Seeing Visible Change Inside and Outside the Classroom
So … we know that gratitude is an important practice for both students and teachers. And that there are a lot of activities that can be incorporated in the classroom to implement this practice.
But without results, then what’s the point? Luckily, implementing gratitude activities in the classroom presents visible change in a variety of ways.
Research Shows: Gratitude Improves Lives
It’s true! Practicing gratitude has real, visible results. Research by some big names in the field of gratitude and education proves it!
Robert Emmons, PhD, and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which some participants kept a gratitude journal and performed other gratitude activities—while the other participants did not. They then compared several variables between the two groups.
Their findings were amazing!
Emmons and his team found that the participants who kept gratitude journals and used them weekly “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.”
These same results applied to students in the study, too. Young adults who performed a daily self-guided gratitude exercise showed higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy. And children who practiced “grateful thinking” exhibited more positive attitudes toward school and family.
What teacher wouldn’t like to see that kind of positive energy in the classroom?
Gratitude in Real Life
I’m a follower of author and psychologist Shawn Achor’s work in the science of happiness. And practicing gratitude is one of his cornerstones for injecting more happiness in your life.
“Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months,” Achor says.
Practicing gratitude is certainly a top priority for me (and one of my top 5 “happiness habits”). And it’s surprisingly easy to work it into my crazy, busy life!
Each night before I go to bed, I jot down 10 things I’m thankful for in my gratitude journal. I’ve been doing this every day for the last 10 years, and I’ve retrained my brain to more easily pick out the positives in my environment. My brain is programmed to be more optimistic—and the lens through which I view the world is so much rosier!
When I’m taking a run and I pick up the scent of fresh flowers, I give a mental “thank you” to Mother Nature. When I see my son smile, I take a moment to appreciate that he has joy in his life. And when my husband changes the toilet paper roll … hoo boy, you can bet I say a great big THANK YOU for that little miracle!
And all of these little things usually end up in my gratitude journal. By putting pen to paper and recording these events, I’m able to stay in a state of thankfulness for all that is good in my life!
Bring Gratitude to the Classroom
Gratitude is a practice. And like any practice, it can be taught. We owe it to our students to start training them in this very important life skill.
The time is now to start cultivating a gratitude practice in your classroom and experiencing the positive impact it can have.
Where to begin?
- Start simple: Take 90 seconds at the beginning of the school day or period and devote it to hearing what your students are thankful for. Go around the room, give each student a chance to briefly contribute. When I did this in my classroom, it set the tone for the day in a most wonderful way. My students’ brains were set to positive—and ready to learn!
- Do a gratitude journal activity. Let students bring in notebooks that they can personalize, decorate, and make their own. Then assign them the task of writing down three things every day that they are thankful for. Occasionally, partner the students up to share their gratitudes one on one.
- Add a “gratitude box” to the classroom. Throughout the school day, students can write down little gratitudes and drop them in the box. At the end of the day or week, select five offerings from the box to share aloud with the class. Your students get to experience not just the things they’re thankful for—they get to hear what their classmates appreciate, too!
Gratitude is powerful. It has the potential to improve a person’s emotional and physical well-being—to improve every aspect of one’s life. And that is exactly why teaching our students to practice gratitude is so important:
We don’t just want them to be good at school. We want them to be good at life!