A few days ago, my six year old son, Jaxon, and I were having mommy-son time at the “beach park” by our house.
“Mommy?” he asked, “what are 3 things you are grateful for?” I answered, “you, waking up this morning, and spending this time with you in nature.” And then I asked him, “what are you grateful for?” He answered, “you, for my body because I can jump and run, and the blue sky.”
I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit because this was the first time he initiated this question to me after many years of me asking him.
My personal practice of expressing gratitudes only deepens in moments like this!
I am reminded of the many physical and mental health benefits of expressing gratitudes:
Increased dopamine, which improves mood
Increased serotonin production, which improves optimism
Greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain linked to learning and making decisions
Higher energy levels
Stronger immune system
Activation of the brain’s “altruism” and reward system regions- research states that “gratitude biases the brain’s reward system toward rewards for others versus oneself.” By giving you become more likely to want to connect with others by giving again in the future
Here are some ways that my family and I express gratitude with one another, as well as the ways I teach and support the athletes and teams I work with in expressing gratitudes:
Keep a gratitude journal – write down 3 things your grateful for before you go to bed
Write a handwritten gratitude letter to a current or past mentor, coach, or teacher- explaining who they are/were to you, what it means to you to have/had them in your life, and share a few specific times you were grateful for who they were/what they did. You can save the letter or give it to them.
Listen to a guided gratitude meditation. You can find some on YouTube and on the Calm app.
Create a gratitude jar – take some colored paper and write a gratitude on each separate piece, ask your roommates and/or family to do the same. You can place one in the locker room and ask your teammates to participate. When anyone is feeling low, you can pick a gratitude from the jar, read it, and then put it back for someone else.
When you express gratitudes it not only helps you, but the people around you!!!
Jaxon, my son – Malaya, my daughter, I am grateful for you in my life! You encourage, motivate, and inspire me everyday, to keep learning, to keep growing, to keep serving the humans I work with. Because I know when I do, it helps you to continue your journey of becoming.