Did you know practicing mindfulness has a direct connection to gratitude? The expression of gratitude extends beyond feeling thankful. Psychologists have defined gratitude as a positive emotional response that we perceive on giving or receiving a benefit from someone (Emmons & McCullough, 2004). The reasons to implement gratitude and mindfulness exercises for kids are plenty!
What does gratitude have to do with mindfulness?
Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva, a well-known meditation training site, mentioned in one of her publications that gratitude is a ‘natural antidepressant.’ The effects of gratitude, when practiced daily can be almost the same as medications. It produces a feeling of long-lasting happiness and contentment. Consequently, when we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By mindfully practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
- Stress reduction
- Memory boost
- Improved focus
- More cognitive flexibility
- Increased empathy and compassion
- Improved physical health
- Better sense of wellbeing
- Increase in self-esteem
Combining Gratitude & Mindfulness Exercises For Kids
Set a daily alarm. When it goes off, talk together about all your senses in that moment wherever you are: what you see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. Out of all of those things, which one are you most thankful for and why?
Together with your child, start each entry by noticing where you are and how you feel. Next, list 3 to 5 things you feel grateful for. Showing appreciation for the things you are grateful for is the way to put gratitude into motion.
Have your children each decorate their own mason jar or cup. Every night have the kids put one note in their own and one in a family member’s stating something they are grateful for from the day. Give your children a few examples, “It made me feel happy today when you shared your snack with me,” or, “I had the best day because my friend complimented my blue shoes!” During a hard day, empty the jar and read through your notes for a little smile. This should help children realize that acts of appreciation do not need to be large — even a simple thank you or a smile is enough to make someone feel valued.
At the same time each day, such as during dinner, go around the table and each take a turn listing off something you’re grateful for. Gratitude and mindfulness exercises for kids are a way for them to notice the special things in life, no matter how small.
Be of Service to Others
Ask the children how they could help out a neighbor, friend, the community park, or a grandparent. Subsequently, with the parents approval you can introduce volunteering. An easy way to begin could be making holiday cards to deliver to the Veterans Home. After, talk about how it made them feel. Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness and the recognition that the source of this goodness often comes from outside of ourselves.
Find a guided meditation through one of the many available apps, like Insight Timer or on YouTube. Similarly, you can also try talking your child through calmly lying on the floor, closing their eyes, and taking deep breaths. Tell your child to think about floating on the ocean and every time they glide over a wave breathing in and out. Then tell them to imagine the beautiful blue sky above with fluffy white clouds. Ask them to imagine something they’re thankful for appearing in the clouds. Watch this Youtube gratitude meditation for an example and try it alongside your kids.
See The Brighter Side
- Naming no blame or judgment about the pain you feel
- Finding positive takeaways from the experience
- Preventing yourself from ruminating about what happened
- Protect yourself from getting overwhelmed about what’s to come
- Knowing how to calm down in the moment
To learn more about incorporating daily mindfulness exercises for kids, try our online class Mindfulness: Raising Self-Aware Children. There is a 40% off holiday coupon through the end of the year; use code HOLIDAY2021 at check out!