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?
Gratitude allows us to notice our blessings and create balance from life’s difficulties. Mindfulness helps you handle tough times with grace, acceptance, and surrender. Together, these practices nurture what Buddhists call the “Higher Self” within you. As a result, when you combine gratitude and mindfulness, it allows you to acknowledge the blessings in your everyday life and sit with a particular moment in the now.
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
Practicing gratitude is a way to remain humble and to create an environment in which you and those around you feel valued and appreciated. Here are additional benefits.
More cognitive flexibility
Increased empathy and compassion
Improved physical health
Better sense of wellbeing
Increase in self-esteem
Combining Gratitude & Mindfulness Exercises For Kids
Children are like sponges, and they pick up habits and learn about the environment from the people in their lives. We want to raise a generation of emotionally healthy & intelligent children. Remember you’re their role model, so try these exercises along side the children. The quality of gratitude extends beyond feeling thankful.
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
Gratitude and mindfulness exercises for kids and adults help keep your perspective balanced when you encounter a difficult situation. For example if a child looses a favorite toy, has a fight with a friend, or rips a hole in their blankie, having already begun practicing mindful gratitude can help with the following.
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
With practice, it becomes easier to gain more control over your mindset. Your whole family can try to work on it a little bit each day, one exercise at a time. You can begin by giving action to the meaning of gratitude and spending time with family and loved ones.
Parents and caregivers, you spend so much time helping other people you often forget to spend time taking care for yourself. Take a little moment out of each day to do something that is kind for yourself, whether it is going on a walk or treating yourself to something you enjoy.