Considering the state of the country nowadays, I have been spending a lot of time thinking quite a bit about gratitude.
Last week, I made the mistake of uttering a slight complaint to my 94-year old mother. She lives in Israel and has been experiencing the effects of Coronavirus while quarantined at the assisted-living facility she lives at. She quickly set me straight by simply saying that as a holocaust survivor she had to endure worse than this pandemic. She was very willing to take me through a quick recollection of her time at Auschwitz. I turned down her offer, but the memories of her stories came back to me quickly and I realized that as dark as things seem today, they could be much worse. And I felt gratitude for how quickly my mom was able to calm me down.
Gratitude is powerful. The exciting field of positive psychology has demonstrated those who consciously practice gratitude are healthier, have less anxiety and depression, sleep better, are kinder to others, and are more satisfied with themselves.Now, you may be tempted to say, "If I had all of those things, I would have more gratitude, too."Research by Robert Emmons from U.C. Davis and Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania proved that gratitude is not necessarily a reaction to good health and positive life experiences.Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Emmons conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. However, it can help us to not only recognize but also cultivate them in our lives.
This sounds "nice," but my primary goal for this column is not to make you feel better and enjoy your day, though I certainly hope you do.Rather, since this column is targeted to parents, my goal is to share some insights to help you raise healthy, drug-free children.
Just as children do not develop self-esteem by simply being told they are all winners, they do not learn to be grateful by being told they should be.Seligman's research demonstrates true self-esteem comes from mastering challenges, overcoming frustration, and experiencing individual achievement. Children need skills, opportunities to practice them, and then to be recognized for when they do to develop self-esteem.Similarly, they need to be taught the skills to cultivate gratitude in their lives.
At work, the gratitude board is eight square feet, and everyone who enters the office is welcome to add to it. In addition to putting a gratitude board on your own refrigerator, here are a few other concrete suggestions for cultivating gratitude skills in your children:
The 12 Step community has known for eighty-five years that practicing gratitude is an effective tool for warding off relapse.The latest research demonstrates that it also works for prevention of substance use and other mental health issues in the first place.We know many youth first experiment with alcohol and other drugs to fill a void they feel in themselves.The problem is no substance can fill that void with more than a temporary high.Gratitude, however, teaches youth that there really is no void within them at all.
By the way, if you are looking for mental health help locally, here are some numbers you could call right now: