It’s the holidays.
They’re hovering outside your door just itching to get in!
While I’m as excited to get the merriment started as the next gal, I’m not interested in falling down a hole of holiday overdrive.
Our best defense? Practicing gratitude! *Grab Maria’s handy gratitude practice template here*
The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” In its simplest form, gratitude means to express thankfulness. In fact, it’s proven that gratitude helps encourage more positive emotions.
Gratitude makes us happier by stimulating two important regions in our brains: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which produces feelings of pleasure in the brain.
Kids and adults alike can adopt a spirit of gratitude to help combat anxiety, stress and holiday burnout. After all, family, love and kindness are what this time of year is really about.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier. And though it may feel forced at first, your gratitude muscle grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
1. Practice your fake smile. Did you know you can actually convince your brain that you’re happy and content even when you’re not just by forcing yourself to smile? Voluntary and involuntary smiling had the same effect on brain activity in research studies. How cool is that?
2. Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down one thing you’re grateful for each day. Maria shares some great ideas on how to get the kids involved over on this blog post.
3. Focus on the positive before sleep. Instead of ruminating about your day as you drift off to sleep, focus on 3 things you’re grateful for. Studies prove that thinking positive thoughts when falling asleep leads to having a better night’s sleep.
4. Write a thank-you note. Texts messages are a start but actually writing a thank you note takes your gratitude to the next level. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude/thank you letter a month. Get your kids in the habit of this important gesture of appreciation.
5. Play this gratitude game. Maria shared a wonderful gratitude game that’s perfect for playing at home or in the classroom.
6. Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Here is a great list of mindfulness apps that are perfect for focusing and centering the kids.
What are some of your favorite ways to cultivate gratitude at home or in the classroom? Leave a message in the comments and share your thoughts.
Meg Keys is an award-winning advertising and marketing writer and the author of The Waiting Line – What to Do (and Not Do) When Someone You Love is Struggling with Infertility. She is fueled by her love of food, art and fluffy pets and lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and son. Find her at megkeys.com.