“It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.”
A friend of mine posted this anonymous quote on Facebook the other day. It dovetailed neatly with the recent Wall Street Journal piece “Raising Children with an Attitude of Gratitude” by Diana Kapp (12/23/2013).
Gratitude leads to happiness. According to a study of teens that is cited in the article, it also leads to stronger GPA’s, less depression, less envy and a more positive outlook. To get our adolescents to behave like that, most of us would do just about anything.
But we don’t have to. It turns out that all we need to do is model gratitude ourselves (which will lead to the benefit of greater personal happiness regardless of how it impacts our teens!).
However “all we have to do” may be more difficult than it sounds. May of us may not be in the habit of expressing gratitude. In fact, we may actually be in the habit of expressing frustration, complaints, and a sense of entitlement (where do you think our kids got it from?).
So of course we are the ones that need to change first. We are the ones who need to make gratitude and appreciation a regular part of our lives. We are the ones who must develop the “gratitude attitude.”
It is not enough to think it or feel it. To make it real, even just for ourselves, we need to say it out loud. Likewise, if we want to model it for our children.
“Thank you for making such a delicious dinner tonight” (to the designated cook in the home).
“Thank you for going to the store for me.”
“I really appreciate that you folded my laundry.”
“Thanks for taking us on that vacation. It was really special.”
“Wow. What an awesome sunset the Almighty made for us.”
“We are so lucky to live in this house in this neighborhood.”
“It was really the Almighty’s kindness that brought us to this community.”
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote one of my favorite musicals).
Yes, some of this sounds awkward. Some of it sounds artificial. You need to find your own words. And it takes practice – lots of it.
Changing behavior isn’t easy. Enlist your family in the effort. Ask them to help identify what to be grateful for, who to thank, what to notice and appreciate. It will impact all of you.
Sometimes gratitude is difficult because we don’t like to acknowledge our debts; we like to feel we did it on our own. But we can’t do anything without the help of others (that proverbial “village”) and certainly not without the Almighty’s help. He deserves the biggest thanks of all. And once we’re grateful to our Creator, we will also be grateful to His creations.