Make Anxiety In Kids Disappear With Gratitude

by | Mar 29, 2022 | Mental Health

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change the negative to a positive
Girl with flower, fighting anxiety with gratitude

Negative thinking is a common symptom of anxiety in children.  Unfortunately, negative thinking can cause a cycle that is hard to break out of, leading to more anxious feelings.  One way to fight those negative thoughts is to practice gratitude.

In 2008, scientists did a study and discovered that gratitude can activate the brain stem to produce dopamine, which is our brain’s pleasure chemical.  It can actually improve your mood. And when we engage in positive thoughts, our brain also produces serotonin which helps us feel calmer, less anxious and more focused.

How to Fight Negative Thinking and Anxiety

Gratitude can lead to more positivity which can lead to more creative thinking, increase our attention span and allow one to reflect on your own emotions and thought processes.  

If you have a child stuck in their negative thoughts, you can see them spinning on certain topics.  This makes it hard to process their thoughts and find creative solutions.  You need to help your child change their negative mindset.  Practice these 3 thought processes with a child of any age.

  1.  Change the Negative Into a Positive – Write down your common negative thoughts for the day and then at the end of the day go through those negatives and change them into a positive.  An example would be if your child keeps saying they are stupid.  You can change it into “I am smart.”  Your child can then repeat those positive statements.  Download this free resource for positive affirmations your child can use.
  2. Turn A Worry, Into A So What?  – If your child keeps worrying that they can’t get their homework done on time, ask them, so what?  Follow this train of thought.  If they respond and say, then I will fail the assignment, then ask, so what?  Then I will get a lower grade in class.  So what?  Lead them down this path to see that their worry really isn’t over the end result.
  3. Change Hard Situations Into “What Can I Learn?” – When children find themselves in a challenging situation, help them instead go into it thinking, what can I learn?  Perhaps they will make mistakes, but we can learn from those mistakes.  This follows the work around Growth Mindset where we celebrate mistakes.  Download this free resources on how a parent can praise their child and encourage growth mindset.

22 Ways for children to practice Gratitude and fight anxiety

  1. Start a gratitude journal
  2. Use daily affirmations
  3. Give gratitude to others
  4. Be aware of the little things in life.
  5. Make a picture collage of things you are grateful for
  6. Create a gratitude jar
  7. Read books that model gratitude
  8. Write thank you notes
  9. Go on a thankfulness walk
  10. Participate in a generosity challenge
  11. Smile and laughter
  12. Look someone in the eye and say thank you
  13. Nighttime routine -write down three things you are thankful for that happened that day
  14. Practice forward thinking gratitude – think of things in the future that you will be grateful for
  15. Notice beauty in the world
  16. Surround yourself with positive people
  17. Leave positive notes around the house to find later
  18. Pay it forward
  19. Post gratitude on social media
  20. Leave a positive review online for someone
  21. Call a loved one you haven’t seen in a while
  22. Explore your child’s strengths

Parents Should Practice Gratitude Too

Worry Time Can Be OK

It is healthy to feel worried, frustrated, angry or scared at times.  Help children understand these big emotions by talking with them about your own emotions, or by discussing where they see it either on TV or in stories.  

Our minds are programed to let negative things dominate our thinking.  It is like a magnet to our thoughts, even when positive things are happening.  Therefore we need to be intentional to make sure we give ourselves the same amount of time for gratitude as we do for our worry time.

Practicing gratitude and helping your child make this a daily habit will help build healthy habits for life.

By Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach

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