As you practice gratitude your overall resilience will increase.
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Gratitude is a big topic this time of year. Although if you’re like me and trying to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner or travel, gratitude is the farther thing from your mind. We always have this great intention to focus on gratitude and practice it more during November.
Then life happens and Thanksgiving really just ends up being a fancy family dinner. This year I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating happiness and resilience, especially my own. I’ll be honest I’m a work in progress, a HUGE one!
So as gratitude continued to show up in messages around me, I know we need to look at it closer.
Gratitude and Resilience
Resilience is “the capacity to quickly recover from difficulties” or “bounce back.” We focus a lot on temporal resilience here. It’s important! But true resilience lies in psychological preparedness.
Kids need resilience even more than adults do while their brains and habits develop, especially in today’s world where so much sadness, disaster, anger, and conflict abound. They can’t distinguish between what’s happening to them and what they watch on TV.
Growing up in a world of entitlement and chaos magnifies a weak resilience as they grow up. It’s an uphill battle for parents.
There are three key factors to resilience:
- Connection – social network and strong family and friend relationships are at the core of resilience.
- Active problem solving – preparing and striving to prepare as a family.
- A positive outlook – optimism, gratitude, and attitude.
Of the three, I think a positive outlook is the hardest to cultivate. Trying to change the way you think is difficult. So is trying to change how your kids think so they will grow up to be optimistic. Which is really the definition of parenting, right? When the natural inclination is negativity, sarcasm, and stress, cultivating a positive outlook is like trying to hold back the ocean. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.
Converting to Gratitude
Just like preparedness, gratitude has to become a lifestyle to cultivate resilience. That can be a tall order sometimes. Negativity is a hard one to break cold turkey. Kids need not just guidance and opportunities in practicing gratitude and positivity but above all, they need your example.
The best part of gratitude is that it’s contagious, like happiness. Here are some ways to get started.
Say thank you in everyday interactions. I once read that the fastest thing to go in a marriage is saying “please” and “thank you.” It was so profound and sad that I’ve made it a conscious practice to say these simple phrases. They truly make a difference.
Kid suggestion –
Have an etiquette dinner and review proper manners and really go for it. Get in character. Your kids will love it much more than being nagged. I can guarantee it will leave a lasting impression of what politeness and gratitude feel like. They will be changed.
Don’t wait for the feeling or situation to make you feel grateful, the hardest time to practice gratitude is usually when it’s needed most.
Grouchy family member? Thank them for something they did or are. Feeling overwhelmed with your kids, tell them what they mean to you. Gratitude is more than just saying thank you.
Kid suggestion –
Kids fighting? Have them hug each other and say sorry, or list 5 things they are grateful for in each other.
Write thank you letters to someone who’s done something for you or influenced you, then read or send it to them.
Watch this heartwarming video from The Science of Happiness and see for yourself!
Kid suggestion –
Take an evening to slow down and write a good old-fashioned Christmas card with why you are grateful that person in your life. Draw names for each other, or rotate through until each person has received a letter from everyone else. Or simply write your own to each member of your family and quietly read it to them while you have some rare one on one time.
Exercise Your Gratitude Muscles
Remember to count your blessings by keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude is a muscle and needs a regular workout to be strong and healthy
Create a gratitude wall. Hang a paper on the wall and have a marker close by. When you are grateful for something write it down. Fill the paper! Kids can draw or cut out pictures to glue/tape on there too. It might become your favorite piece of art and you may find that you need a bigger piece of paper to contain all that gratitude.
It’s about perspective
Remember to practice perspective. Life is lived in a limited perspective and learning to step back and look at the big picture can make everything better.
Watch Pollyanna for family movie night and spend the week playing the Glad Game. While you might have to encourage them at first, this game can be a powerful tool to help children see the brighter side of things.
Hopefully, your Thanksgiving meal was full of good feelings, fond memories, and gratitude. But these feelings can last much longer than the holidays. Not only will you find you recover from the Christmas season chaos faster, but as you practice gratitude your overall resilience will increase, and you will better handle whatever 2017 has in store for you.
We are grateful for all you, our readers! You push us to learn and to grow. We love serving you and helping you take care of your families and communities. We wouldn’t be where we are without you! Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!
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