Today’s article has been graciously written by Cassandra Troughton, a teacher’s assistant working in a special education classroom in Canada. As we approach Thanksgiving here in the United States, we use this as a reminder of the importance of gratitude. But of course, gratitude activities for kids aren’t limited to this special holiday, but rather let’s find ways to express our gratitude every day!
Research has shown an abundance of benefits, both mental and physical, from maintaining a daily practice of gratitude! YOU truly have the power to improve your overall well-being, simply by being grateful!
Now, practicing mindfulness is a big part of my life (as I’m sure you’ve heard a time or two before… 😝). Gratitude is one of my mindfulness practices.
Expressing gratitude is being mindful. It’s being mindful of the things around us and parts of our lives that we normally overlook or might take for granted. It is simply noticing and appreciating. It allows us to remain in the present moment.
I make sure to practice the simple act of gratitude daily: I schedule it into my day, morning and night. I also allow for sporadic moments of gratitude. As I’m driving to work in the mornings, I can notice and appreciate the sunrise. At work, I can be grateful for the secretary who greets me each morning, for my students and their kindness, and to the custodian who always keeps our school looking clean. At home in the evenings, I can be grateful for my family helping to do the dishes or even for the restful sleep I know I’ll be getting.
There are so many opportunities to express gratitude throughout our day! Start small and schedule it in. You’ll quickly find yourself noticing more and more things around you that you are grateful for!
That gratitude attitude
That’s your reticular activating system (RAS) at work! The RAS is that component in the brain that helps you notice patterns. A perfect example of this happening is when shopping for a new car, you begin noticing THAT car on the road everywhere you go!
Is it because your vehicle is just THAT popular? NOPE! That is your RAS paying attention to patterns around you! And you can tune your RAS into gratitude, as well…
And so, the more you deliberately incorporate gratitude into your daily routine, the more tuned in you’ll be to the things and moments around you that provoke the feeling of gratitude!
You can literally train your mind into experiencing that heartfelt feeling of appreciation! You train your mind like you would train anything else. Just like you’d go to the gym to train the muscles in your body, expressing gratitude is training for the mind.
And the cool thing about gratitude is that it doesn’t just stop there… Expressing gratitude leads to giving, which boosts the happiness in others… and leaves others feeling grateful!
Gratitude is contagious! It spreads!
What a powerful practice to create coherent selves and a coherent community!
5 FUN AND EASY GRATITUDE ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS TO PRACTICE DAILY
What are some ways can you incorporate gratitude into your day? Here are some ideas that are fun for the whole family or in your classroom:
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Make a list of at least 3 things that you are grateful for each day. Schedule it into your day, either morning or night! You can write them down or draw them out. It’s your journal, so you make the rules! The goal is to try to think of 3 different items each day.
2. Express mealtime gratitude
Make it a habit to express your gratitude during a particular meal. Give thanks for your food! You can be grateful for the way it tastes or smells! Or give thanks for the sun and earth for providing your food. Think about all of the people involved in growing and transporting your food. There are so many things to be grateful for a mealtime!
3. Keep a gratitude stone
Find a rock you like! Maybe you want to decorate it, or maybe you picked it because it’s shiny or textured. Either way, make sure this special rock is appealing to you! Carry your rock around with you in your pocket or on a necklace—somewhere you’ll notice it throughout your day. Whenever you become aware of your rock, pause for a quick moment to appreciate something in your life.
4. Gratitude Mediations: You can this Quick Heart-Focused Mindful Minute
*Set a timer for 1 minute—or, if you have the time, feel free to sit for longer!*
- Sit up straight, in a comfortable position. Feel yourself rooted to the ground and close your eyes.
- Take 3 deep breaths in and out slowly through the nose.
- Bring your attention to your heart; you may place your hands on your heart to help bring awareness to this area.
- Breathe deeply into your heart and picture someone in your life whom you are grateful for. Express your love and appreciation to them… Really feel and experience that love in your heart… Visualize sending them that love…
- Keep breathing into your heart area. Soak in that feeling. Truly experience it.
- And when you are ready, you may open your eyes, crack a soft smile, and move forward with your day…
5. Try these 5 Heart-Opening Yoga Poses
I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY STRENGTH
How to practice Warrior 1 Pose: Come to standing in Mountain Pose. Step one foot back, slightly angling it outwards, bend your front knee, and bring your arms straight up towards the sky, and look up. “I am grateful for my strength.”
I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY LOVING HEART
How to practice Camel Pose: Come to a kneeling position with your toes either curled under or flat on the ground. Lift your head, open your chest, squeeze your shoulders, and place your palms on your buttocks. Gently take your hips forward while shifting your shoulders back, slowly arching your back. If it’s comfortable, take your hands to your heels and relax your head. “I am grateful for my loving heart.”
I AM GRATEFUL FOR PLAY
How to practice Puppy Pose: From all-fours, slide your hands out in front of you while lowering your chest toward the ground. Keep your arms straight and raise your elbows off the ground. Rest your forehead between your extended arms, letting your spine curve naturally. “I am grateful for play.”
I AM GRATEFUL FOR BALANCE
How to practice Bow Pose: Lie on your tummy, bend your knees, lift your chest, reach your arms back toward your toes, and hold on to your feet. “I am grateful for balance.”
I AM GRATEFUL FOR REST
How to practice Fish Pose: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your chest and place your elbows on the floor at your sides, tucking them under your body. Place your palms under your buttocks. Straighten your legs and press out through your heels. Next, gently drop your head back toward the floor, arching your back and keeping your elbows tucked into close to your body. Stay in this pose for a few moments and then gently bring your back flat to the ground. “I am grateful for rest.”
With love and gratitude,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassandra Troughton (a.k.a. Miss T) is an educational assistant from Canada. She has worked with Edmonton Public Schools for over seven years, primarily in the special needs adaptability program (Gr. 1-6) and as the Health and Wellness lead at her school in Edmonton, Alberta. Her passions include health, wellness, and the practice of mindfulness! She loves passing on her knowledge of mindfulness to her students and fellow educators.
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