While Christmas shopping, hot chocolate-drinking, and Thanksgiving planning are happy activities, for many, this time of year can bring on unwanted feelings of depression and anxiety.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect nearly 10 million Americans. SAD is a seasonal depression that can be caused by a lack of sunlight in the winter months. In addition, family tensions can run high during the holiday as well as pressure to create the picture-perfect holiday season for your kids and loved ones. All of this together can very understandably lead to depression during what is supposed to be a joyous season.
One of the best things you can do to fight off depression and anxiety is to focus on gratitude. This has been proven by multiple scientific studies. One study found that spending five minutes a day writing down what you are thankful for has been proven to increase happiness levels by 10%. Another study found a 35% decrease in depressive symptoms in people who practiced gratitude.
What better time to practice gratitude than the Thanksgiving season?
Because of this, I’ve created “Dr. Meg’s 14 Day Family Gratitude Challenge.” This downloadable PDF provides 14 days of gratitude prompts that your entire family can do. Practicing gratitude as a family is incredibly important if you want your kids to be raised with gratitude as a value.
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to our kids. This is why we have to teach our children to say thank you. They aren’t going to do it on their own.
This isn’t your child’s fault. It’s simply how children develop. We are wired to be egocentric, especially when we’re young. To children, it feels like the world revolves around them. Their needs are what they think of, not others’, so they don’t think to be grateful for what they have.
A study done at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that gratitude is best instilled in kids as an experience in four parts:
1. Noticing what we’re grateful for in our lives.
2. Thinking about why we have been given those things.
3. Expressing how we feel about the things we have been given.
4. Expressing gratitude in return.
My Family Gratitude Challenge will allow you to engage in all four of these experiences with your kids. The goal is to form a daily habit and practice of gratitude. In addition to the mental health benefits, practicing gratitude as a family can strengthen your relationships with each other.
It is easy to focus on what we don’t have, but gratitude keeps us focused on what we do have: a family, love, connection, time to gather. When your children start to realize that, and when you realize the same, the tone in your family will shift. You will appreciate each other rather than bicker with one another. You will be quicker to serve and help each other. You will encourage one another more readily. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a greater gift to give and receive this season than a stronger family bond.
Focus on gratitude as a family this season, sit back, and see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed by the results.