• Spread the Love: Great Books to Cultivate Gratitude for Children of All Ages

    As the holidays approach, it’s all too easy for our kids to get caught up with wanting more stuff, especially. How can we help kids be happy with what they already have and cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

    Research from the Greater Good Science Center tells us that gratitude actually blocks toxic emotions even as it allows us to celebrate the present. Additionally, its been proven that grateful people are more stress-resistant and have a higher sense of self-worth.

    In a 2003 study from the University of California, Davis, grateful people reported higher levels of happiness and optimism, as well as lower levels of depression and stress. High school students who score high on gratitude have more friends and higher grades, while more materialistic students report more envy, lower grades and less life satisfaction, according to a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. While some people may be blessed with a natural inclination toward thankfulness, for most of us gratitude is learned. By learning gratitude, children become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing their innate capacities for empathy and altruism.

    The following is a list of books that provide kids with lessons in generosity and gratitude. In some cases, the books demonstrate outright gratitude while others weave the concept of giving throughout the story. Let us know how you weave these great titles into your work!


    Click here for some great tips on how to integrate books into your kids yoga classes.


    Thankful by Eileen Spinelli 
    (Ages 4-8)
    In a sing-song tone, “Thankful” takes the reader through a slightly silly tale what people are thankful for. The gardener is thankful for every green sprout, the artist is thankful for color and light, the chef is thankful for plates licked clean. Kids will love the illustrations that add to this simple story of thanks.

    Giving Thanks: a Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
     (Ages 5-11)
    “Giving Thanks” illustrates what the Mohawk tribe refers to as the “Thanksgiving Address,” a morning habit of starting each day by giving thanks to Mother Earth. This tradition is based on the belief that the natural world is a rare gift to be cherished. Readers give thanks for blue waters, green grasses, the animals, sun, thunder, and other natural wonders.

    The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin
    (Ages 4-8)
    How many times have you said to your kids: “It’s better to give than to receive.” only to be met with blank stares? Giving to others and being generous can sometimes be a challenging concept for kids. Ellen Sabin’s The Giving Book, aims to nurture a better understanding of giving with stories and fables of people who were generous, lists of how kids can support charities, and worksheets to get kids thinking about thankfulness, generosity, and charity. Think of this as more of a workbook than a story book.

    Beautiful Hands by Bret Baumgarten and Kathryn Otoshi
    (Ages 2 and up)
    Little hands can do so many beautiful things. This colorful concept book reveals an illustrative surprise and reading delight with every turn of the page. Little hands can do so many wonderful things: plant ideas; stretch imaginations; and reach for dreams. Parents and educators will enjoy sharing the word play with young readers. Children will revel in the spectacular art created using thumb- and hand-prints. The book's uplifting message will rouse and motivate, leaving no heart untouched.This book was created to inspire children everywhere to use their power to help themselves and others achieve their dreams! 

    Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
    (Ages 8-12)
    In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. Minli sets off on a quest to find out how she can change her poor family's fortune and discovers much about what brings happiness in life. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. 

    The Grateful Giraffe: A Kids Yoga Feelings Book by Giselle Shardlow
    (Ages 2-5)
    Join six yoga kids from around the world as they learn about various animals and relate their behaviors to our feelings. Be a caring koala, a cranky crocodile, or a curious cat. Visit countries around the world, learn about various animals, and talk about feelings! This feelings yoga book for toddlers and preschoolers includes a list of kids yoga poses and a parent-teacher guide.

    Today I am Grateful: Adventures in Gratitude by Lorraine Miller
    (Ages 5-10)
    Today I Am Grateful was created to inspire children of all ages to experience the incredible power of gratitude. By taking the time to think about all the wonderful things that happen each day, children gain an appreciation for what matters most to them in their own lives. Following the lead of Milo, young readers can take part in this mindful practice using the activities provided at the end of the story.

    There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me by Alice Walker (Author), Stefano Vitale (Illustrator)
    (Ages 4-10)
    A beautiful book that makes you stop and realize that there are so many things happening around us that we typically don’t notice. Through this book’s simple text we learn that there is beauty all around us to recognize, connect with, and feel grateful for.

    Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss
    (Ages 5-9)

    This classic book provides the perfect antidote for readers of all ages who are feeling a bit down in the dumps (or having a hard time being thankful for what they have). Thanks to Dr. Seuss’s trademark rhymes and signature illustrations, readers will, without a doubt, realize just how lucky they truly are.

    Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness with Kids by Carol McCloud
    (Ages 4-9)
    This heartwarming book encourages positive behavior by using the concept of an invisible bucket to show children how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation and love by "filling buckets."

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (Author), Noah Z. Jones (Illustrator)
    (Ages 5-8)
    All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.

    Mayuri Gonzalez (E-RYT, RCYT)  has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 25 years since her own childhood and specializes in bringing yoga and mindfulness to children. She has taught for Little Flower Yoga since 2010 and is currently the Director of The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY offering direct service yoga and mindfulness classes for preschools and K-12 schools in the Greater New York Area, staff development workshops, staff yoga, and tools for schools nationwide.

    For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Mayuri by email at mayuri@littlefloweryoga.com

    We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. If you are interested in purchasing any of the resources mentioned above, you can help support free programs like Mindful Mondays by navigating to them through the included links. Thank you for your support!

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  • Mindful Mondays: Mindfulness Supports A Healthy Sense of Self

    One of the things mindfulness helps us do is connect with ourselves and our lives with kindness and curiosity.

    We can develop the ability to bring loving awareness to the inner resources we all have: the body, breath, and mind. And when we develop the habit of frequently bringing care and attention to our body, our breath, and our mind, we support our well-being. 

