Gratitude is learned in adolescence as our brains begin to build muscles around the expression at the heart of community support.
Early in adolescence, our brains begin to conceptualize and build muscles around the experience and expression of a cornerstone of community support: growing gratitude.
In The Gratitude Project, Maryam Abdullah, Giacamo Bono, Jeffrey Froh, Andrea Hussong and Kira Newman write of their global studies on the roots and evolution of gratitude, exploring how the experience moves beyond a social custom and toward a deep moral value, and they define the process of learning gratitude in four components:
- What do we notice for which we are grateful–a gift, a moment, a simple joy?
- How do we think about what’s been given to us and why it was given? Was it an unexpected act of kindness, a gesture of support, an extension of love?
- How do we feel about what we’ve been given–happy, joyful, appreciative?
- What do we do to express appreciation in return? Do we give a hug or thank you note or are we inspired to pay it forward and offer the gift of giving to others?
Just as children learn to grow their gratitude muscles with cognitive development and the support of their environments and caretakers, we can stretch ourselves to dig deeper toward gratitude with practice of this process of notice-think-feel and do.