Did you know that grateful people sleep better? Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.
Grateful people not only feel good, but they act good, so to speak; their joy and enthusiasm is palpable to others. Studies show that people who have been taught to practice being appreciative offer more emotional support to other people. Grateful people are more likely to be both kind and helpful, and the spouses and friends of those who intentionally practice gratitude report increases in energy, excitement, and attentiveness.
We need to teach our children to be grateful because Australian culture glorifies independence and undervalues how much others help. We see our blessings as hard-earned. One gratitude researcher, in a recent article for Greater Good magazine, describes a scene from The Simpsons: “When asked to say grace at the family dinner table, Bart Simpson offers the following words: ‘Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.’” This sense of entitlement will not lead to happy lives. Pioneering social scientists think that 40% of our happiness comes from intentional, chosen activities throughout the day. Choose to be entitled, choose to be grateful—whatever you decide, it is going to influence your happiness.
The good news is that gratitude is not a fixed trait. It’s is a skill that can be cultivated, like kicking a soccer ball or speaking French. Gratitude is one of the ways that we teach our children to forge critical social bonds. So as a society it is in our best interest to teach habits of thankfulness and appreciation to children.
One way to do this is to keep a gratefulness diary – write down your blessings once a day or count your blessings once a week, in no time you will be paying attention to the things around you that make life worth living.
Practising the skill of being grateful is something that will insulate you from mental illness such as depression and anxiety, and is often used in treatment to assist in recovery. Using this with children is especially fun, and watching kids become more grateful is a wonderful experience, as is helping children to recover from depression or anxiety and live full, happy lives. I’m counting my blessings on that score!