Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Learning Gratefulness

Housing prices continue to fall. Household expenses are increasing while annual income is decreasing. This economic recession continues it’s negative spiral with no end in sight. And there is no better time to be grateful. What? Grateful? Absolutely!

Now is the time to appreciate all that we do have - from the roof over our heads to the scent of a fresh-peeled orange. Given the right framework most lives are truly abundant.

When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears
Anthony Robbins

Abundance is not the possession of material objects. Instead abundance is a state of mind, a meditation of daily gratitude. And this meditation can make you happy. A 2003 study* by Emmons and McCullough showed that .. “the gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being.” These groups were more optimistic about their future, felt better about their lives and exercised more; all a direct result of gratitude.

Furthermore a 2008 study* by Froh, Sefick and Emmons showed adolescents who practiced gratefulness had ... “enhanced optimism, [and] life satisfaction.” Is this not what every parent wants?

But here’s the problem. My children do not practice daily gratitude. They do not see the abundance before them. Rather each day arrives with a litany of complaints (could mom’s cooking be any more boring!).

This morning I became so frustrated with my eight-year-old’s attitude I threatened to make her sleep in the garage (the theory being she would then appreciate the roof over her head even if said roof included sharing a room with her sister).

Short of shoving my kids out in the cold I am at a loss. I want to teach my children gratefulness and thus gift them with truly joyful life. But what’s a parent to do?

Here are some ideas:

1) Start a thankfulness tree. Have each family member make leaves of gratitude to hang on the tree. Periodically change the leaves on your tree and take time to sit down and pour over all the things you have to be thankful for.

2) Volunteer for those less fortunate (a soup kitchen, a nursing home, a pet shelter, etc). Discuss how you and your children could improve these people’s lives.

3)Leave Hope Notes scattered about your town to brighten someone’s day.

4) Lead by example; take the time to find beauty in each day and share this beauty with your children.

5) Have Earth Hour once a week. Learn how people lived before the creation of all our modern conveniences.

6) Routinely donate toys to those less fortunate.

7) Keep a daily gratitude journal with your kids. Nightly write five things for which you are grateful.

8) Turn off the television and monitor computer use. Eliminate those flashy ads which vie for our kids’ purchasing power and simultaneously diminish their self-worth.

Gratefulness is a skill, a skill that can be learned. And the benefits of daily gratitude can be seen in as little as three weeks. Three weeks! A mere 21-days to a happier healthier child and happier healthier family. What’s not to lose?


Today I'm grateful for warm breezy winter days, hot showers, the scent of a lemon in the disposal and an invite to a knitting group.

What are you grateful for?

*Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

*Froh, J.J., Sefick, W.J., Emmons, R.A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study in gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 213-233.


Donna said...

I think its hard for kids to understand just how good their lives are unless they have something to compare it to. Serving meals at the homeless shelter or giving out gifts at the Christmas bureau helps kids get some perspective on their lives. My parents took my brother and I to a 3rd world country as a teenager...I have to tell you I have never viewed my own life in the same way since!

Lola Goetz said...

We should all stop and be grateful. Often.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the ideas. I need to adopt one or two with my kiddos (and myself!). I think as we get so busy with all the things around us, just stopping and being still would allow us to see those things which we are grateful for.

Gayle said...

Great ideas! For the most part, I think my children are good about being grateful for what they have. I also like that our school district is very proactive in helping children be aware of what some other people's lives are like.

Anonymous said...

I picked the word ABUNDANCE as my guidance word for 2009, which has lead me to note all the abundance I have in my life.

I'm grateful I found your blog. 8-)

I'm also grateful for:
- hair color to cover my grays
- a paid of car to take me places safely
- a sunny day in January
- hot yerba mate tea to warm me up

There are so many things to appreciate.

Amy said...

helpful list, and it is a skill that can be learned as below:
our practice happens at the table, like prayer ( we aren't "pray-ers" in the trtaditional sense) - we link hands a recount one thing we are grateful for in the day. my husband is often stumped. finally, last week, he said, i guess i need to focus on gratitude in my life a little more.
ah, light.

maz said...

It's a good lesson to learn early yet not always easy for children. Like your ideas though, I may adopt some! Currently I'm grateful for my loving family in all it's noisy, challenging forms!

Jamie said...

My mom "made" us help her cook meals for the homeless every Sunday and then serve those meals and listen to their stories. I'm so grateful she exposed us to such valuble life lessons. We also didn't have TV. I think that's best part of my childhood - all the fun adventures and creative things we did instead.