Strengthen Executive Functioning Through Gratitude

By Ms. Sandy Dhami, Skills Department

This month in CARE, students have been learning the importance of practicing gratitude by thinking about the people, places and things that they are thankful for. Research has shown that when children and adults engage in the practice of gratitude, it positively impacts their executive functioning skills, which are the cognitive processes that help us organize, manage time, pay attention and monitor our behaviours. 

Specifically, when children practice gratitude, their executive functioning skills improve. They feel happier and more optimistic. When practicing gratitude, the body releases dopamine, which increases the brain’s ability to pay attention, regulate and stay motivated (Nguyen & Gordon, 2020). Additionally, research shows that practicing gratitude or mindfulness activities assists children in developing their attention and focus skills (Diamond & Lee, 2011). In one research study (Nelson-Coffey & Coffey, 2023), it was found that parents who practice gratitude with their children improved their relationship in as little as one week, and the wellbeing of the family improved. This, in turn, has an overall positive effect on executive functioning (improves memory, focus, self-regulation).

Ways that you and your family can practice gratitude include: 

  • Talk about gratitude as a family. Even when you have had a bad day, what can you still be grateful for?
  • Model saying thank-you to others and remind others to say thank-you.
  • Have your child share something that they are grateful for every night before bedtime.
  • After school, ask your child what made them feel grateful at school today.
Thank you for reading!