Science says children will grow up happier if you teach them a habit you probably do without realizing

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  • Teaching kids the importance of saying “thank you” can help them grow up happier. 
  • Gratitude can lead to lower rates of depression, better impulse control, and less stress.
  • To raise grateful kids, model the behavior, talk about gratitude, and foster opportunities to develop it.

Growing up, when your parents stressed to always say “thank you”, who would’ve thought they were also teaching you the secret to lasting happiness—not just proper manners? It turns out, sincere gratitude is a key factor in reducing depression, not to mention increasing happiness and life longevity.

Find, remind & bind: The everyday technique that provides huge ROI

Research by Sara Algoe, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, explains one of the most significant keys to well-being is being able to acquire and maintain relationships. Gratitude is the glue that can bring people together as well as creating happiness from the inside out. In her study, she calls it, “Find, Remind and Bind,” citing the process of being sincere in thanks, and then getting a positive response in return, creates a stronger relationship bond with lasting side effects.

Saying ‘thank you’ isn’t just for the recipient’s benefit

Additionally, researchers at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities conducted a study focused solely on gratitude interventions in treating depression and found that practices such as keeping a gratitude journal, writing a letter of gratitude, counting blessings and gratitude visits all had a powerful effect, with journals being the most effective.

Making gratitude a habit does more than change your mood; it can also change your mind and body. Studies show that people who practice gratitude enjoy these benefits:

  • Less depression
  • Better impulse control (spending, eating, drinking, etc.)
  • Greater optimism and positivity
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower levels of stress hormone cortisol
  • Lower blood pressure

But, It doesn’t work if you aren’t sincere. Studies show that just saying the words “thank you” isn’t enough. You have to mean it.

According to psychologists from UNC, Duke, and NC State, kids as young as six recognize the difference between simply saying “thank you” and genuine gratitude. “Many of the children we talked to had a lovely phrase for telling the difference between the two.”

“They’d say: ‘She said thank you, but she didn’t mean it.’ So even at that age they are getting it — but they lack the perspective, the experience of it.”

Here are the study’s 3 tips for raising grateful children

The study looked at how parents were able to make gratitude a habit in their children. Here’s what they observed:

1. Model the behavior. Kids pay close attention to what their parents say and how they say it. When you are sincerely grateful, your kids are learning to be so too.

2. Talk about gratitude. Discussing the concept of gratitude and its direct impact on health and happiness will make your child more aware of its importance. As well as the need for them to develop the skill within themselves.

3. Foster opportunities to develop it. Volunteering and participating in activities that help your child see how lucky they are will help them to feel more grateful. Discussing this and vocalizing it will reinforce the behavior.

Every parent wants their child to grow up and live a happy and healthy life. Science has now shown us focusing on gratitude as a skill set to develop early in your child’s life is one way in which you can help to positively impact that outcome.

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