Fun and creative ways to express gratitude

By Sandi Schwartz

Up until recently, gratitude was just seen as something nice to have, but the more that science investigates it, the more it is becoming clear that gratitude is something that is essential for living a happy, fulfilled, balanced life.

WHY GRATITUDE IS GOOD FOR OUR KIDS

Robert Emmons, the world’s foremost researcher on gratitude, says that expressing what we are thankful for has many benefits including improved sleep, fewer physical problems, less regular visits to the doctor, and longer lives (by an average of around seven years). Therefore, gratitude is definitely something that we should be passing on to our kids. It helps to inspire them and fill their minds with meaning. In a sense, it is a kind of a gift that we can give them to make their lives better.

Saying “thank you” has many benefits. But why? One of the leading theories is that expressing gratitude helps to interrupt the negative and fearful thoughts that upset most people. It provides our brains with a hiatus from their default state of despair.

Research suggests that when we are thankful, we are also happier, which in turn makes being around us more pleasurable. Being grateful also makes it more likely that we will want to start giving.

We want to share that gift of gratitude with others. You can give your time and energy, or you can go on sites like DontPayFull.com and find a physical gift as a memento. Teaching this to your kids is so essential.

WAYS TO EXPRESS GRATITUDE

Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to increase our sense of happiness by forcing us to acknowledge the positive moments in our day, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Whether it is a smile from a stranger, a good grade on a test, a gift from a relative, or an awe-inspiring sunset, we begin to feel calmer and more joyful by appreciating these experiences.

A gratitude journal is simply a journal in which you write every time you are grateful for something. Right now, gratitude journals are the cornerstone of scientific research in the area. Parents who teach their kids to write in a gratitude journal will notice that they experience many benefits, including stress reduction and increased optimism. The problem is that many people, including children, find gratitude journals boring and a chore. It is important that we keep it fun for them. Here are four creative ways for your children to express gratitude stories throughout the year. Most of these activities are do-it-yourself projects that will be fun for the whole family.

Collages

Who said that a gratitude journal had to be filled with flowing prose? A much better approach, especially if you have an artistic child, is to use the power of collage. The great thing about collage is that you do not need to be an art expert to make something beautiful. Instead, you can simply cut out pictures and stick them to a piece of paper, helping your child to practice their motor skills in the process. Try to find images from old magazines that help to convey a message of gratitude. For instance, how about cutting out letters to spell out the word ³thank you² and pairing it with a picture of what was received.

Drawings

For children who are more visual or artistic, ask them to draw or paint what they are thankful for at the time. You can then put the artwork together in a book organized by month or year. Create your own handmade journal or take pictures and use a program like Snapfish or an online slideshow to present the images.

Videos

As we know, our kids love playing on their iPads. You can put technology to good use by encouraging them to keep a gratitude video log. This can be as simple as standing in front of the camera and reading off a script, or it can be more creative than that. Some families use role plays in their gratitude videos. One sibling can pose as a reporter asking questions and the other can respond, talking about all the parts of their day that they are grateful for. This not only makes being grateful fun, but it also helps kids practice social interactions. 

Blogs

Writing down the things you are grateful for in a list on paper can get mundane for many people, probably because it does not feel like you are telling a story or sharing your experiences with others. A much more interesting way to approach gratitude is to write a story around it and share it with other people. Not only does this make the activity more interesting, but it also helps kids practice their writing skills. This can be done in a blog format that can be shared easily with relatives and friends living far away.