I’ve been thinking a lot about the article I posted on my Runaway Mama Facebook Page called “The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier.”
On Saturday afternoon, I asked Dylan to bring his lunch plate, which was sitting on the arm of the couch (his preferred dining location), to the kitchen. He said, “No, I don’t want to do my chores.” I said, “Dylan, I’m not asking you to vacuum the floors or clean the toilets (although I should). I’m just asking you to bring one plate to the kitchen. Don’t you want to earn rewards?” He said, “I don’t want to earn anything.” I said, “So, you don’t want new toys?” He said, “I want new toys and I want them without earning them. For my birthday, Hanukkah and Christmas you will just give me toys.”
In my house, I talk a lot about being healthy and strong. We eat (or aspire to eat) fruit and vegetables because healthy food makes us healthy and strong. We go for walks and bike rides because exercise makes us healthy and strong. We take baths, brush our teeth, and go to the doctor to stay healthy and strong. You get the idea. Well, I’ve realized there’s something missing from my healthy and strong platform. Gratitude.
The abovementioned article talks about how gratitude makes people healthier and happier. One study showed that people who focused on things they were grateful for felt better about their lives as a whole than people who focused on things that were a hassle or displeased them. Another study found that keeping a daily gratitude journal lead to a greater increase in goodwill toward others. Yet another study found that depression was correlated to gratitude. The more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are.
Wow. It sounds like a daily dose of gratitude is as important as brushing teeth or taking a calcium supplement (which I always forget to do!). I used to keep a daily gratitude journal. Interestingly, I fell out of the habit when I became a mother, which is when gratitude became more important than ever before. I’ve written before about wanting to instill gratitude in my kids, especially when it comes to material consumption. Based on the recent conversation I had with my mini-shopaholic about his master plan to get without giving, I think now is a good time to get back on the horse.
I’m going to start a new daily gratitude journal. This time, though, I’m going to make it a family journal and have the boys write about something they’re grateful for each day, too. It will be my own little research study (I was a sociology major in college) to see if I can make giving more important than, or at least equal to, receiving for them. Dylan will no doubt ask why we’re doing it, and I’ll say, “because gratitude makes us healthy and strong.”
I’ll share the results of my groundbreaking family gratitude research right here, so stay tuned. In the meantime, my first hypothesis as Sociology Mama is that guilt is a lot easier to achieve than gratitude. With that in mind, I’ve decided that today is Grateful (instead of Guilty) Mama Monday. Today, I’m grateful for the happy and proud looks on my boys’ faces when Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Tom visited them at school for Grandparents Day.