A new friend, a delicious meal, a warm place to sleep. No matter what struggles we’re facing in life, there are always things to be grateful for.
This month, the youth in our shelter programs are focusing on appreciating the good things in their lives. We’ve posted “gratitude trees,” where they can write down the things they’re grateful for and add them to the trees as leaves. Over the course of the month, the trees will sprout dozens of leaves as a reminder of all the things the youth have to be grateful for.
“It’s easy to focus on the negative,” said Molly McInerny, Resilience House Manager. “We want them to be able to recognize that, if you try, you can always find something good.”
At The Bridge, we take a strengths-based approach to our work. That means that our staff focuses on the strengths that a youth has – like a great relationship with a family member, great social skills, or strong internal motivation – and builds from that to help them achieve their goals. Gratitude is a great way to help them recognize those strengths. In fact, gratitude has been proven to improve empathy, self-esteem, and both mental and physical health.
“Our young people face so much adversity and trauma, and focusing on gratitude is a way to promote healthy well-being, inner peace, and happiness,” said Rachel Hatch, Supportive Housing Manager.
Rachel ran a gratitude project at another nonprofit two decades ago. Even today, former clients get in touch with her to express that they still use their gratitude journals when they need to feel centered and appreciative. The gratitude they’re practicing now can become a habit and a tool for our youth to turn to whenever they’re struggling, even decades from now.
We’ll also be hosting a Gratitude Feast about a week before Thanksgiving, where the youth can enjoy a great meal and reflect on the things they appreciate.
Of course, gratitude doesn’t end in November. We like to incorporate moments of gratitude into our programs year-round, and have gratitude journals available to the youth.
“Our youth are so impressive and resilient, and helping them recognize the good things they have going for them is one way of encouraging them to reach for bigger and better things,” Molly said.
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