Let your teens experience the power of gratitude through this experiment. Teens will see how expressing gratitude to others can bring up powerful emotions and feelings of happiness.
Based on The Science of Happiness (video) - a very moving and emotionally-empowering clip on the power of expressing gratitude:
Try doing the actual experiment from the video with your teens:
Tell teen to sit and think about one person they are grateful to have in their life. They should then write down on a piece of paper everything they are grateful for about this person, writing as if they are taking to the person live.
After 10 minutes, ask them to take out their cell phones and call the person that they wrote about, and actually read to them the note.
It might take some cajoling and prodding, but once a couple kids get over the uncomfortable feeling of being openly vulnerable and call - the rest will follow! (You can share with them the Ted talk about vulnerability which says that being vulnerable is the secret to having meaningful relationships.)
It was one of the most moving experiences I have had in a JSU, as kids were actively opening up and emotionally expressing their gratitude towards someone that they had never expressed before... To give you some perspective of how powerful it was: A girl ran up to me after the club visibly emotional... I asked what was wrong and she told me the following: "I was having the worst day today due to a math test which I flunked - but then we did this exercise in JSU, I wrote a whole thing about my friend and how grateful I am for her in my life. Right after the club, I saw her and read to her what I wrote... the reason I'm so emotional is because I'm so incredibly happy right now and my day has been totally flipped upside down from sadness to pure happiness!")
This is the power of Hakaros Hatov - of course we want to be nice and make someone else feel happy, but it also works to make yourself happy, too!
For a related article, see: Neuroscience reveals 4 rituals that will make you happy