It has become routine for me to pause as I walk by the bulletin board in the Lower School devoted to “Attitude of Gratitude.” Being able to see wonderful expressions of gratitude helps remind me of the importance of our responsibility to teach skills beyond a strong academic foundation that include tools supporting essential skills necessary for self-care.
In the fall of 2007, School Psychology Forum ran an article written by Jeffrey J. Froh (Hofstra University), David N. Miller (University of Albany, State University of New York) and Stephanie Snyder (Hofstra University), “Gratitude in Children and Adolescents: Development, Assessment and School-based Intervention.” Some key points highlighted in the article include:
- Experiencing and expressing gratitude is a learned process, and requires inner reflection and introspection (Miller, 2006).
- Gratitude needs to be practiced and cultivated to positively affect and sustain one’s level of subjective well-being (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).
- The subjective well-being should be taken seriously by schools, as well as other institutions, concerned with promoting mental health and preparing children and youth for a satisfying life (Noddings, 2003).
- The promotion of gratitude is related to happiness and subjective well-being and enhanced prosocial behavior (Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Froh & Yurkewicz, 2007a; Tsang, 2006, 2007).
Currently a number of researchers remain committed to gathering information about the practice of gratitude and impact on health, well-being and focus. It has become increasingly clear that gratitude practices have important implications, especially in work associated with the study of prosocial behavior mindfulness practices.
In the book Teach Breathe Learn by Meena Srinivasan, the author sites research completed by Professor Bob Emmons at the University of California, Davis that “a regular gratitude practice can increase your happiness by 25 percent.” According to Dr. Emmons, researchers have found that “gratitude,” like other complex emotions, activates multiple brain regions associated with social concepts, emotional responses, logic and sensory processing. Feelings of gratitude also light up parts of our brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. Rewards feel good and we are more likely to practice activities that feel good. Practicing gratitude can make us feel good, which in return support other important aspects of our lives such as a sense of well-being, feeling focused, rested, happier and energetic. Other benefits can include greater resiliency, less emphasis on materialistic goals, more satisfaction with life, and stronger prosocial behavior. Additionally, gratitude practices can encourage the development of patience, humility and wisdom.
Easy ways to incorporate gratitude practice would be to spend a few minutes every day reflecting on what you are grateful for. It has been found to be helpful to write down or draw a picture of what you are thankful in a journal or letter. If you are feeling grateful you could even take a moment to jot something on a sticky note and keep it in a place, such as a jar to draw from at a later time when you might need to reflect on something positive.
I’ve included a few short videos you may enjoy:
The Science of Gratitude
Gratitude as a Learning Strategy
3 Grateful Activities