* Approaching the New Year With Gratitude

By Laura Keys – Courier & Press – December 19, 2017 –

Have you ever noticed that no matter what happens in some people’s lives, they are able to maintain a relatively positive attitude and see the silver lining in each situation?

They see the opportunity in a challenging dilemma, and they appreciate what they have, even in the face of loss. That doesn’t happen by accident.

Fortunately, a positive attitude can be developed with a little practice. The brain is a muscle, and you can strengthen your mind’s natural tendency toward optimism if you work at it.

This is not just good practice for our mental health but for our spiritual health as well. Many different faiths emphasize the importance of thankfulness, especially as a form of prayer. Eckhart Toelle said, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank You,’ that will be enough.”

Thankfulness doesn’t always come easily, but it is at those times that we need to seek out gratitude the most.

One of the ways we can train our brain in thankfulness is keeping a gratitude journal. In one study, psychologist Jeffrey Froh at Hofstra University asked students to write in gratitude journals each day for two weeks.

Students were asked to write down things they felt thankful for on a daily basis. Three weeks later, the students who counted their blessings reported feeling more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives and had more school satisfaction.

Froh explained the results this way: “It’s beyond feeling good, and beyond happiness… we found that grateful kids tend to report less physical complaints; but also in the adult literature they found that grateful people who counted blessings were more likely to exercise, more likely to report better sleep, less likely to report these physical complaints.”

 Researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough also found many positive effects of keeping gratitude journals. Among the benefits were:

  • Being more likely to make progress on personal goals
  • Higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm and energy
  • Reporting having helped someone else or offered emotional support
  • Children reporting more positive attitudes toward school and their families
  • Adults with neuromuscular disease felt more optimistic about life and slept better

Twenty-one days is the time it takes to form a new habit. Now is an ideal time, as we prepare for the coming year and celebrate the holidays. It is a time to take stock of how we want our new year to unfold, and it’s a time to make promises to ourselves about improvement and renewal.

A different new year challenge than working on our outsides (gym memberships, new diets) would be to start with our insides (our hearts and minds). A gratitude journal could be just the thing to increase our compassion, optimism and humility.

Make this a part of your new year’s renewal. Select a special logbook that can be written in each day. At the beginning or end of the day, write down five things that make you feel grateful and thankful. You may feel like drawing a picture or attaching photos that mean something special to you. In any case, write down five items each day for three weeks.

If you have trouble getting started, think about simple or even obvious things like running water, your favorite song, coffee, that it snowed (or didn’t) today or experiencing another sunrise.

Once the list gets started, it’s easy to add items. At the end of three weeks, spend some time reflecting on the material you gathered. Meet a friend for lunch or coffee, and share your gratitude.

For more information on the benefits of gratitude see   happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/.

* Praising Our Children Builds Confidence

By Terra Clark, MSW, Courier & Press, November 7, 2017 –

Praise can have a powerful effect on children.  Parents, are we praising our children for what they’ve done well or just criticizing them when they don’t meet expectations?

We all want our children to do the right thing.  When they fail to do so, it’s easy to criticize, yell or express disappointment.

As a school social worker, I meet with parents all the time who say, “Why should I praise my child for doing something they are expected to do?”

If we constantly nag our children to do things differently, it puts everyone involved in a negative mindset.  Constant ridicule erodes self-esteem and confidence.

It is important to reinforce the good things children are doing.  Having an attitude of gratitude and praising children for the positives will ensure more positives come about.  What we focus on is what grows.

Expressing gratitude for your child’s good choices helps build their confidence and self-esteem for making positive decisions.

When we praise children, it’s easy to fall into a habit of saying the same things over and over.  Mix it up a bit to sound genuine.  Children will recognize your sincerity and respond positively.  Let the child know what they did right, what you appreciated about it, and how you would like to see it again.

Here are 101 Ways to Praise Kids.

That’s Incredible * How Extraordinary * Outstanding Performance * Far Out * Great * Marvelous * I Can’t Get Over It * Wonderful * You Should Be Proud * Amazing Effort * Unbelievable Work * Phenomenal * You’ve Got It * Superb * You’re Special * Cool * Excellent * Your Project is First Rate * Way to Go * You’ve Outdone Yourself * Thumbs Up * What a Great Listener * Your Help Counts * You Came Through * Terrific * You Tried Hard * Fabulous * The Time You Put In Really Shows * You Made It Happen * You’re A Real Trooper * It Couldn’t Be Better * Bravo * You’re Unique * Exceptional * You’re A Great Example For Others * Fantastic Work * Breathtaking * Keep Up The Good Work * Awesome * I Knew You Had It In You * You’ve Made Progress * Your Work Is Out Of Sight * What An Imagination * It’s Everything I Hoped For * Stupendous * You’re Sensational * Very Good * You Made The Difference * Good For You * A+ Work * Take A Bow * Super Job * How Thoughtful Of You * Nice Going * Class Act * Well Done * You’re Inspiring * How Artistic * You Go The Extra Mile * Hooray For You * You’re A Joy * You’re A Shining Star * You’re Amazing * What A Great Idea * Great Answer * Extra Special Work * You Deserve A Hug * You’re Getting Better * You’re Tops * You’re Catching On * You’re Neat * You’ve Got What It Takes * Spectacular Work * You’re A Winner * You’re #1 * Remarkable * Beautiful * Great Discovery * Clever * You’re So Kind * Wow * Magnificent * You’re Sharp * You’re Very Responsible *Brilliant * Thanks For Helping * Thanks For Caring * You’re A-OK * You’ve Earned My Respect * You’re A Pleasure To Know* You’re Very Talented * How Original * What A Genius * Very Brave * Congratulations * You’re A Champ * You Figured It Out * You’re Super * Right On * You’re The Greatest * You Make Me Smile

Children want attention; make sure you are pointing out the positives and giving praise daily. As caregivers it is our job to build children up and be positive role models. Children who are praised will, in turn, give praise to their peers and create a more positive, kind school environment.