Whenever I talk, share or ask people about this the answer is a resounding YES!
But that isn’t exactly the topic this week. The topic is gratitude. And these two topics dovetail so nicely together because the research on gratitude now proves what our ancient ancestors knew intuitively; grateful people (young and old alike) are likely to be much happier, healthier and generally live longer than their pessimistic counterparts.
So, as a means of helping our kids to enjoy better emotional health, let’s look at the results of some compelling research, a beautiful story from a client of mine who is rocking the gratitude train with her son, and a few simple mindsets for cultivating gratitude in your own life.
Gratitude and thankfulness researcher, Robert A. Emmons, along with fellow researchers, have been reporting the benefits of a gratitude practice for well over 10 years with compelling results.
Among research findings, Emmons and team have also found some interesting “side effects” of having a regular gratitude practice including:
- Better attitude (even teens 🙂 )
- More likely to reach goals
- Practice a healthy lifestyle
- More connected to others
- Fewer effects from stress
- Better overall health
I like to look at an “Attitude of Gratitude” as proactive healthcare. Why? When your body is in a state of stress, like so many of us are today with our overscheduled, always-on lives or dragged down by often unconscious negative emotions (see my post on getting better at emotional stress), we are statistically more prone to headaches, muscle aches and pains, a weakened immune system, depression, and poor sleep. Week after week, this chronic stress can create cellular inflammation, the root cause of many health conditions. People, young and old, who practice gratitude, enjoy better health, both physically and emotionally.
The other aspect of gratitude as a means of amp’ing up our happiness and mental wellness that I love is that you can do it with your kids. Yes! This is actually beneficial “multi-tasking”, which you will hardly ever hear me say 🙂
Taking a few minutes daily to share something you are grateful for can not only provide you all these amazing benefits but it can hard-wire your kids happiness too.
I often coach on gratitude both in private and corporate workshops. One of my favourite results is people sharing with me how it’s changing their lives. Below is one of those stories;
I want to tell you something that should make you smile. Since the beginning of the New Year, most nights when I put [my son] to bed we “meditate” together for 2-3 minutes. I downloaded the Insight Timer that you told me about, and we use it, checking how many people are meditating each night. I have no idea what he thinks about, but he lays there very quietly beside me till the timer says time is up. After that, we both say something we are grateful for and I write them down in a book that I keep beside his bed. So we each have a list of about 35 things so far. I’ve been grateful for warm blankets more than once this winter (especially given how cold it has been!) and he is often grateful for his family. It’s fascinating to hear what he thinks about. One night I almost forgot to do this, and he said “hey, aren’t we going to do our gratefuls?”. And when I wasn’t home the other night, he showed [his dad] the book. I think [his dad] was mildly amused.
It really is a great way to end each day, and we both look forward to it each night. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it weren’t for you, so I thought you’d appreciate knowing the difference one person can make.
I get a surge of “feel-good” dopamine every time I read this.
Cultivating a proactive gratitude practice doesn’t have to be another things on your to-do list. It can be as simple as taking a few long, slow, deep breathes and just thinking of 3 things that make you count your blessing. It can be as uncomplicated as telling your child, spouse, aging mother, or co-worker something that you cherish or appreciate about them. It can be as life-changing as noticing when someone expresses gratitude to you and stopping, taking a pause, a allowing yourself to enjoy a well-deserved surge of “feel-good” dopamine. After all, it’s not just kids who need their mental health to be prioritized and valued, it’s you too.
For more ideas on creating a gratitude practice find some simple tips to get started [here].
And try my free Gratitude Meditation on SoundCloud (approx 7 minutes)
If you could benefit from private coaching to reduce stress and connect with your happiest, healthiest YOU! Please reach out.
Grace and Gratitude,
- Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E., 2003. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol.;84:377-389.