GRATEFUL LIVING WITH LITTLE ONES
The end of November is finally upon us, and you know what that means - Thanksgiving!
Practicing gratitude and giving thanks at this time of year has been an American tradition for centuries. While not always easy with traveling to and from family, cooking for hours on end and the extra buzz of excitement in the air, it’s important to take some time to give thanks and show how grateful we all are for the small things in our lives. Practicing mindfulness goes hand in hand with grateful living. Acknowledging the good and the bad, but choosing to focus on the good is fundamental leading a mindful lifestyle. Choosing to focus on our present actions rather than the past or what could be in the future allows us the really appreciate the small things in our lives, and ultimately benefits our overall well being.
The thought of practicing gratitude and regularly giving thanks can seem a bit daunting at times. But with time and consistency, grateful living can eventually become second nature.
When our lives feel more chaotic, gratitude can help us recenter and get back on track. Taking a moment each day to think about the small things that make us smile, rather than dwelling on past mishaps, can be a great first step to mindful gratitude. People who practice gratitude regularly have been known to experience positive emotions, like optimism and happiness, at much higher levels. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness has also been proven to help us manage anxiety and lower stress more effectively, thus helping us sleep better - which as parents, we all could really use! This practice can also help to calm down anxiety in our children as well. Child worries are no small matter and finding ways to help them cope now can help promote happy and healthy living in the long run.
And there’s no better time to start teaching little ones about gratitude than at Thanksgiving!
Kids are our little imitators. They do what they see, so it’s important to demonstrate grateful living through your actions and not just your words. Instead of worrying about ensuring the turkey is on at the perfect time, the floorboards are dusted to the optimal level or the table looking as pristine as possible for the in-laws, focus on how much fun the holiday is and the joy you’ll get spending it with your kids and family. You’ll find yourself appreciating the day more and not taking for granted the small sweet moments of your day.
When you’re excited, your kids are excited. And as they see your attitude towards stressful days shift, their’s will too!
It’s also important to remember to not be judgemental about what your little ones choose to show their gratitude towards. It’s not what they are thankful for, but rather the act of showing thanks that really matters and will help them develop a grateful lifestyle as they grow. Be sure to praise them for their efforts, too!
Regardless of age, receiving praise actually releases a chemical in our brain called dopamine. Because dopamine helps make us feel happier, it encourages us to do even more to receive praise, which makes us want to give back and show praise and gratitude towards others as well. Instead of fixating on the catastrophes of yesterday, or the possible mishaps of today, relish in the great moments of ‘now’ and appreciate those around you. Your kids will love the feeling they get when they make you happy, and you’ll love the joy-filled moments spent with them.
So you might be wondering: Where do I start? How do I make practicing gratitude and mindfulness fun for my little ones?
A great way to start grateful living for yourself is by keeping a gratitude journal. Even if it’s one line a day, finding a silver lining in even the toughest of moments can help lighten a dark day. You can make this fun for yourself by looking in new places, hidden corners of your life, that you may not have thought about or noticed before. This lets you stay focused on the now instead of on the past or the worries of the future, helping to calm down anxiety and lower stress you may have.
When it comes to our little ones, the ABCs of Gratitude and bedtime ‘thank yous’ are some of our favorite mindfulness activities.
The ABCs of Gratitude
Take some time to sit down with your little one to talk about their day. Starting with the letter ‘A,’ think of something you’re grateful for that begins with that letter and then ask your child to think of one as well. See if you can make it all the way through the alphabet talking about all the things you were grateful for that day and reward them at the end. By making a game of gratitude and participating as well, you’re showing how fun and fulfilling being grateful can really be.
One of our favorite kids’ meditations on the Moshi Twilight Sleep Stories App, Blinki’s Happy Moments, is all about a hi-tech Moshling who relaxes by recalling and cherishing special moments of love and happiness. The calming sounds of Blinki is a great way to lead into mindful and grateful thinking for the ABCs of Gratitude, and offers another layer of fun!
Bedtime ‘Thank Yous’
When you tuck your little one in for a good night’s sleep, have them think of all the happy moments you had that day and share them out loud with you. It’s the perfect way to end a long day and will also release that happy chemical, dopamine, right before we head off to dreamland.
Wrapping up your bedtime ‘thank yous’ with one of our Sleep Stories, like King Brian Turns Over a New Leaf, will help keep the mindful and grateful atmosphere alive as the sleepy sounds help your little one drift off into a good night’s sleep. Their bodies will relax and they’ll be able to drift off to sleep with a smile in their hearts.