Teaching Gratitude Is More Than Just Good Manners
If you’re like me, you remember having to sit down after every birthday and Christmas to write thank you letters to the friends and relatives who sent you gifts. That’s just good manners, your parents explained. But it was actually something far deeper than even they probably knew. It turns out feeling and expressing gratitude can have a profound impact on happiness.
To summarize, the folks over at SoulPancake ran an independent test on some research findings which purported to show that feeling grateful actually made people happier. They did an initial test on a group of people to determine their overall happiness level and then had them write a short passage about the person who had positively impacted their lives the most. Afterwards, the test subjects were asked to call the people about whom they had written. Some were able to be reached, some weren’t. Then the group was again tested to determine their level of happiness. Happiness went up across the board from 2-4% for those who were unable to make contact and from 4-19% for those who were. Interestingly, the person who was most unhappy at the beginning turns out to have been the one with the largest jump in happiness at the end.
So, a pretty cool experiment, but what does it mean in terms of your parenting? First, it means that all those thank-you notes you wrote during your childhood weren’t a waste of time. But more importantly, it means that one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is teaching them both to be grateful and to express that gratitude as well.
The prerequisite of gratitude is humility. Recognizing that you are who you are not just because of your own effort and accomplishments but also because of the invaluable inputs of others is big part of maturity and growing up. It also has the wonderful side effect of making you feel fortunate for having those people in your life, and it keeps you from getting a little too full of yourself along the way.
There’s a lot to be said for ambition and striving to achieve it, but there’s a lot to be said for realizing that what you already have is enough too. It might seem that the two are mutually exclusive; however, that’s not true at all. You can want more for yourself and your family while simultaneously understanding that, even if you never get it, what you have will be sufficient to get by. If your focus is constantly on what lies just over the horizon tomorrow, you’ll never appreciate the beautiful landscape that surrounds you today. The key is to find a proper balance between anticipation and appreciation; hopefully, that’s something we can help you achieve here at 1 Smart Family.
We know there are strong links between happiness and health, and is there anybody who doesn’t want their children to grow up happy and healthy? Of course not. So do yourself, and your kids, a favor. Teach them to be grateful for what they have and for the people in their lives. Teach them not to keep it to themselves, but to share it with those around them.
I’m grateful to you for sharing your stories with me and for you taking the time to read my thoughts each day, and I can tell you that just writing this article encouraging you to share gratitude has made me a little bit happier this morning. Hopefully when you pass on the gift of gratitude to your children, a little bit of happiness will rub off on you too.