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Can feelings of gratitude be good for your teen? The answer is yes!

November, 8, 2019


As we kick off the month of November, we head into a time of year that is said to be full of good cheer and gratitude. We even have a holiday, Thanksgiving, to remind us to take a moment and appreciate all the good in our lives. But being thankful is so much more than just a big meal once a year. Research over the last 20 years has consistently shown that gratitude is actually good for you.
Gratitude is defined by Psychology Today as an emotion that expresses an appreciation for something or a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. Gratitude can be a temporary feeling or a personal trait that recognizes a positive outcome or an external source of good. One can feel gratitude towards people, situations, objects or life in general and create an environment of positivity that extends inward and outward. Gratitude helps us recognize the good in our lives, even when things may not be perfect, it helps us think outside of ourselves and feel more connected to people, places, and things.
Over time, feeling grateful can boost happiness, create positivity and increase physical and emotional health. Some of the benefits of living a life of gratitude are:

• Fewer aches and pains
• More likely to exercise
• May lower blood pressure
• Stronger immune system
• Better sleep
• Less feelings of depression
• Increased happiness
• Reduced feelings of envy, resentment and frustration
• Improved self-image
• Increased energy levels

The benefits of gratitude can be especially important for teens. Adolescence is often a difficult time where kids are preoccupied with themselves only. With a rising number of teens experiencing anxiety and depression, gratitude can often be a starting point where other character-building attributes can follow.
According to Giacomo Bono, co- author of the 2011 study “Measuring Gratitude in Youth” and “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character, youth 14-19 years-old that appreciate what they have are more likely to have healthy, strong relationships with family and friends, do better in school, and feel less lonely and less misunderstood.
Although having teens that are grateful sounds like a wonderful idea, fostering gratitude can be difficult, especially for parents. Leslie Crawford, author of “Raising grateful teens” recommends not forcing teens to feel gratitude or talk about it, but instead modeling gratitude in your own life and encouraging youth to think about ways to express what they feel fortunate about.

Here are some ways to foster gratitude in your home and with teens;
Encourage positive communication - Replace “don’t have” with “do have” or change “I have to” with “I get to.” For example, if your teen expresses “I can’t go to the movies until I get my chores done.” Have them re-word the sentence as “I get to go to the movies as soon as I finish my chores.”
Volunteer together - When teens are exposed to others who may have less than they do, it can open their eyes to all the things in their life to be grateful for. Find an activity they are passionate about, like animals or special needs children, and give back as a family.
Recognize acts of kindness – Gratitude doesn’t always have to be in the form of a grand gesture. If your youth grabs a snack for themselves and a younger sibling, or opens the door for a grandparent, make sure to comment on the act of kindness and let them know they are capable of practicing kindness and gratitude in small ways every day.
Start a gratitude challenge - As we head into the holiday season, challenge your teen for 30 days, to think of one thing they are grateful for. This can be in the form of a gratitude journal, or a family conversation over dinner.

Living a life full of gratitude can create an environment of positivity, happiness and health. Although teenagers often struggle with anxiety, depression and a sense of “it’s all about me,” practicing gratitude in the home can open the door to an uplifting attitude, kindness and selflessness. The holiday season is a perfect time to challenge your whole family to think outside of themselves, give back and thankfully recognize all the blessings life has to offer.

Resources; Amended December 15, 2020