Blog written by I Pour Life, LifeCoach, Bodhi
“It is not happiness that makes us feel grateful; it is gratefulness that makes us feel happy.”
-Brother David Steindl-Rast
For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a youth that is considered “At-Risk.” Perhaps, you have been moved in and out of foster placements or group living facilities. Perhaps, you do not have any positive relationships in your life. What, if anything, would you feel grateful for?
As a LifeCoach, who interacts with foster and at-risk youth, the concept of gratitude can be a very sensitive topic. After all, these youth seem to have so much stacked up against them. So how do we reframe a youth’s thoughts from a lack of mindset to an attitude of gratitude?
It is essential to establish gratitude for the present moment. We are not guaranteed this moment, and we often take that for granted. Just being here right now is a wonderful and miraculous blessing. Being grateful for this moment is a gift; that’s why it is called the present. Once we can establish gratitude for the present, we can move forward in recognition that each moment is an opportunity for new experiences, progress and growth.
Utilizing the I Pour Life LifeStrengths Workbook is a valuable resource for communicating with our youth about gratitude. There is a dedicated Life Skills chapter that focuses on the Spirit of Gratitude. The chapter offers tremendous insights on how to connect with gratitude in daily life, especially in the moments where it seems most challenging.
An excellent activity in the Spirit of Gratitude chapter asks the youth to perform a random act of kindness. It’s important to point out that gratitude is not just about what you get, it’s about what you give as well. There is always an opportunity to give energy or support to someone else in need. Wealth is not just spread through monetary means. We can always give someone our time, inspirational spiritual teaching, or even just kind words in conversation.
Repetition, practice, and patience are keys when establishing a gratitude practice. In many ways, living with gratitude requires a complete shift in our youth’s conscious thought process. One tool that I like to empower my youth with is a Gratitude Journal. I use the term “journal” lightly. The youth can use a notebook, sheet of paper, or digital device for their journal. I ask my youth to write at least one thing they are grateful for every day for one month. At the end of the month, they will notice how many things they actually have in their life to be grateful for. By writing all the small and grand things that they are grateful for brings a new sense of hope and motivation into their lives. Whether it be physical or mental health, clean clothes, a hot meal, or a warm place to sleep, there is always something in each day and night to be grateful for. I not only ask my youth to write in their gratitude journal daily, I also suggest that they keep their journal with them and occasionally read it or add to it throughout their day. This will help reinforce all of the positive progress that the youth has achieved and inspires them to keep pushing forward.
I Pour Life continues to strengthen the concept of gratitude by expanding the topic as a theme for one of our monthly Social Capital Club gatherings. This is an excellent opportunity for our youth to come together in a social setting to converse about gratitude with their peers, LifeCoaches, and our volunteer LifeCrew. Practice makes permanent. How we practice and repeat behavior will begin to reinforce that behavior or skill. Social Capital Club provides our youth with a safe space to be vulnerable and practice gratitude with caring and loving individuals who will help facilitate their understanding and application of lessons learned.
Gratitude helps change our mindset from always wanting more or believing that we don’t have enough to be appreciative and content with what we already do have. Living with gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, enjoy our experiences, improve health, deal with adversity more effectively, and help build strong relationships.
So, what are you grateful for today?