Gratitude - the quality of being thankful, with the ability to show appreciation, act with generosity, and return kindness.
Expressing gratitude is an integral part of the Montessori philosophy of living a graceful, purposeful, and peaceful life. Researchers have found that the benefits of practicing gratitude extend far beyond improving interpersonal relationships and increasing feelings of well-being.
- Improves our physical health, including strengthening the immune system, improving sleep quality, and boosting energy levels
- Increases our ability to cope with physical pain and handle stress adaptively
- Enhances our mood by increasing serotonin and dopamine, the neurochemicals responsible for generating happiness
Doctors at UCLA found that regular gratitude practices not only increase the flow of positive brain chemicals in the moment, but that practicing gratitude also alters the neural structures of the brain, leading to long-term emotional health, increased empathy, better ability to solve problems, and alterations to the way we see the world and ourselves.
Ideas for fostering gratitude at home
- Verbalize your appreciation and thanks. For example, when grocery shopping with your children, express your gratitude for the abundance of choices and supply of healthy foods available, express thanks for those whose work brought that food to us.
- Write in a gratitude journal daily. For optimal benefit, be sure to list at least three things for which you are thankful, including a bit more detail about one of the items. Share your journal with your children and talk about how you feel after journaling regularly for a few weeks. When they see you writing, children may want a gratitude journal to draw or write in as well.
- Express thanks and compliment your children frequently. Create a family gratitude jar, where notes of thanks written about others can be placed and pulled out at dinner to be read aloud. For example, a parent might write, “I’m thankful that James/dad made breakfast for dinner last night – love his pancakes!” or “I’m grateful that we were able to hike last Sunday – it felt good to get outside.”
Evidence suggests that engaging in gratitude practices at least 5 out of 7 days for 4-6 weeks can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, create a more positive outlook, and help us heal in times of grief and stress.
Please know that the children, teachers, animals, and families of Springmont have been making the list in my gratitude journal. I would love to hear from you about how you and your children are practicing gratitude.
Wishing you a Thanksgiving of love and reflection as you gather with friends and family.