Gratitude offers tremendous benefits for those who practice it. When a person practices gratitude they experience increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased anxiety and depression, a strengthened immune system, better sleep, and more. There is another benefit, however, that we rarely discuss. Specifically, when a person practices gratitude, the benefits overflow to those around them.
For families, this means that when a parent practices gratitude, the benefits overflow to their children. Consider the process of this overflow with me. When a parent practices gratitude, they experience a greater sense of well-being—fewer negative emotions, more empathic emotions, greater life satisfaction, a greater sense of connection, and even a greater sense of meaning in life. With those personal benefits, a parent “feels better” about themselves and their life. Feeling good about themselves, they become more open—more approachable and attentive. Not surprisingly, their children respond to their approachability and attentiveness with more positive behaviors and fewer challenging behaviors. Parent/child conflicts decrease as a grateful parent and child enjoy one another’s company. The increased positivity in the relationship opens the emotional and mental space to develop a greater sense of closeness between parent and child. Isn’t that wonderful? But it won’t stop there. All of this combines to increase a parent’s satisfaction with their role as a parent. Grateful to experience personal satisfaction in their role as a parent and to experience a rewarding closeness with their child, a parent becomes more open—more approachable and attentive…and so, the cycle continues.
There are a couple of things that make this cycle of gratitude especially appealing to me. One, I love the idea of growing closer with my children. Who wouldn’t? Second, it’s not hard to do. And it doesn’t take that much time. Just pay attention and invest the one second it takes to say, “Thank you” every chance you get. If you do it 120 times a day, it still only takes 2 minutes! But the rewards are amazing—it really offers the best bang for your buck. So, look around. Watch for opportunities to show gratitude to those around you. Then take a breath and let it out. “Thank you…” for doing the dishes, washing the clothes, putting gas in the car, passing the salt, helping to clear the table. The opportunities are endless, the benefits amazing…and it starts with you.