My daughter’s elementary class participates in a character strengths program that instills values and qualities that will serve them well into adulthood. The kind of stuff that will make them into decent human beings to themselves and one another: Grit, Optimism, Social Intelligence, Curiosity, and others.
Gratitude is my favorite.
Every Friday they sit in a circle and compliment their classmates on the character strengths they displayed that week. Through shout-outs, Susie tells Jane that “she showed grit by finishing her math work even though it was hard,” and Joey tells Johnny that “he showed social intelligence by inviting a friend to play who was sitting by themselves.” It’s inspiring to watch these children behave in a way that is better than most of us behave toward one another.
This Thanksgiving, gratitude will certainly be the character strength that we’re all striving to practice while acknowledging what it is we are most grateful for. It is also one of the characteristics that can actually do a body good!
Psychology Today cites that grateful people have fewer aches and pains, have fewer toxic emotions and overall feel happier, have more empathy and less aggression, sleep better, have higher self-esteem, and are better apt to overcome trauma.
After you’ve noshed on turkey and gone around the table expressing what you’re most grateful for this year, here are a few ways you can expand on those thoughts during the holiday weekend, holiday season, and throughout the year ahead.
Whether in a prescribed journal that acts like a worksheet or template, or in your own bundle of blank pages, record what you’re grateful for. This should be a mindful, intentional practice, according to gratitude researcher and University of California-Davis professor Robert Emmons. Get more out of the journal by adding deeper explanation to your points of gratitude, as opposed to what he calls “superficial” lists. Focus on people for a greater impact, and only write once or twice a week.
Thank you cards.
In lieu of traditional holiday cards, consider sending thank you notes to those who made an impact this past year. You’ll delight and surprise the recipients with something unexpected, and release some feel-good endorphins that will lift your spirit and mood.
Stick a note to your bathroom mirror, car dashboard, or schedule an email to show up at the top of your inbox each morning with a note of praise or words of affirmation for yourself! Yes, you! You do a lot and deserve to be recognized for it. Thank your body for keeping up with all you demand from it. Thank your mind for the creativity or expertise that keeps you in your day job. It’s an easy way to build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to create a new habit of gratitude this year and see what you’ve gained from it next?