With the holiday season coming up, many people may be wondering how to foster a grateful and giving heart in themselves and their children. We may inherently know that we “should” give during the holiday season but sometimes our own lives take all our time. However, if we are able to slow down and practice gratitude and giving, we will not only help others but reap mental health benefits as well.
The Science of Gratitude
The Mayo Clinic published an article in which they sought to find the effects of gratitude on the brain. They discovered gratitude lowers stress levels, improves mood, helps you sleep better, boosts your immune system, and lowers pain sensitivity.
Practical Tips for Fostering Gratitude
It is important to start young with your children by creating an environment of gratitude in the home. Home is our children’s main classroom and modeling their teacher (a caregiver in the home) is how children learn.
We can do this through talking to our children about what we are grateful for in every day life. By keeping gratitude journals, practicing “thank you” with all people, and volunteering with vulnerable populations. During your or your child’s bedtime routine, think of, and write down 3 things that you are grateful for in that day. At the end of the year, read everything that went right in that year!
As you practice, you will find it becomes easier and more natural to see the good and practice gratitude.
Why Be Generous?
Generosity is a natural action step when we become more grateful. The science behind generosity is similar. Giving actually boosts the giver’s mood. Having a generous heart does not mean we have to have a lot of money, or any money at all. Instead, think of generosity as financial, interpersonal, and emotional. This could be meeting physical needs such as donating goods or food. It could be using your strengths to help other people without obligation or giving money to a cause that is close to your heart. It could mean emotionally investing in someone outside of your home.
Practical Tips for Fostering Generosity
It is important to bring your children with you when you are giving to others so they can see generosity modeled. When they see that they learn that it is something that is important in their life and the life of your family. Explaining to your children that we are generous because we want to provide for others and love other people well is important. We do not give out of obligation or because we think we are “better than” anyone else but because we love and care for others. We are generous because people have been generous to us.
Practically in my home, this looks like my children picking out the toys they want to donate to others before Christmas. We have a rule that for every new item that comes in the house, something gets donated. Now, my 3 year old will say without prompting “I want to give this to another kid” when she is done with something or her clothes get too small.
We have all benefited from other people’s gratitude and generosity to us and now it is important to practice generosity and gratitude toward others. If you find you are still struggling with anxiety or depression during this holiday season, feel free to reach out to a therapist at Foundations Family Therapy.