Updated: Nov 15, 2020
November is known as a month of gratitude by a lot people. As America celebrates Thanksgiving, Ireland sets a monthly challenge to fund raise for local charities to support them and show appreciation of the work they do.
Gratitude has been described as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” (Sansone & Sanson, 2010). Gratitude can be viewed as an emotion which occurs after receiving help “orientation towards noticing the positive in the world” (Wood et al, 2010). Gratitude is simply a synonym of a word 'thank you' to a lot of us but there is so much more to the meaning of it and I only discovered it since I started teaching yoga to kids this year.
We hear of gratitude journals and gratitude quotes which are great tools and can be used by adults and kids on daily basis. These might be recommended by a friend, a yoga teacher and even a psychologist as gratitude is often used in Cognitive behavioral therapy.
But how does saying word 'thank you' is going to reduce stress, improve sleep and boost mental health? By doing it mindfully. Mindfulness is focusing your attention purposely to the present moment without judging it and doing it with empathy and gentleness. So, yes we are simply saying 'thank you' but we are doing it the present moment and with kindness to others and ourselves.
And there are so many things to be grateful for around us. We just need to notice them. If you are religious, you will know that God created Earth in 6 days. On the day 3 God created Sea and Vegetation; Day 4 Sun, Moon and Stars; Day 5 Birds and Sea Animals. We often look at the sky and stars when we are happy and beside us is standing a person we care about but how often do we look at the sky and the stars when we are feeling upset or lonely. It’s a great technique you can practise with your child. When my daughter is feeling upset because I did not buy her an LOL watch her friend has, she goes through different emotions like sadness and even anger. I start by asking her why is she feeling upset and give her a hug. I also gently suggest to try breathing exercise which will help her to calm down. I also started using the '5 finger gratitude' tool after reading Niall Breslin's Book 'Take Five' with my daughter. By listing the 5 things she is grateful for, my daughter now looks at situation with positive attitude and the problem doesn't seem to be as big or disappears all together.
Kids respond to something they can see, touch and even smell. I believe in using props during my yoga classes to help kids engage and stay focused. I try to use natural props like: stones, shells, flowers and leaves. Kids can admire their natural beauty while practicing mindfulness. Over the last few months during my classes kids created beautiful painted stones, flower mandalas, dried leaves patterns and flower pressed stones. I often start my classes with Gratitude techniques will dedicate one of my Zoom classes to Gratitude this month.
I think, we need to be reminded of gratitude especially during these uncertain times as it might provide inner happiness, peace and stillness for us. "Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude." Denis Waitley
You can practice gratitude at any age. Young kids can express gratitude by listing things they are grateful for, older kids can try starting a gratitude journal and we as adults can pause what we doing, ground ourselves (by focusing on sounds, smells and touches) and appreciate what we have in life mindfully.