Welcome to Part 3 of my Surviving Generation Stress series. In Part 1 of this series I introduced the concept of Generation Stress and explained the life changing benefits of practicing 5 Minutes of Mindful Breathing every day. In Part 2 we added the practice, 4 Roses, that helps us bring a more positive focus to our day-to-day lives.
This week we build on 4 Roses with a new practice called 3 Things for which I am Grateful.
Gratitude is an excellent practice for anyone who wants to experience more positive emotions.
Studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude
- are more likely to be kind and helpful to others
- are healthier, more enthusiastic, interested and determined
And grateful children and teens tend to thrive. Kids who formally practice gratitude get higher grades, are more satisfied with their lives, are more integrated socially and show fewer signs of depression.
Part 3 of this series is extremely easy, and incredibly rewarding. Start a gratitude practice. For added benefit, help your family start one as well. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.
Make it part of your bedtime routine. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to show appreciation for the little things in your life for which you are grateful. Share three things with your children, regardless of their ages. It is important for parents to model gratitude for meaningful things like relationships, kindness, and the natural beauty in your environment (rather than your 60 inch plasma TV or your new ipad). This is a wonderful way to end each day!
Start a gratitude journal, and as your kids get older encourage them to keep one as well.
Start or end your day by writing down three things for which you are grateful.
Make a gratitude jar. This can be a fun project for younger kids. Find a container and let the kids decorate it. Cut out some pieces of scratch paper and put them in a convenient place so that each night during dinner, family members can write down three things they feel grateful for and place the paper in the jar. If kids can't yet write then having them draw a picture of something works great also! Then, open the jar once a week or once a month and read what everyone has written.
Why it works:
Our brain is 3 to 5 times more sensitive to negative information than to positive. This helped us as we evolved because it was more important to be aware of poisonous snakes than to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.
Today, we don’t often have the same threats to our survival, yet our brain is still built to pay more attention to the negative input.
When we intentionally pay attention to the positive things in our life we strengthen the neural pathways associated with those positive memories. The more frequently the pathways are used, the more our brain likes to use those pathways, increasing positive thoughts and lessening our focus on negative experiences.
This practice becomes increasingly beneficial when combined with the 4 Roses practice. While noticing the Roses in our day brings positive present-moment awareness into our day-to-day lives, the reflective nature of a formal gratitude practice further engraves these positive emotions into the neural structure of our brains.
Such a simple practice, such profound benefits!
Dr. Kristen Race is the author of Mindful Parenting and founder of Mindful Life. As the parent of two young children, Dr. Race is quite familiar with the hectic lives of what she calls "generation stress." Through her work, Kristen fuses the science of the brain with simplemindfulness strategies for families,schools, and businesses, all designed to create resiliency towards stress. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and on her website, www.mindfullifetoday.com.