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The Power of Gratitude

Hello, PATH Parents!

In the middle of the 2020 global pandemic (in which my husband and I had to sell a beloved business, leave friends and relatives, and relocate our family to a new state), I found myself doing something that I had not done in years: create a resume! At first the task seemed cumbersome; however, in completing it, I was reminded of how much beautiful living I had done over the past thirty years, both with my family and in educational, nonprofit, and business arenas. My heart swelled with gratitude for the many special life experiences I had written down on that yellow legal pad, positive experiences which suddenly emotionally outweighed our genuine sorrows of 2020 (and other years). I couldn’t help but say a thank you prayer when I laid my pen down.

Gratitude is powerful, and it moved me forward into 2021 with great hope for all the additional, wonderful experiences yet to be had! Gratitude didn’t erase the pain of real dynamics; it simply shifted my focus to a bigger picture and a potentially bright future ahead.

November is a month characterized by giving thanks, and while we may think of being grateful on a holiday as a nice sentiment, do we realize that, as illustrated in my example above, expressing gratitude is linked to increased happiness (and even better health)?

In her October 2020 article, The Benefits of Gratitude and How to Get Started, Bethany Fulton of shares four benefits of being grateful:

  1. Gratitude strengthens our immune system (so we can fight off illness easier).
  2. Gratitude benefits our mental health (providing a greater sense of well-being, improving our mood, and diminishing symptoms of both anxiety and depression).
  3. Gratitude can benefit our relationships, whether we are developing new ones or strengthening the ones we already have.
  4. Gratitude can increase one’s optimism about life (both present and future).

According to this article, the benefits above become measurable when we cultivate a practice of expressing gratitude, when expressing gratitude becomes a lifestyle habit and not simply a once-a-year moment when it’s your turn to say something that you are grateful for at the Thanksgiving table (although that is a great activity).

This article provides ways to start cultivating the habit of being grateful, including: journaling things you are grateful for each day, gratitude mapping on a mood board that you create and place in a visible spot in your home, praying and meditating on things you are grateful for, and volunteering in programs that give you an outlet for compassion.

For our teens who are often tempted to be “angsty” or to focus on all that is NOT going well during their adolescence (which honestly, isn’t an easy stage of life), this habit of gratitude can be a genuine game changer! Let’s be parents who model gratitude for our teens, showing them the power of being grateful despite navigating pain and challenges. Again, it’s not that we do not have challenges or pain currently in our lives; we are simply recognizing that there are a lot of things going right for us, too. As we focus on the positive and what we are grateful for, we actually bring peace and health to our minds and bodies. The more our teens begin to express gratitude themselves, the more they will feel the benefits, too!

Speaking of gratitude, we at PATH are very grateful for YOU, our amazing parents and guardians who do the tough job of raising teens! If we were writing in our “gratitude journal,” you and your teens would be at the top of our list! We hope that no matter what you face this November, gratitude can benefit your family and help you make it through.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Lisa Raftery