Post by Eboni Walker, 20 December 2021
My eight-year-old son recently fractured his ankle while playing at school. Just like that, in the middle of the soccer and baseball season, he has been called to the sideline rather than the spotlight. As you might imagine, his world has come tumbling down and his attitude has been less than hopeful. In fact, he’s been down in the dumps.
At bedtime one night I asked him: “What is something you can be grateful for?” he replied “Nothing – my life is ruined.”
He’s not alone; this year has been a tough one for many of us – from the pandemic to politics, and let’s not forget natural disasters – life has us up against the ropes, barely holding on. Yet here we are approaching the season of reflection, the time of year when families gather, friends visit, and we give thanks.
Isn’t it hard to give thanks when loved ones are missing from the dinner table? Where is that mustard seed of faith when you cannot manage to keep the doors of your business open? How can you feel optimistic when so many things are going wrong?
Gratitude is a way of being – a practice – and something we can do at any time internally or outwardly. According to psychological research, there are many health benefits of practicing gratitude. When a person expresses or receives gratitude, the brain makes a connection between the behavior and feeling good using neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude trains your brain to create new, healthy connections that buffer depression, anxiety, and grief.
There are many ways you can practice gratitude with your family, co-workers, and children in your classroom. Keep a gratitude journal or gratitude jar, celebrate minor accomplishments, think about what you have rather than what you don’t, tell those you appreciate what you appreciate about them, or spend time volunteering.
Exercises like these promote connection, kindness, and generosity – values we want to model and teach our children. If you are considering ways to talk about gratitude with your children, check out this video.
“Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness… helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” As we round out the end of this year, take a few moments to consider the goodness in your life because having a spirit of gratitude matters!