Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude and Kindness

This week's New York Times Science section surveys research on how expressing gratitude -- by doing such things as keeping a journal of things you have appreciated, or by doing something nice for someone else -- can have a beneficial impact on how people view themselves and others.

It reminds us of an ad we have seen on TV recently in which someone observes a stranger doing a good deed -- from opening a door for someone to helping a neighbor rake leaves. In each instance, the observer goes on to do his or her own good deed, which is observed by someone else, who is then moved to do a kindness, and so on. It's corny, but now we know that this kind of "paying it forward" is actually supported by research.

Christine Carter, Ph.D a sociologist, and director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Parents program (part of the Greater Good Science Center which "studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society") notes that fostering gratitude in teens is particularly difficult, because this age group is moving to separate from their parents, a process that doesn't translate into appreciating their parents -- or anyone else. She suggests that for teens, parents focus on fostering kindness rather than specifically urging gratitude. She also urges parents to allow for sarcasm and humor when teens express themselves, since the concept of gratitude still gets through.

So, as we sit down to celebrate with family and friends tomorrow, we will try to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving and hope that you and your family have a happy and thankful day!

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