around you. Try doing this without looking at your phone or other distracting devices so you can be fully present and aware of your surroundings.
4. Encourage kids to give back.
Sign up as a family to volunteer or help a friend in need. This can be something as small as giving a family member a phone call or sharing a new toy with a friend. Giving to others One of the best ways to encourage your kids to give back is to lead by example. See what opportunities we have to give back.
5. Write thank you notes together.
Thank you notes are so personal and special. They may even just make someone's day! There's never a bad time to tell someone you appreciate them and the impact they have on your life. Write down a list of people you are grateful for, like teachers, grandparents, close friends, or even each other, then make it a habit by writing a thank you note for one person off your list each week or once a month. Along with writing a note, inspire your kids to draw or color something as a thank you. Who doesn't love homemade art made from the heart?
For more ideas and gratitude resources check out the link below!
Eidens, Alexandra. “How to Teach Children to Be Grateful.” Big Life Journal, 16 November, 2017, https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/grateful-children-printable-challenge
Gordon, Tanuka. “Gratitude Journal: Self-compassion for my littles in the new year.” Mindful Littles, 3 January, 2017, https://mindfullittles.org/gratitude-journal-self-compassion-for-my-littles-in-the-new-year/?gclid=CjwKCAiA5o3vBRBUEiwA9PVzagS6e4SIVPVN6DGRrMlUj6xNDlyp9GeXIDQKhpLbX_AGagKyGkj3sxoC7DkQAvD_BwE
Reiser, Andrea. “11 Tips for Instilling True Gratitude in Your Kids.” HuffPost, 7 April, 2014,