Attitude of Gratitude

By Edward F. DeRoche

For a variety of reasons, I have been reading about the “power” of engaging in the “habit” of expressing gratitude in what one says and what one does.  I thought that finding out more about gratitude would be an appropriate topic for this month since this is National Gratitude Month, and we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day.

“An attitude of gratitude means creating a conscious mindset and habit to be thankful, and express appreciation for every aspect of your life, both big and small.”

Interestingly, gratitude’s powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.  Practicing daily gratitude gives us a deeper connection to ourselves, to our family and friends, and to the world around us.

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].” 

Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress, and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing.  On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses, experience less depression, and have lower blood pressure.  They are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, have more satisfying personal and professional relationships, and are better liked. 

Studies have shown that people who experience gratitude have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness) and exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment).  The “gratitude experience” also contributes to feelings of connectedness, relationships, and better physical health.

Here’s is a quote that makes the case for teaching students the “why” and “how” of gratefulness in homes and schools: “Grateful kids are more likely to get A’s in school.” 

Amy L. Eva, Ph.D., the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center, writes that “you can’t teach gratitude practices in a vacuum—especially to teens….Teens tend to respond more positively to lessons and activities that help them understand themselves and connect with peers….” 

In her article, “How to Teach Gratitude to Tweens and Teens,” she cites a special curriculum that offers insights for authentically nurturing gratitude in students (Greater Good Science Center’s website). 

Dr. Eva writes that there are three key ways to teach gratitude to children and youth. 

  1. Exploring identity.  Identity development remains the central developmental task for adolescents, and this curriculum helps facilitate that by allowing students to explore their character strengths (e.g., traits like honesty, curiosity, perseverance, humility.) 
  1. Capitalizing on strengths.  A gratitude curriculum that builds on strengths is a wonderful counter to focusing on students’ perceived deficits. 
  1. Building positive relationships.  Once they know their strengths, students can leverage them to connect more deeply with others and to do good—in school and beyond. 

Two of the first researchers to study gratitude among youth were Jeffrey Froh (Hofstra University) and Giacomo Bono (CSU-Dominguez Hills).  They have worked with thousands of children and adolescents across the United States. In a recent study, 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.” 

Froh and Bono note that there are some specific practices that teachers can use in their classrooms.  Here are two examples:

  1. One practice is keeping a gratitude journal.  “We asked middle school students simply to list five things for which there were grateful daily for two weeks, and we compared these students to others who were writing about hassles in their life or basic daily life events….Most significantly, compared to the other students, gratitude journalers reported more satisfaction with their school experience immediately after the two-week period, a result that held up even three weeks later.” 
  2. Another practice is what they call the gratitude visit.  In this exercise they had students “write a letter to someone who had helped them but whom they’d never properly thanked; the students read their letter to him or her in person, then later discuss their experience with others who also completed a gratitude visit.” 

I’ll end this blog with three excellent resources for helping teach and nurture gratitude.  

  1. The first—check out the ideas described in the “Gratitude Works Program” sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists (
  1. A second excellent resource, offered 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. 
  1. For a third informative and useful resource, visit for a 14-page booklet on the “Why & How” and several instructional activities. 

My GRADITUTE to those of who read and share our blogs with others.

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director
Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching // University of San Diego
Website:  http:/
November 2022 BLOG

Check Your EKG

By Edward F. DeRoche, Ph.D.

An electrocardiogram — also called EKG—is a painless way to monitor your heart’s health.  An EKG can help measure heart rate, heart rhythm, and other cardiovascular factors giving you a clear picture of how you are doing.

The EKG I am talking about in this blog “monitors” your knowledge and teaching of Empathy, Kindness, Gratitude.  You will recall the research by Goleman and Ekman who found that there are three different ways teachers (and others) must address the teaching and learning of Empathy (add Kindness and Gratitude here).

  • The first stage of becoming empathetic is cognitive empathy – the act of knowing how another person feels.
  • The second stage is emotional empathy – the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.
  • The third stage is compassionate empathy – the combination of cognitive and emotional empathy to take action about what one feels and thinks.

Michele Borba, internationally known speaker and authority on teaching and parenting, lists reading literary fiction as one of nine habits that is essential to raising an empathetic child.  She emphasizes that “reading is not only a child’s key to academic and future economic success, it also makes kids kinder—but it is strong literary fiction such as Charlotte’s Web or To Kill a Mockingbird that causes kids to be more empathetic.” 

The K in EKG represents Kindness.  Kindness incorporates the virtues of respect, compassion, and gratitude.  By the way, all are learned (taught/practiced) behaviors.   

Several years ago I read a book authored by David R. Hamilton titled “Why Kindness Is Good for You” (Hay House, 2010).  A year later Hamilton published a blog in the HUFFPOST describing the 5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness.  He noted that:

1.Kindness makes us happier—often called “Helper’s High.”

2. Kindness gives us healthier hearts—acts of kindness often produce “oxytocin” which helps lower blood pressure.  

3. Kindness slows aging (enough said)

4. Kindness makes for better relationships; when we are kind to each other, we feel a connection, and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.

5. Kindness is contagious.  When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friendsto three degrees of separation. 

Many schools have created a “Kindness Curriculum” which includes “Kindness Projects.”  You and your colleagues should review CASEL’s evidence-based Kindness in the Classroom® a social emotional learning curriculum that now focuses on equity, teacher self-care, and digital citizenship.

Give your students and others in classrooms and school a ”pulse check” – are all the “players” contributing to developing an attitude of gratitude?  Why?  Because: 

  • Gratitude increases resilience and improves sleep   
  • Gratitude improves physical and psychological health   
  • Gratitude reduces aggression and strengthens relationships 
  • Gratitude teaches “students to be more cooperative, patient, and trusting.”

You need more evidence?

Researchers at Berkeley surveyed 400 students, ages 12-14, found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.”  Positive parent relationships were also associated with gratitude (and probably with many habits of the heart including empathy and kindness.) 

Other studies report that youth who deliberately practice gratitude have higher GPAs; experience more positive emotions, and, ultimately, go on to live more meaningful lives.  In addition, gratitude 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 (see empathy and kindness). 

Let me summarize this EKG blog by quoting Vicki Zakrzewski (Greater Good Magazine (2/02/2021).  She writes:   

Character education provides the ‘what’ – the opportunity to think about what virtues they would like to cultivate and what those virtues look like in action.  Students may be able to define and identify qualities such as honesty, gratitude, and integrity, (empathy and  kindness)s, but do they have the skills to put them into action?  In other words, how do we help kids to not only know the good, but to actually do the good?”


EMPATHY: Michele Borba, Unselfish: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, (Touchstone, 2017)

KINDNESS: Thomas Lickona, How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain, (Penguin, 2018)

GRATITUDE:  Robert A. Emmons, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, and The Little Book of Gratitude, (Jossey-Bass, 2013)

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D. Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
October 2022