“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #3 – Attitude of Gratitude

November 7, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

It’s that time of year again…the leaves are changing colors, the weather is getting cooler and our thoughts are turning to parties, pumpkin pie, and peace on earth. This month, as I wrap up my fall Mindfulness classes just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be teaching my students about Kindness and Gratitude.

It’s a subject the children consistently rank as one of their favorite classes in our 4-week program. Perhaps it’s because of the shiny red heart I place in each child’s outstretched hand to hold during our Loving Kindness Meditation. As we settle into our seats, close our eyes and begin taking slow deep breaths, we send kind thoughts, first to ourselves, and then to our friends and family, to our community, to all the people in the world, and then to all the animals on the planet. We also reflect on everything we are grateful for in our lives. It’s a powerful exercise that elicits heartfelt emotions of peace, love and joy.

At the end of class, the children get to take home the red heart and it serves as a gentle reminder to slow down and send kindness to themselves and others and to reflect on the many blessings in their lives.

Like the children in my classes, we adults can cultivate a Mindfulness practice that includes being kind and thankful for all the special people and things in our lives. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start and I’ve included some of my favorite Mindful traditions that you can adopt this holiday season and share with the youngsters in your life.

Mindful Eating – Thanksgiving dinner is a feast for the senses. Encourage kids to savor each bite by eating mindfully. As they take slow, deliberate bites, they can focus on the textures, flavors, and the joy of sharing the meal with loved ones. It’s a moment of shared mindfulness that enhances the sense of togetherness.

Mindful Games – Kids often have tons of energy during the holidays and we adults can channel their excitement into mindful games. If they have a dog or cat, simple activities like fetch, tag or hide-and-seek can become opportunities for kids to practice Mindfulness by paying attention to their pet’s movements and expressions.

Gratitude Journaling -Journaling is one of my favorite ways to reflect on my own blessings, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. You can help kids create their own gratitude journal or simply buy a notebook. Let them write down or draw the things they’re thankful for. They can also include photographs of things they love, favorite places, or people they appreciate. Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to encourage Mindfulness and what I like to call “an attitude of gratitude.”

Mindful Walking – After the Thanksgiving meal, embark on a mindful nature walk with kids (weather permitting!). The crisp autumn air, the sound of leaves crunching beneath their feet, and the sight of nature’s vibrant colors offer the perfect setting for Mindfulness. Encourage kids to use their senses to connect with the world around them.

Mindful Storytelling – As the day winds down, put on some cozy PJ’s and snuggle up with your kids (and pets!) for a storytelling session. Share tales of gratitude, random acts of kindness, and the adventures of the day. You can even create a “Gratitude Jar” and write down things you appreciate and place the pieces of paper in the jar. Then, whenever you or your child needs a pick-me-up, take out the slips of paper and read aloud to one another.

Cultivating Mindfulness during the holidays can become a truly heartwarming and enriching experience for you and your children. These activities can help kids learn to appreciate the small things in life and make the most of every moment. So, this Thanksgiving, serve up a generous portion of Mindfulness alongside the pumpkin pie and savor the precious moments with your family.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

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