    We can connect to our body by noticing our feet or hands, or through a body scan, which yields lots of information about how our body is feeling and which parts can use our care and attention. When we bring mindful awareness to our breath, we can notice how each moment is impacting how we feel. For example, if we’re breathing in a quick and choppy manner, it might mean we’re getting a good workout or that we’re anxious. If we’re breathing in a smooth and rhythmic manner, it might mean we’re at ease or relaxed. When we know how our mind and body communicate with us through our breath, we can have greater insight into what helps us feel at ease and what stresses us. 


    When we connect to our mind and the thoughts we’re having, we can see that our “thoughts are not facts” and that they are very much impacted by the circumstance and feelings we’re having at any given time. This awareness doesn’t invalidate our thoughts, but it does place them in perspective. When we bring awareness to where our thoughts lead us or what triggers them, we can also begin to understand how our mental activity impacts us. We can see how focusing on certain thoughts can add to our stress levels or inspire and motivate us. More important, however, we can be more skillful with the choices we make when we have a greater understanding of our thoughts, because we won’t be carried away by our thoughts.  


    Social Emotional Intelligence

    By connecting to all these parts of ourselves we also get greater insight into our emotions and how they impact and are impacted by the sensations in our body, the way we breathe, and the kinds of thoughts we’re having. Having a greater understanding of our emotions can help us understand them and navigate them skillfully. In part, this is why at Little Flower Yoga we spend a lot of time supporting social-emotional intelligence and learning. Psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman, in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, explains why having emotional intelligence is important in schools and for our professional and personal lives. He identifies the four domains of social-emotional intelligence as self-awareness (connection to our body, breath, and mind), self-management, empathy, and relationships. See this video for a brief explanation of his theories. 


    The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a social and emotional learning (SEL) approach to education that builds on the work of Daniel Goleman. The SEL wheel of competencies illustrates that self-awareness and self-management skills need to be emphasized and developed in order to support social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Little Flower Yoga’s approach to mindfulness makes sure to emphasize self-awareness and offers strategies to support self-regulation and management. This approach serves as a reminder that if we don’t know what’s happening inside of us, we can’t self-regulate. This is why mindfulness practices are critical to social-emotional learning.

    If teachers and students don’t know what’s happening in their internal landscape, they won’t be able to regulate or engage in relationships in a supportive or healthy manner.

    This Greater Good Magazine article cites a study that supports developing self-awareness and explains that “mindful people might be happier because they have a better idea of who they are.” The study explains that there is a link between the clarity with which the self is known and psychological well-being, and that finding clarity of self-concept is associated with more positive relationships, greater purpose in life, increased autonomy, and greater self-esteem. In other words, the greater clarity we have of ourselves, the more likely we are to have more positive relationships and a greater sense of self-worth.


    Self-Compassion Supports Well-being and a Healthy Connection to Self

    It’s also important to note, however, that when we bring mindful awareness to ourselves, we should do so with equanimity and compassion. The Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education explains that “compassion unfolds in response to suffering, beginning with our recognition of it, then conjuring change to elicit empathy and concern. This, in turn, motivates us to take action, and help relieve that suffering.” A healthy connection and awareness of self must include self-compassion. 


    Due to negativity bias and that our “body generally reacts more intensely to negative stimuli than to equally strong positive ones,” we might find ourselves being overly critical or focusing on what we perceive as flaws—for example, in our body’s appearance—rather than focusing on all the small and big things our body is capable of doing. Or we might find ourselves thinking that the way we think or feel is not good enough or in need of major self-improvement. This is not to say that we should ignore aspects of ourselves that need support or changing, but first we must clearly see all parts of ourselves with kindness and curiosity (even those parts that are in need of support or development) before we can engage in personal change. This is especially true for our students and teens.  


    Jessica Morey, executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), a nonprofit that offers mindfulness retreats for teens and young adults, explains, “self-criticism, loneliness, and uncertainty about the future are some of the biggest challenges for adolescents. This study [of 132 teens on an iBme retreat] suggests that responding to personal failures and shortcomings with kindness, rather than criticism or rumination, is especially critical for adolescents’ emotional well-being.” If we want to support our students, we must support them by helping them develop a kind and curious attitude toward themselves.


    It’s also critical for educators and other professionals working with children to support themselves with self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert on self-compassion, explains, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings—after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?


    Working with children is very challenging and demanding work, and it can be easy to have a deficit perspective of ourselves (and of our students). From this viewpoint, we only notice the things that are not completed, that go wrong, or that fall short—and ignore all the things we and our students might doing be right. Reminding ourselves that we are perfectly imperfect can grant us the space to support ourselves and our students, give us a greater appreciation for all that we do, and allow us the ability to support our personal development. Practicing self-compassion is key when connecting to ourselves and to support our well-being. For more information and practices for self-compassion, visit Dr. Kristin Neff’s website.

    This article is part of our Mindful Mondays initiative. Receive weekly emails with instructions for the practices of the week, links to guided practices, and suggestions for implementation by registering. The program is free for all. Sign up now to access this week's recorded practices for you and your students!


    Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor.  He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY.  Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com.Contact Argos by email at argos@littlefloweryoga.com

    We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. If you are interested in purchasing any of the resources mentioned above, you can help support free programs like Mindful Mondays by navigating to them through the included links. Thank you for your support!

    Read More

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Little Flower Yoga is based in New York and provides classes in all five boroughs of New York City and Westchester County.

Tel: (212) 634-7890
Email: info@littlefloweryoga.com