"We all know that certain babies are just born more cheerful while others are born a little bit on the grouchy side. But it is more productive and scientifically more correct in some ways for us to think of happiness as being like learning a language. Some kids are going to be really good at picking it up quickly, other people are going to struggle a little bit with it. But we all need to be taught the basic grammar. And we all need to practice that grammar in order to become fluent. So we can teach our kids to be happy by teaching them the skills that will lead to happiness and by practicing those skills with them." - Christine Carter, PhD.
Following the Science of Happiness, one of the methods which allows for greater happiness levels is the practice of gratitude. There is no one single way that this exercise needs to look, and can remain flexible throughout your (and your child's) practice.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. Families who regularly practice gratitude by taking the time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, express more compassion and kindness, and have stronger immune systems!
Studies show that simply keeping a gratitude journal (regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we're thankful) can significantly increase our well-being. For the youngest members of our families, we can get creative in our gratitude "journaling". Here are just a few ideas on how we can encourage this practice at home:
Keep a Gratitude Jar
Gratitude Jar Ingredients
- 1 jar/box
- Ribbon to decorate
- Paper for writing Gratitude Notes on
Draw your Gratitude
When we draw what we are grateful for (or paint, sculpt, mold) we get the extra benefit of tapping into the happiness which comes from being in our creative space. Depending on the age of our child(ren), this may be a more age appropriate activity. And even more, it's messy and fun. This routine allows us the opportunity to hold space for our child, and opens up the conversation of what you are thankful for as well. Maybe even join in the creative fun!
Gratitude Table Talk
Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. By engaging your children in conversation, you teach them how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions. This allows your children to have an active voice within the family. What better time than to share what we are grateful for this day.
Incorporating gratitude into your life is an easy practice- and fun too!
Sarah McDonnell, MA CCC-SLP