“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein
Being grateful for what we have and expressing genuine appreciation for it. That’s potent stuff. And it’s simple, right?
People are not wired to be grateful. It requires practice, and it means redefining one’s notion of happiness. And that’s. Not. Easy. Basking in appreciation for what one has versus dwelling on what one wants takes very deliberate effort. But if you can cultivate a life of gratitude, the benefits are ten-fold.
Learning, nourishing and expressing gratitude can be especially important for struggling teens. Gratitude helps them see situations in new ways that lessen panic. It opens their thinking to new solutions, and it increases energy, optimism and empathy. All in all, it improves their well-being and happiness.
Words are the Gateway
Sometimes it’s the intensely loyal, fiercely critical and relentlessly blunt friends that stir up dispiritedness with simple everyday conversation:
“How can you be in such a good mood after … ”
“I’m your best friend; you can complain to me.”
“You must be miserable if I am.”
The language our struggling teens use in everyday conversation accentuates negativity. This makes it easy for them to forget to be happy with what they have.
It is normal and healthy for our teens to experience a range of moods and emotions—both positive and negative. Too often, though, they are automatically assumed to be depressed. But in fact, it’s actually normal to experience some range of mild sadness from time to time as part of the emotional scope. What is not normal is getting stuck in that mode. And far too often our teenagers are straying too far into the negative zone in life.
While we all know it is unrealistic to be happy all the time, happiness should be sought from within ourselves. Seeking it outside is counterproductive. To help struggling teens learn gratitude and redefine their inner notion of happiness, programs such as wilderness therapy are designed to, and focus on, retraining and caring for the mind. This form of therapy can help change the mental habits that undermine emotional resilience and keep our teenagers stuck in negative moods.
Wilderness therapists have been fusing both the healing and rehabilitative powers of nature into programs to help troubled adolescents and young adults overcome personal challenges.
<<If you’re interested in learning more about the philosophy and the benefits of wilderness therapy in Hawaii, contact Pacific Quest today.>>
The Art of Appreciation
Indeed, instilling gratitude is one of the trickiest concepts to teach. But without a doubt it’s one of the most important. A 2003 study performed at the University of California at Davis revealed that grateful teenagers achieve higher levels of happiness and confidence—along with decreased levels of depression and pressure.
“No one is born grateful,” according to life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari, 1999). “Recognizing that someone has gone out of the way for you is not a natural behavior for children; it’s learned.”
Children model their parents in every way. Therefore, we need to teach them to look outside their own universe. If they’re not taught to be grateful, they will end up feeling entitled.
Tips from the Gratitude Diaries
- Name your blessings
- Be a grateful parent
- Resist the urge to give them everything
- Have them help when they want something
- Keep thank you notes on hand
- Always set a good example
- Encourage them to give back
- Always insist on politeness and respect
- Look for teachable moments
- Find the silver lining
You can’t expect gratitude to develop overnight. But teaching your struggling teen the art of appreciation instills in them the power to put situations into perspective. When they learn to see both the good as well as the bad, it becomes that much more difficult for them to complain. And when they start realizing what they have, they’ll begin to want for much less. When they’re seeing and thinking differently…well, that’s where the true change begins!