I was recently sent this article – a study performed about neuroscience and the power of practicing gratitude, and it made me so happy. Click here to read it. Why did it make me happy? Well, aside from being a huge lover of neuroscience in general, I am so glad that our society is finally realizing the power of positivity. Tuns out, there are extraordinary brain and body benefits to having a gratitude practice. This controlled study found that,
“The gratitude group reported feeling more optimistic and positive about their lives than the other groups. In addition, the gratitude group was more physically active and reported fewer visits to a doctor than those who wrote only about their negative experiences.”
Easier said than done though, right? It seems difficult in this day and age to stay positive and practice true gratitude. Between the pressures we face, the constant work demands and our jam-packed schedules, it can be difficult to find a place to insert gratitude in our day, despite having more things than ever to be grateful for. But, like any other exercise, this one requires mindfulness and commitment. For adults, this is something we can consciously work on. For kids, it’s not quite as easy.
Recently, I was having a conversation about anxiety amongst our youth today, and its connection to social media. My friend brought up a great point. When we are selecting our information as adults, we can choose what we want to see or hear. We turn the news on when we want information, we put the cooking channel on to veg out, ESPN to catch up on sports, etc. And it’s been like this since WE were kids.
However, in our children’s generation, they lean on social media. They have little control over the information they are receiving. If someone choses to post a news article or a sports update, well, they see that. There is little ability for them to self-regulate and select the information they are ready for, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety without them even being aware.
In addition to that, the information may not be presented in an age appropriate way, leaving the child feeling confused or unable to process the information appropriately. This is not to say all social media is negative – but a lot is.
What does this have to do with gratitude? It sounds a lot like another rant against social media. Well, it is. Social media has a tremendous impact on our children, and while there is a place for it to increase socialization, it is important to understand that constant exposure to negative information is leaving our children left in a state of stress with no outlet to process all they have taken in.
Realizing that there is a positive biological, neurological, response to gratitude gives me hope that perhaps this can start to counteract the negativity that social media and other technologies have on our children’s psyche. Starting our day with gratitude for what we already have, and that we can be open to receive, gives me hope that our society will begin to expand upon this notion that being grateful is the key to a healthier, happier life.
To teach gratitude to your child, I encourage you to model it. Instead of coming home and complaining about your co-worker or responsibilities, say something positive about your day. Share something you feel happy about, or a positive story you heard on the news. Encourage them to do the same.
Practice meditation together or listen to a fun playlist. Either way, be in the moment. Share you gratitude with your kids for being able to have this time with them. Teaching our kids to be calm and grateful through a practice like mindfulness and meditation is a life skill they not only will benefit from, but one they are going to need as adults. Our advances in technology are not slowing down, and in the future, more than ever, they will need accessible options to get a break from the negative information they are flooded with.
We know that negativity changes us, and the way we feel about ourselves and our world. But now we know that being able to put a positive spin on things – being grateful for moments together and experiences we share – will not only help us feel better, but it will help us change our brains, too.
Here are some other great reads on teaching mindfulness to kids :