By Nichie Lessard, CCC-SLP, Children’s Therapy Clinic, Valley Medical Center
In this new year, consider adding a family practice of giving gratitude each day. Building awareness of our appreciation for family, friends, co-workers, pets, health, opportunities, and challenges, for example, may boost wellbeing. The list of things to appreciate goes on and on—it could be the person who held the door for you, or the grocery clerk who gave your child a sticker, or a smile from someone who walked by.
Reasons for giving and showing gratitude are expansive and may be just as good for you as other “typical” wellness-boosting resolutions (diet, fitness, etc.).
Benefits of regularly expressing gratitude:
- Helps manage stress/distress
- Improves performance by decreasing cytokines that cause inflammation in our bodies and are correlated with poor mental health
- Increases resilience
- Improves and enhances all relationships
- Releases dopamine (the “feel good” hormone), oxytocin (the “feel trust/closeness” hormone), and serotonin (regulates stress and mood)
- Builds empathy and appreciation for one another
- Increases trust
- Accelerates learning, persistence, optimism, and motivation when you reflect on what went well and why
- Lessens risk of cancer and heart disease
- Promotes longer life
How do you give and show gratitude?
You can give and show gratitude by simply reflecting and sharing out loud with someone else.
Making this a regular practice will provide the best results and may consist of:
- Daily journaling about what someone has done for you and how your heart felt “happy” (adapt this for a child to draw a picture about what makes their heart “happy”)
- Entire family writing down instances of gratitude to place into a jar and then reads them aloud at a routine time (adapt this for a child to draw a picture and the adult can write down notes about the experience on their drawing)—re-read again and again!
- Sending gratitude notes to others who have touched you (adapt this for a child to draw a picture, along with the adult making some written notes)
- Talking about humbling moments at a mealtime with family (adults and older children can model talking about these experiences and younger children can be provided the opportunity to share their experiences)
- Discussing what you are grateful for while commuting in the car with family/children
- Contrasting a situation in the moment (i.e. traffic moving in your lane and not the one next to you; only one tooth cavity instead of three cavities; sitting on a comfortable chair versus a hard bench, etc.)
Cheers to good health, happiness, and much gratitude in 2022!
Nichie Lessard, CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist at Valley Medical Center’s Children’s Therapy clinic. Learn more about Children’s Therapy.
Gratitude practice information adapted from a continuing education course “Positive, Powerful & Practical: How You Can Build Mental Wellness in Children and Teens” by Karen Cassiday, PhD, ACT, Clinical Director & Owner, The Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago through the 7th Annual Innovators in Education Conference October 26, 2020.