Social isolation is a serious trend affecting today’s world. While high-speed internet connections give us the illusion of having more friends and acquaintances, statistical facts say otherwise. According to a recent poll, 72% of Americans experienced persistent feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is a precursor to clinical depression and can have adverse effects on physical and mental health.
Young people who are still developing social skills are at higher risk of falling victim to this condition. Compassion and gratitude are important psychological tools in the effort against social isolation. What are compassion and gratitude? How do they help in the formation of healthy and mutually beneficial relationships? What steps can parents take to cultivate these traits in their children?
Defining Compassion and Gratitude
Compassion is the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of another person. Compassion is similar to empathy. However, empathy is simply the emotional impulse. When someone feels compassion, they also feel the need to do whatever they can to alleviate the pain they see. Multiple scientific studies performed with infants and animals lead researchers to believe that compassion is an essential evolutionary trait. Without that drive, there would be little reason for group members to help each other overcome obstacles.
Gratitude is the experience of being thankful for something good. Psychologists define gratitude in two ways. In the most common usage, gratitude is an emotion. It’s something that’s felt when a gift is received, or trouble is avoided. However, gratitude is also an attitude. Grateful people are generally more pleasant and positive, which leads to wider social possibilities. The appropriate use of gratitude strengthens bonds, enhances self-esteem, and encourages contentment.
Cultivating Compassion and Gratitude
Sharpen your family’s compassion and gratitude skills by instituting a few changes in your daily life.
Make an effort to be grateful. During dinner, have each family member say something about their day for which they were grateful. Encourage young ones to keep a gratitude journal and write in it every day.
The best way to teach compassion is by showing it to your child. When they’re hurt, angry, or troubled, use active listening to help them sort through the problem. Once the issue is identified, work with them to develop a solution.
Model the behavior you would like to see. Show gratitude for the actions of others and participate in compassionate acts when your child is around. Talk with your child about what you are doing and why.
Volunteer as a family. Volunteering is a family-friendly activity that encourages the formation of community connections while allowing members to practice empathy, gratitude, and compassion.
Families that make gratitude and compassion part of their daily routines enjoy calmer homes, deeper relationships, and a richer social life. Boost your family’s immunity to social isolation with these simple tips.
Deana Cupo LCSW