It’s not just for Thanksgiving: The importance of teaching an attitude of gratitude for homeschool teens. Here are tips on giving thanks for teens.
The Importance of Teaching an Attitude of Gratitude for Homeschool Teens
I remember the high school years for my teen who did not like to study (despite my much nagging). The idea of wasting good time reviewing material for a test seemed ridiculous when there was so much life to live doing other, more interesting things. The story changed when she headed to college. Upon arriving home after her first semester of college courses, my daughter announced, “I never have to stay up all night cramming for exams like my friends do!”
Curious, I asked, “Why is that?”
“Because,” she explained, “I study a little bit EVERY day. By the time the test comes, I know everything well.”
“…” (I did not dare say, “I told you so.”)
The importance of teaching an attitude of gratitude for homeschool teens: Science catches up with God
I had another moment like that the first time I read about research on gratitude. This time it was not me holding back from saying, “I told you so,” but I imagined that God might looking down from heaven and laughing at us humans about our amazing discoveries on gratitude.
It is a lot of fun to watch science catch up with Scripture. In the past few years, research has shown that gratitude is good for you: body and soul. God has already been telling us to give thanks for thousands of years. Here are just a few:
- 1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.
- Psalm 30:4 Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
- Colossians 13:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be ye thankful.
Now, science has caught up with God! We found out that gratitude is actually good for us, both physically and mentally. (This is the reason we included gratitude in our High School Health for the Whole Person curriculum.)
So, what is the importance of teaching an attitude of gratitude for homeschool teens?
Homeschool high schoolers, just like all teens, are noticing the many differences between the ways the would like for life to be and the ways life actually is. This causes them often to feel disappointed, angry or sad. It is hard to study and learn (or to do lots of other things) if they are consumed with negative notions. (You have noticed, I’m sure, that teens cannot retain stoichiometry information in Chemistry class if they have a bad attitude.)
How do you change a bad attitude that has been caused by disappointment or frustration? You teach gratitude to your homeschoolers!
What does gratitude do for adolescents?
Let’s talk about the affects of gratitude on biology. Research has found that:
- Gratitude is associated with greater sense of optimism and better feelings about life (research by University of California’s Robert Emmons on gratitude journaling)
- It is also associated with being more inclined to exercise and experiencing fewer sick visits to doctors (same research by Emmons)
- Gratitude is associated with increased feelings of happiness (research by University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman on writing letters expressing gratitude)
- Patients with chronic pain can experience reduced depression and anxiety when practicing gratitude. (Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology.)
- Gratitude practices can be related to better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and less inflammation. (Research published in the Journal of Spirituality in Clinical Practice.)
- It is also associated with increased activity in the brain (the areas called the anterior cingulate and the medial prefrontal cortex). These areas help moral and social thinking, empathy and value judgement. (Research by Glenn Fox of University of Southern California)
- Gratitude can positively affect sleep and mood by increasing activity in the hypothalamus (especially the production of dopamine, a neurochemical in charge of feeling good). (Article shared by National Institutes of Health)
- Feelings of gratitude can reduce suicide risk. (Research published in Frontiers in Psychology)
- There’s even more information in this post in the Daily Health Post.
How to practice gratitude
Now that you know the importance of an attitude of gratitude for homeschool teens, let’s look at some practical and easy ways to teach your adolescents to practice giving thanks.
Keep a gratitude journal.
This is simply a notebook where teens (this works for moms, too) and write down something(s) they are thankful for. Here’s post from my coaching website with how-to do a gratitude journal.
Write thank you letters.
Encourage your homeschool high schoolers to occasionally send a letter to someone who has done something kind for them. The benefit is not just for the receiver but also for the writer of the gratitude letter.
Notice things to be grateful for.
Sometimes our digital-native teens do not like to write letters. However, if they make a habit of an attitude of gratitude by noticing the good things around them, they can experience the benefits of gratitude. One practice that can help with noticing the good things is a version of the ancient prayer practice called the Ignatian Examen. Here’s a freebie download to show how– it is easy and teens generally like the practice.
But God has been telling us to give thanks for thousands of years. Just like most of his instructions, he does not bother to tell us WHY he tells us to have an attitude of gratitude. Now science has helped clear that up.
Here is a Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode on ways to be more thankful.
Download 7Sisters Health curriculum for your homeschool high schoolers and help them learn and enjoy a healthy and grateful lifestyle.