“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have in to enough, and more.” – Melody Beattie
A conscious focus on gratitude has been linked with positive emotions including contentment, happiness, pride and hope, and it makes life more meaningful, fulfilling and productive.
Gratitude builds self-esteem by reducing social comparisons (a factor that plays a significant role in low self-esteem) and allowing one to appreciate others’ accomplishments. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for even during the worst times, fosters resilience and reduces stress. It’s been shown to improve sleep. Expressing gratitude increases prosocial behavior; it enhances empathy and reduces the desire to retaliate even when someone hasn’t been kind, therefore reducing aggression.
Gratitude does not emerge spontaneously in newborns and children’s comprehension of gratitude is a process played out over several years. This virtue is acquired only through sustained effort and focus. It is one of several positive attributes that parents can encourage in their children.
A simple expression of gratitude at the end of the day can begin the practice of habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life. It’s important to clearly articulate what it is that one is grateful for. For example, saying that you are thankful for your family does not push you to think about what it is that you appreciate them for. Being specific and pointing out, for example, that you are grateful for your brother because he gave you a hug when you got hurt, would be much more powerful.
Children who practice a daily gratitude exercise have been shown to have a more positive attitude toward school and family. They were also reported to have more enthusiasm, determination and attentiveness. With the holidays coming up, it’s a good time to begin the practice at home, make it a daily habit, and see the power of gratitude in action!