Having a decade of experience connecting with families in schools, hospitals and non-profit organizations, Aparna Venkataraman is the founder of Beauty In Parenting and is a parent coach, meditation teacher, motivational speaker and global wellness advocate for DoTerra Essential Oils. With her approachable nature, strong intuition and problem-solving skills, she guides parents of babies, toddlers and teens to empower themselves and build healthy relationships withone another through effective communication, confidence-building and lighthearted mindfulness techniques. She values authenticity, a kind nature, motivation, love, compassion, gratitude and humor as key components of a beautiful life. You can find her on IG and FB.
All About Gratitude
I know that as a teenager, it can be easy to get stressed out with everything that needs to get done. A concept and practice that I coach teens and parents on and wish I knew about in my teen years is gratitude.
Gratitude is a wonderful mental practice that involves you simply being in touch with everything that is going right in your world. This can be a complicated concept to wrap your head around…so I’m sharing with you today my top tips and ways that you can think AND feel more grateful!
A backstory: I may be out there in the world as a parent coach and motivational speaker now, but I wish that I had this practice when I felt the pressure of academics and making friends as a teen (who felt anxiety and went through depression) – and eventually gave up many extracurricular activities that brought me joy.
In this blog, we’ll explore:
- What gratitude is and is not
- Why it’s important to have in your mental toolbox
- How you can practice gratitude for optimal benefits
- Simple exercises to help you relax your mind and body
Using the Concept of Gratitude in Everyday Life
Gratitude doesn’t mean that you are happy, cheerful, energized, etc. ALL the time. It’s not a way to bypass what you are feeling or sensing, but it IS a way to reframe both how you are thinking about something and how you may also be internalizing something (taking it to heart).
For example, say you didn’t do as well as you would have liked at an important soccer match or on a big test. You’re likely going to be pretty upset with yourself, right? Well, one way to reframe this is by telling and reminding yourself of all that you DID do to lead up to the match or test. Perhaps you can consider the following ways of giving yourself credit (aka gratitude):
- What did you do to prepare?
- What alternatives did you try when you made a “mistake”?
- How did I show up?
- What did I learn?
- Who/what am I appreciative of? (Include yourself!)
Here’s another example to consider: If a friendship or relationship doesn’t work out the way you had wished, you can consider the same questions above. As you do this, you might also notice and name the emotions that are coming up.
Remembering and being grateful for what you DID (including every moment, minute, and step you took) builds up strengths to grow that you can use for the future! Sometimes, your mind might tell you that you’re “not good enough” or your efforts weren’t enough, so these reflective questions can help you remind yourself of the truth!
When we work on loving ourselves in moments like these, we connect and strengthen ourselves so we can open ourselves up to what (and who) comes our way in the future. Ultimately, when we find gratitude for ourselves and what we have done, we are also better able to value and look forward to the future.
5 Areas of Life to Practice Gratitude:
- As part of your morning routine
- When things may not work out or don’t work out at all
- Friendships, relationships, and family
- When comparison comes up on social media or in real life
- School, extracurricular activities and work
Additional Gratitude Questions to Consider:
I recommend you set certain times of the week to check-in and be honest with yourself. Teens and parents have shared that after school, during dinner, Sunday nights before your school week starts, or Monday mornings are some of the best times to pause.
- What am I really enjoying in my life?
- Who am I feeling supported by?
- Is there anything fun that happened today that I am appreciating?
- Is there something that I might like to try differently next time?
- Create an affirmation to write down on paper or on my phone.
- I am proud that I did _____ today. (Ex: got out of bed, did well on an exam, talked to my parent, got some food, practiced for X coming up)
- I am grateful for ______.
- Any other questions or prompts that feel important to YOU
Breathing Exercises for Gratitude:
I love to be mindful of how much tension I am holding in my jaw, chest, hands, and body in general in the mornings, as I get into the car or public transportation, and before bed so that I can feel more relaxed and mindful. These moments of slowing down, tend to give me space to consider the ways I am grateful. These are a few of my favorite breathing exercises:
- With one hand on the heart and the other on the stomach: inhale down and out through the belly for 4 seconds, hold for another 4 seconds (if this feels comfortable), then, exhale for 4 seconds through the mouth or nose.
- When you are feeling really stressed/frustrated/angry, inhale for 4 seconds through the nose (mouth closed) and then exhale through the mouth for 4-7 seconds slowly as if you are whistling or blowing a bubble.
Bringing Gratitude into Your Life
Remember: you don’t need to do ALL the things all the time – your level of being busy doesn’t always equal happiness. Take my teen years for example: I was doing it ALL and it was only leaving me feeling burnt out to a point where I had no energy for anything and needed to prioritize to focus simply on academics. That’s no fun, right?!
What DOES matter is how genuinely fulfilled you feel in life. I hope these tips and practices help you to find gratitude this season and beyond!
For more help on creating a gratitude or breathwork practice as a teen or parent, visit www.beautyinparenting.com. You’re also welcome to check out my PDF E-Guide on 5 Tips for Effective Communication & Positive Mindset!