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Giving Gratitude to your Girls (and Guys)

 This September, Carrollton Early Childhood PTA is putting a spotlight on wellness.  While it’s easy to get stressed out about a lot this month, (school in session worries, cold and flu season, holidays approaching, I could go on and on…) one of the best things we can do for our well-being is to maintain a positive attitude.  

Psychotherapist, mental strength trainer, and international bestselling author Amy Morin says “Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve our satisfaction with life.”

Therefore, it’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us happiness

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychoanalyst and assistant attending physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine recently spoke on the correlation between thankfulness and one’s well-being. Turns out, thankfulness can be attributed to many positive health effects. A number of medical studies show that practicing gratitude and showing appreciation can lead to more intimate and connected relationships, less depression, more motivation and engagement, and better overall mental well-being. And let’s be real, we could all use a little improvement in some (if not all) of those areas.

On the subject of raising kids, they say “It takes a village.” But how often do we stop and take time to acknowledge those within our village? As moms and dads to young children, it can be difficult to set aside time and energy to contribute something meaningful to those who make up our support system. But the great thing about giving gratitude is that it often doesn’t require lavish gifts or grand gestures.

So rather than waiting until November to recite what we’re thankful for around our turkey dinner; I’ve composed a list of a few simple practices you can put into place right now to extend gratitude to someone making an impact in your and your kiddos life today.

  1. SPELL IT OUT

Every birthday and holiday I always tell my husband the only thing I want is a card; and the reason why is because there’s something very powerful about the written word. It’s easy to say “Thank you” in the moment, but when you put a pen to paper you may find your true emotions revealing themselves in a raw and honest way. 

Try penning a short letter or writing a simple thank you note to someone.  “Writing a note to someone you feel is deserving of your thanks can shift your focus to the positive, and a recent study revealed that note will mean more than you think to its recipient” says Dr. Gail Saltz. The key is to speak from the heart and actually write your note by hand.  A hand-written note tells your recipient that you took the time to sit down and focus on your words, and makes the gesture that much more powerful.  Plus who doesn’t love opening up a piece of mail that isn’t a solicitation?! To make it extra special, add some photos or decorate the envelope with stickers or a special drawing (if you’re artistically inclined). These small personal touches can make your words that much more meaningful, and have a great, and sometimes lasting impact.

  1. GIVE A GIFT

While many of us may find the task of choosing the perfect gift for someone daunting, gift giving in the name of gratitude can be rather simple.  Recently a friend of mine presented me with an unexpected gift of low-cost items from Target – a cute coffee mug, some hair ties, and a soft t-shirt.  While the gifts weren’t particularly fancy or rare, what made them special was the thought behind them.  My friend recognized that I was an expecting mother of a second child, and she said she felt I was deserving of a little something for myself.  The gesture caught me so off-guard I had to hold back tears.  The moral is, it was nice to be acknowledged and seen –and sometimes that can be as simple as handing a soon-to-be mom a fresh set of new hair ties. So take note, an unexpected gift is almost always a welcome surprise, that is, unless it’s poop on your front porch!

When gift-giving in the name of gratitude, it truly is the thought, not the gift, that counts. Simple gifts like a bottle of wine or a great smelling candle can be a welcome treat any time of year. I love this color-changing essential oil diffuser that looks beautiful in any room of your home, and can instantly boost your mood by offering a peaceful relaxation effect when filled with your favorite essential oil scent.

Fresh baked goods or a hot prepared meal are another way to give a gift from the heart without breaking the bank.  CECPTA gives members the opportunity to sign-up to deliver Sunshine Meals on a regular basis.  These home-cooked or ordered meals are voluntarily delivered to a parent’s doorstep during a particularly challenging time.  They are a great way to spread a little happiness to a fellow member.  If you’re interested in signing up to deliver a meal, contact the CECPTA meal train coordinator Sara Podley at cecptasunshine@gmail.com for more information.  

  1. CHECK IN

Saying “Thinking of you” could mean more to someone than you realize.  After months of quarantining and lockdown, many of us are getting worn out on our routines and could use a little variety.  It’s easy to start feeling lonely, especially as a stay-at-home mom, or someone who isn’t getting a lot of adult interaction due to office places still being shut down, lack of family support, or any other number of factors.  Checking in on someone is a great way to show you care. Try sending a simple text or making a short phone call to someone you haven’t reached out to in a while.  You may be just the person they were needing to hear from today! And who knows, that short exchange could end up turning into a lengthier conversation fueling the need for connection, interaction, and variety that we are all missing out on right now.  It’s always nice to receive an unexpected call that isn’t just for the purpose of delivering some sort of news.

CECPTA is currently in the process of developing and assigning Wellness Buddies –a program which will allow members to touch base with one another over the course of several months to offer support, simple gestures to make you smile, or a listening ear when needed.  If you’re interested in partnering up for this new venture, you can sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040448ADAC29AAFD0-cecpta

So go ahead and set aside a few minutes to practice one of these gestures of gratitude today.  Both you and your recipient will benefit from the good feelings that result from a gesture of gratitude. 

Want to opt-in for extra credit?  Include your kids in the practice and execution of these gestures of gratitude. Assist your son or daughter in writing a thank you note or drawing a picture for a friend, choosing a relative to call, or picking out a gift for a neighbor. Not only can it be a fun bonding exercise, but it’s a great way to drum up an easy conversation about how your children can begin to practice gratitude in their own lives. And remember the wise words of influential Boss-Queen, philanthropist, and wellness extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey, “When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.”

About the Author: Kristin Merron is a boy-mom of two, William (3 years) and Benjamin (2 months), who resides in Carrollton, TX with her husband Matt.  Originally from Chicago, IL she moved to Dallas, TX in 2011. She has a professional background in Communications and has worked as a full-time mom, a part-time mom, a work-from-home mom, and is now navigating life as a stay-at-home mom.  She joined CECPTA in November 2019 and is part of the PURPLE and RED playgroups. When not quarantining from a global pandemic she enjoys travel, exploring new places in and around DFW with her kids, having date-night with her husband at the movies, playing board games with friends, and seeking out the best burger and queso at any number of area restaurants.