Thanksgiving 2021: Embracing Gratitude

Posted by

Hello everybody and welcome back!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we want to dive deeper into the concept of gratitude. We want to give you the answers to all your questions such as what’s gratitude, why it’s important, and how to practice with ourselves and our kids.

What is Gratitude?

We talked about gratitude in 2021 back at the start of the year in our blog titled: Let’s Shift the Focus of 2021: Learning and Gratitude. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly encourage you to check it out. We included recent research and several great resources you may find helpful before diving into the gratitude pool today!

For a refresher, gratitude is allowing yourself to pause, notice, and appreciate things often taken for granted. For example, being grateful for living in a place with clean water, food on the table, and healthy family relationships. Gratitude is taking a moment to breathe and feel thankful for all the positives even if they feel few and far between. Using gratitude allows us to acknowledge the bad while choosing to focus on the good [1].

When it comes to gratitude, first, you demonstrate appreciation by recognizing something valuable to you (unrelated to monetary worth). This part is called gratefulness/appreciation/etc. With gratitude, however, you demonstrate appreciation but go a step further to recognize that the sources of goodness are outside yourself. The quote below does a great job differentiating the two. [2]

Gratitude is more than just the feeling of thankfulness. Being thankful is the first step, and we have to have that initial feeling to build upon. We build upon it by redirecting our focus into making gratefulness an intrinsic part of our lives 365 days a year. Gratitude requires us to stay alert of the role of others in our lives. This is different from the fleeting nature of the act of a mere ‘thank you’ or feeling thankful one day of the year. Through gratitude, we get to make a sense of our lives and learn to credit our loved ones with the appreciation they deserve.

The key is keeping gratitude at the forefront of our lives. It’s not just thinking about how thankful we are to have all that we have. It’s about living out that gratitude through the simple things we do every day. Gratitude is the manifestation of love, devotion and commitment towards those who mean the most to you. It encompasses shared experiences, shared love and an understanding that the universe has conspired to keep us happy, and help us understand how connected we are to others. [3]

Susan Rhoads, LCSW, Therapist, Senior Life Solutions

Now that we’ve taught you the adult definition of gratitude, let’s talk about the kid-friendly version! After all, Worldwide Speech is predominantly a pediatric private practice with the passion to help give kids the vocabulary they need to express things such as gratitude!

Teaching gratitude is more than good manners. It’s a combination of feeling appreciative and acknowledging that what we are grateful for is outside ourselves. [4]

In regard to teaching our children what gratitude is, recent research has broken gratitude into four parts. This breakdown is important for parents to understand in order to encourage a sense of gratitude that’s deeper than “Thank you.” [4]

The Gratitude Break-Down [4]:

  • First, we NOTICE something in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • Second, THINK and FEEL THINK about why we have the things we’re grateful for and check-in with our bodies to see how we FEEL
  • Finally, we DO something to express appreciation 

Young children may not experience on the same level as older children. The older they get, the more their cognitive skills expand and the more their cognitive skills expand, the more likely to engage with all four parts of gratitude. [4]

Why is Gratitude Important?

Research, primarily by Robert Emmon, lists the following as possible benefits from daily gratitude practices:

Physical [5]

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Less bothered by aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Exercise more and take better care of their health
  • Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological [5]

  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More alert, alive, and awake
  • More joy and pleasure
  • More optimism and happiness

Social [5]

  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • More forgiving
  • More outgoing
  • Feel less lonely and isolated.

If you’d like to learn more about Robert Emmons research, we encourage you to check out the video below for even more on the power of gratitude:

In summary, expressing gratitudes interrupts the cycle of negative and fearful thoughts. This allows our sympathetic nervous system to calm down while our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. When we find things to be grateful for, we love our lives and want to continue to enjoy them. And gratitude isn’t all about you! Saying thanks to others releases dopamine in the recipient’s brain, which makes them feel good as well. [6]

How Can I Practice Gratitude?

Being thankful is not an innate instinct. Children need specific instruction on how to do it. It’s important to model gratitude by thanking them often, but don’t stop there. You need to continue by explaining why they are being praised. Note, children under age seven may not fully grasp the concept. It’s not what they are thankful for, but they are learning how to express gratitude, so if they want to be thankful for a new toy, that’s totally fine. [6].

Often when you read about gratitude, you will be asked to keep a gratitude journal to write down five things you are thankful for each day or each week. As you continue your daily/weekly gratitude practice, you’ll start to see the benefits like stress reduction and increased optimism. If the traditional journal approach doesn’t work for you or your child, you can try one of the ideas below [6]:

  1. Blog: Set up a family gratitude journal blog. You could introduce this tomorrow at the Thanksgiving table! Challenge family members to submit a post each week throughout the year. [6]
  2. Audio Recording: Hearing your own voice can be very powerful when setting intentions and expressing gratitude. You could get creative by sharing with friends or putting it to music to create a gratitude song.[6]
  3. Videos: Kids like to watch videos of themselves. Recording themselves to playback is fun and keeps them interested in doing more. You could also pretend to be reporters and their gratitude is the news of the day (I LOVE this idea!) [6]
  4. Drawing: For kids that are more artsy/creative, ask them to draw or paint what they are thankful for. [6]
  5. Collage: A fun craft to kill some time during the holiday is making a gratitude collage. It can be a personal collage or a collage for the whole family [6]

10 Additional Resources about Gratitude:

  1. 22 Videos to Help Kids Understand Gratitude
  2. Ideas and Practices for a Grateful Thanksgiving
  3. 7 Ways To Be More Grateful This Thanksgiving
  4. 66 Things to Be Grateful for This Thanksgiving — Reasons to Be Thankful
  5. Thanksgiving gratitude: How to feel grateful during a pandemic
  6. How to Teach Children Gratitude
  7. Gratitude for kids: How to encourage it
  8. The Best Gratitude Activities for Kids & How to Teach Gratitude to Kids
  9. The Science Behind Gratitude – How to Practice Gratitude
  10. Giving thanks can make you happier

References:

  1. Gratitude for Teens
  2. What is Gratitude
  3. Difference Between Gratitude and Thankfulness
  4. The Four Parts of Gratitude
  5. Why Gratitude is Good
  6. 10 Science-backed Benefits of Practicing Gratitude with Kids

Like what you read? Enter your email below to receive notifications as soon as we upload a new blog!