Practicing gratitude with youth

Helping youth practice gratitude can provide life benefits.

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A mindset that includes gratitude leads to many benefits in life. Research by Andrea Caputo in 2015 published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology has shown that gratitude is associated with an increase in happiness and life satisfaction. It also has potential benefits for promoting social bonds and increasing or maintaining relationships.

Helping youth notice gratitude and express appreciation can build a habit of noticing what they have and value around them versus focusing on frustrations or disappointments. This practice can positively impact daily life and provide benefits when life brings challenges and resilience is needed.

Michigan State University Extension offers some simple ways to incorporate more gratitude in your life, whether a youth or an adult. It is great to practice gratitude together with youth.

  • Write: Create a gratitude journal or jar and add items that you are grateful for at the end of the day. Gratitude before bed supports restful sleep and reading the items at the end of the month (or year) helps you remember all you have to be grateful for from that time period.
  • Action: Take a walk and note the things you appreciate or value in your neighborhood, community or in nature. Mindful walking and breathing has many physical and mental benefits.
  • Words: Say out loud three things you are grateful for. You can do this alone or with others. Either way, the benefit occurs.

For those that run youth groups or youth programs, start and end meetings or events with youth volunteering to share what they are grateful for. Ask for a few volunteers or, if time permits, allow everyone to share one thing. It is best to model this a few times too. This gratitude sharing provides a way to build unity and connection around the things we have in common. It can be done in person or virtually to allow for the creation of consistent practice around gratitude.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact

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