Resiliency: How gratitude and being grateful are pillars to being resilient

How gratitude and being grateful are pillars to being resilient
By Jane Smiley

As the mother of a wonderfully smart and inquisitive little girl, who sometimes overindulges in her only child, I often make it a point to talk to her about being thankful and grateful. In addition to our talks, we practice the act of it as well. Throughout the year, I encourage my daughter to select toys to donate to children who have none. She is at first reluctant, but after giving, she receives a thank you card in the mail with pictures of the kids enjoying her toys, and she smiles with joy from ear to ear and insist we go meet these children.

I have no doubt that giving touches her heart and motivates her to give, so a few weeks ago when we received the Target holiday flyer in the mail, you can imagine my surprise when I saw she had hand drawn stars next to nearly every single toy in the flyer that Santa had to bring her for Christmas. Needless to say, I was at a loss of what to do. I couldn’t possibly get her all the toys she wanted, but more importantly, I wanted her to not want them all. I had to ask myself if I was being unrealistic. She is, after all, only five years old. I wondered what to do and how to approach this topic with her. I didn’t want to be a killjoy. Christmas does come just once a year. Still, she had to know better. She had to understand that life isn’t about toys and gifts. It’s clear I have years of work to do, but I’m confident that her sweet soul will one day grasp the concept all by herself.
What I do know is that resilience and happiness depend on gratitude, empathy and mindfulness. A person can nearly bounce back from any difficult situation once they realize that everything they have in this life is a gift.
This led me to think of ways to talk with children, family and members of the community about being grateful:
1. Take a deep breathe. Feel that air go into your lungs? That’s the gift of oxygen that keeps us alive. We’re so grateful to be in an environment in which we can breathe easily. Breathing also helps regulate our bodies and mind! So breathing in a sense is such an amazing gift to be grateful for.
2. Take a look around. Some of the items around you might be your greatest and most precious possessions. They can be hand-crafted toys, pots and pans turned into a drum set, or a beautiful drawing. Things don’t necessarily have to be store-bought to be prized possessions (and some of the most valuable items are those that are hand-made).
3. Take a look at the sky. Is it bright blue? Perhaps you can see the sun shining? Even if it is grey; how cool! The sky can be an endless resource as one can watch for birds, imagine shapes in clouds and so much more. We’re so thankful for such a beautiful sky that changes throughout the day from morning until night.
4. Nature is a gift to be grateful for as you can hear trees rustle in the wind, see different landscapes, flowers, and even wildlife if you look close enough. Anytime there is a struggle in life, lean on nature to bring back the gratitude, and power of being alive.
Pets are such a joy. Whether you own a pet or just visit one, they can bring happiness to just about any situation. Being grateful for pet’s silly actions, humorous behavior and little quirks can bring light to many scenarios.

These are just a few thoughts on things to be grateful about. What are some things you’re extraordinarily grateful for? Is there something you’re grateful for in particular that you have that others may be able to enjoy as well?