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By Leah Lottes , LSW – Jan. 21, 2020

For many, the recent holidays reminded us to be thankful no matter what our circumstances are, focusing on being thankful for what we have rather than what we don’t have. The holidays are a great time to express gratitude. However, expressing gratitude every day is even better!

Gratitude is beneficial for your mental and physical health, so why not express gratitude every day?

As listed by Amy Morin on the website psychologytoday.com, here are some of the ways gratitude can benefit you:

Gratitude can improve your physical health. People who express gratitude tend to experience fewer aches and pains. These individuals are also more likely to take care of their health by attending regular doctor visits and maintaining a healthy diet with exercise.

Gratitude can help you sleep better. If you express gratitude at the end of the day by writing down a few things you are thankful for, you increase your chances of having a better night of sleep.

Gratitude can help boost your self-esteem. When you are thankful, you are more likely to appreciate your positive life experiences rather than focus on the negative ones. You are also less likely to compare yourself to others which can help you appreciate the accomplishments of others. Gratitude is also likely to increase your overall happiness.

Gratitude can help foster resiliency. Expressing gratitude is a great way to cope with stress and trauma at any time in your life. 

One of the best things about gratitude is that you can express it at any age. Because gratitude has been proven to have so many benefits, the younger you teach children about it, the better.

According to Dr. Kevin Solomons’ website borntobeworthless.com, there are many ways you can express gratitude throughout the day. The easiest way is by simply saying thank you to people when they help you out. Thanking someone for their help not only makes that person feel good but also makes you feel good, which encourages you to keep saying thank you.

When adults say thank you to others, this encourages kids and adolescents to do the same. Parents and teachers can model this behavior every day to students at home and in the classroom.  

Another way to express gratitude is to send thank you notes. This is a very good way to encourage kids and adolescents to say thank you. When you instill the habit in them when they are younger they are more likely to continue the habit throughout their lives.

It’s also important to teach kids that writing thank you notes isn’t just for gifts. A nice hand-written note can be sent to show appreciation when someone does something special for them.

An additional way to express daily gratitude is by keeping a journal. This can be something as simple as writing one thing you’re thankful for each day. Getting into a routine of adding to your journal allows you to train your brain to be thankful every day.Teachers can incorporate gratitude into their days by taking having students write down what they are thankful for or allow them to share their gratitude out loud. Parents can also do this activity together with their kids to show what they are thankful for and how it is important to their lives.

Expressing gratitude has many benefits. It may seem like a small task, but it’s the little things that can make such a big difference. Gratitude positively affects your mindset and your lifestyle, and that in itself is a reason to be thankful.  

By Emily Sommers, MSW – September 3, 2019

Mindfulness, simply put, means paying attention to the present. It means taking a step back and noticing the world around you and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings.

With practice, mindfulness can help both adults and children cope with stress and anxiety, and it has been shown to have positive effects on both physical and mental health. 

Many students I work with enjoy mindfulness through journaling. However, as much as they may like to write and express themselves, many have much difficulty getting started. I truly understand that “block,” because I have experienced this before as well. 

Several years ago a colleague and I were inspired to take a journaling class taught by local journaling expert Barbara Stahura. Barbara’s love for journaling planted many seeds and inspired me to use a tool that means so much to me to this day. 

What I did not know, and was excited to learn, was that this tool could provide a certain emotional, physical, and mental release. I personally use it and continue to develop on this tool in my own practice of mindfulness. 

Journaling has become a very big part of my own self-care. I am also able to teach it to students and adults that I get to serve in the capacity of supports provided through Youth First. 

One of my favorite journaling techniques is tapping into something I will call “a non-negotiable” – gratitude. I have found so many different ways to tap into gratitude through journaling.

Within the last year, I was provided a profound and simple suggestion I want to share with you that was a game-changer in the way I look at my gratitude list today. It is the self-reflective question, “What happened today that made me smile?”

That one-liner prompt written at the top of the page with some willingness to shut off any possible distraction can provide an oasis of positivity that is the best dose of goodness one can give themselves.  

I encourage you to try this for yourself! All it really takes is some willingness, honest reflection and open-mindedness to go within yourself about what happened in the course of the day that simply made you smile. 

Sharing this technique as it was shared with me can create that “a-ha” moment for others too, and once practiced becomes even more convincing. 

I would also like to encourage a suggested technique to test just how good this business of mindfulness is and to pre-measure feelings before doing the journaling activity, or any mindfulness activity for that matter. 

List a few feelings you are experiencing. For example, your list might include, “tired, stressed, and overwhelmed.” Complete the mindfulness activity whether it is journaling or another form of mindfulness that appeals to you.

The next step is to post-measure your feelings after doing the activity. List a few feelings you are experiencing immediately afterward. 

Often there is a shift that takes place within the way one feels and many will share feeling more relaxed, calmer, and happier. The results are undeniable and very encouraging. 

Gratitude does have a contagious element to it and could be just the key to establishing that dose of mindfulness needed. Go grab a pen see what happens for you!