Cultivating gratitude is the key to happier kids (and adults, too)

When we see the good things in our lives and just acknowledge them for what they are, we can fully feel happiness and joy more frequently.

Cultivating gratitude is the key to happier kids (and adults, too)

For the past year, I have embraced a daily gratitude practice. It is one of the first things I do every day, together with silence, meditation, and drinking my tea.

I consider myself much happier with my life now than I was last year. My outside circumstances didn't change much, but my perception of the events of my day has changed.

Not only am I happier, but I am also actively looking for joyful moments every day, and I am aware of them as they unfold.

Dr. Brene Brown says that one of the hardest emotions to fully experience is joy. We get flooded with joy, only to be immediately thinking, “This can't be it, I'm sure something terrible is going to happen," or, “There is a price to pay for feeling so happy."

The antidote to this is gratitude. When we see the good things in our lives and just acknowledge them for what they are, we can fully feel happiness and joy more frequently.

It's like changing the lens you use for seeing the world. The default one we are given is, “Look out for dangers, try to minimize getting hurt or feeling uncomfortable, be careful and stay safe." This is the path that is meant to keep us alive, not to make us happy. If we want to achieve happiness, we must be willing to change that lens and instead say, “Look for joy, stop for a moment to see, breathe, and feel enjoyment."

I believe that teaching my kids to be aware of these lenses and become comfortable in changing them is key to living a fulfilled, radiant life.

So at breakfast, while we are just starting our day, we all talk about what we hope to go right that day.

I talk about my hopes for my work, time together or small wishes of happiness.

My five-year-old talks about friends at school, toys and maybe getting ice cream.

My three-year-olds bring up their bikes and quality of snacks.

All of these are valid. As my kids grow up to consider this kind of dialogue as the norm, they will be much more likely to seek what gives them pleasure.

At night, one of the last things we do before my kids go to sleep is sit together and talk about our favorite things that happened that day. I bring up a personal accomplishment or the times I deeply connected with one of them. They bring up the most amazing things!

My three-year-old daughter said, “My favorite thing is you."

My son said, “My favorite thing is the frog we saw today."

There are also times when they are tired and say, “I had no favorite thing today." Then I remind them of a couple of things they had fun with and ask, “What about the time you found the car you thought was lost?" or, “What about the afternoon at the swimming pool?" Sometimes they remember and acknowledge that, indeed, it was a good experience. Other times they just continue to be grumpy.

At this point in our lives, I measure success by the amount of joy we experience in a day. I know that embracing gratitude as a daily practice, both for myself and my children, will be a helpful tool later on in life, when we need a reminder that life can be beautiful if we only open our eyes to see it.

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