Cultivate gratitude: what can we be thankful for right now?

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a scientific expert on gratitude says, “A decade’s worth of research has shown me that when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness.” 

But what about when life goes badly? Dr. Emmons’s response is that a grateful attitude is essential. He states, “In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. Gratitude helps us cope with hard times.”

Gratitude has the power to energize and to heal. According to a 2012 study on the topic, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people. It improves psychological health by reducing such toxic emotions as envy, resentment, frustration and regret.

There are plenty of ways your family can cultivate gratitude now. To encourage it in your kids model it. Parents have an enormous impact on kids who are observing what they do. Tell your kids what you’re thankful for while you stay-at-home.  Is it that no commute means you can sleep in later, you don’t have to dress up for work, and you can take breaks during the day to spend time with them?

  • Include a moment of gratitude in your nightly Check-Out before going to bed. Check-Out encourages each family member to first answer the question, what’s one take away from today, and then find something to be grateful for before checking out for the night.
  • Prompt your kid’s response with questions like these:
    • Who are you grateful for today?
    • What moment today are you thankful happened?
    • Why do you feel grateful today?
  • Encourage your kid to express gratitude to at least one person with a phone call or note. They can write a letter or draw a picture for the mail carrier, supermarket checker, or a local health care worker to thank them for all they’re doing right now. Or they can bake cookies and leave them out for the trash collectors and other essential workers.
  • Make a gratitude tree with a branch from outside and add thanks leaves daily. 
  • Ask your kid to post three things they’re grateful for to social media or Pinterest. Their gratitude will be an encouragement for others and now they’ve started a circle of thanks.

Find more information on gratitude at Character Lab.
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