“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.” – Wayne Dyer
We begin by expressing our gratitude to the educators, parents, colleagues, and others who are readers of our three publications –this blog, the Message Board, and our newsletter.
We thank them for their strong commitment to the character development of children and youth, and for teaching them how to use the tools they need to be moral, ethical, and responsible human beings.
Gratitude is one of twenty-four character strengths. It is a “moral emotion” expressed in words and deeds. Gratitude is a behavior and experience that can and should be developed and made habitual. It has been said that gratitude “stimulates a sense of obligation.”
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, writes: “You literally cannot overplay the hand of gratitude; the grateful mind reaps massive benefits in every domain of life that has been examined so far. There are countless ways in which gratitude could pay off in the workplace [and in homes and schools].”
What do we know about programs and practices that foster an attitude of gratitude? Let’s start with the workplace.
In the business world it has been found that there is “a link between gratitude and resilience, the practice of building positive relationships, of working collaboratively with others, and regularly expressing gratitude, improves performance and contributes to positive emotions.”
A leadership consulting group noted that “taking time to reflect on your work can improve your performance. It’s critical to not just pause to reflect on your work, but also to practice gratitude. We see a potential link between gratitude and increased happiness and good health.”
In schools and classrooms, benefits to students who study and practice gratitude reveal some fascinating results.
Two of the first researchers to study gratitude among youth were Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono. They found “that teens who had high levels of gratitude when entering high school had less negative emotions and depression, and more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and happiness four years later when they were finishing high school. They also had more hope and a stronger sense of meaning in life.”
Gratitude instruction and programs “among middle school students can foster an increased sense of hope and trust in others and fuel a desire to give back to their community.”
Note this: “Youth who deliberately practice gratitude have higher GPA’s, experience more positive emotions, and exhibit feelings of connectedness, relationships, more hope, and better physical health.”
If you’re looking for a way to cultivate positive social and emotional skills in your classroom and school, help your students recognize and express gratitude to their classmates, to others in school, and to family, friends, and community.
Here are three excellent resources for helping teach and nurture gratitude in your school and classroom.
The first—check out the ideas described in the “Gratitude Works Program” sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists at www.nasponline.org.
A second resource, published by The Greater Good Science Center, is “Nurturing Gratitude from the Inside Out: 30 Activities for Grades K-8 “ in which the curriculum includes 30 activities for grades K–8.
For a third informative and useful resource, visit characterlab.org/gratitude for a 14-page booklet on the “Why & How,” and several instructional activities.
I suggest that you read “A white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, written by Summer Allen, Ph.D., titled The Science of Gratitude (2018). It makes a powerful case for WHY & HOW every school and every classroom should have programs that help all students develop and practice an attitude of gratitude.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
-William Arthur Ward
The test of all happiness is gratitude.-G.K. Chesterton
Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego