It’s November and in the United States and a few other countries around the world such as Germany, Japan and Canada, it’s a time to celebrate and give thanks.  Here, it is called Thanksgiving and families gather together over a traditional dinner to be grateful for the blessings in their lives.

One day a year is officially dedicated to giving thanks, but if we choose to see it, every day offers an opportunity to find something for which to be grateful. Science has now shown that being grateful can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. And for children, the benefits are significant.

Being Grateful

In a study entitled “Counting Blessings in Early Adolescents: An Experimental Study of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being” researchers found that “children who practiced grateful thinking had more positive attitudes toward their school and their families.” And in a 2010 study of 1053 adolescents aged 14-19, those who were found to be more grateful had a higher grade point average, better life satisfaction, social integration and less envy and depression.

Safe Baby Healthy Child post on gratitude two boys hugging at the end of the dock

Cultivating a year-round practice of gratitude can have a profound impact on well-being.  One of the most popular ways of implementing such a practice is to keep a gratitude journal, and it’s something every member of the family can do.

It is not uncommon when starting out to simply list the things you are thankful for in a fill-in-the-blank style format: I am thankful for my mom, my dog, my friends.  But soon, the list gets repetitive and if logging in daily, it can become a half-hearted, perfunctory routine.

A More Sustainable Gratitude Practice

Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and leading scientific expert on gratitude, has written several books on the topic including “Thanks” and “Gratitude Works.”  Here are some tips found in Dr. Emmons’ books that will help create a practice that is more meaningful and more likely to add to the benefits of being thankful.

  1. Be specific – put aside two minutes of time or write a few sentences on why you are thankful for a person, experience or thing. Specificity will help you recall details that will give deeper meaning.
  2. Focus on being thankful for people, not things.
  3. Commit to journaling just once or twice a week. You may want to add more days as you experience how it is changing your life.

Keeping a gratitude journal is sometimes referred to as a form of “interior gratitude” or feeling thankful privately. “Exterior gratitude” is expressing your gratitude to others.  For example, showing your child how to give heart-felt thanks for a kindness that is done to them or helping them write a thank you note for a gift they’ve received.

Safe Baby Healthy Child blog post on gratitude close-up of little girl smiling

Gratitude journals are now online! Thnx4 is a shareable gratitude journal created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Better suited for adults and older kids, participants can register for the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge and they will receive a daily email prompting them to log something that they are grateful for. Entries can be made public or private.

For a bit of fun, have kids create a gratitude mobile. Write down what they are most thankful for and have it on display as a beautiful reminder.

We at Safe Baby Healthy Child are grateful for you, our readers. We are grateful for your desire to create healthier environments and experiences for your child and for sharing information that might be useful to your friends and relatives.  (This was an exterior, detailed note of gratitude about a person – you!)

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