Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving upon us, now is the time of year when people start to reflect on everything they are thankful for.  Although this is the season to be grateful for what you have, gratitude is something that is great to practice all year long.

Research studies show kids and adults who practice gratitude get these benefits:

-Improved mental and physical health
-Better relationships with family and friends
-Improved optimism, greater happiness, and overall well-being.

It’s especially vital to teach children the importance of expressing gratitude at a young age. Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to kids! This is especially true currently in this age of instant gratification, on-demand, just about everything. It’s a skill that is taught and practiced. In order to avoid an entitlement mentality and give our children the best shot at feeling happy and satisfied as adults, it’s helpful to foster an attitude of gratitude within families that are practiced every day, and not just around Thanksgiving.

How to teach kids to cultivate more gratitude into their daily lives? In Juliana Breines article, Four Great Gratitude Strategies, she gives four ways that can help kids and families cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.  Many of the strategies are simple and can be easily implemented into your daily life.  Breines suggests writing down three things you’re grateful for every day and telling people exactly why you’re grateful for what they did instead of just saying thank you.

Children who practice gratitude while they are young are more likely to continue with it as they get older.  Vicki Zakrzewski discusses several fun ways to help children practice gratitude and appreciation in her article Gratitude Activities for the Classroom.  Although these were originally designed for a classroom setting, many of these strategies could easily be practiced at home.  Some of these activities include:

-Keeping a gratitude journal
-Constructing a paper chain of everything they’re grateful for.
-Making a collage of words or pictures that represent what you are grateful for.

Summer camp is a great environment for children to practice gratitude and continue year round.  At our camp, Roughing It Day Camp, camp counselors create activities designed to help campers focus on things they appreciate about the other members of their group.  This not only creates a positive daily environment but also promotes group bonding.  One fun activity is called the Web of Appreciation.  Campers sit in a circle and pass around a ball of yarn to each other and think of things they appreciate about each other.  The result is a web that shows how everyone in the group is connected by their mutual appreciation. This is a fun activity you can do with your class friends at school, your sports team or with family at the Thanksgiving table.