Remarkably, the average adult has over 60,000 separate thoughts on a daily basis, according to the National Science Foundation. More interesting, these may be the same thoughts as yesterday and tomorrow. Thus, many of us trudge through life thinking similar thoughts every day. Now, if we are satisfied with our lives, this is acceptable. However, if you want to change our lives and your classrooms, we need to make room for some change. Gratitude can help change some of those thoughts and lead to changing our lives, and in turn, the lives of your students.
How to Transform our Classrooms with Conscious Gratitude
Before introducing the practice of gratitude to our students, we should try creating our own gratitude lists or another gratitude activity to experience the process ourselves. Then, we will be able to model it more easily, persuasively and powerfully. We can also share how practicing gratitude changed our feelings and behavior.
As teachers and as parents, we know that we can teach, most effectively, behavior that we practice. As the saying goes, "Your actions speak so loud, I can't hear what you're saying." As we grow stronger with an attitude of gratitude and display it in our lives, it will be easier to share this virtue with our students and colleagues.
Interestingly, gratitude seems to work like a muscle and the physical action of writing a gratitude list helps develop "gratitude muscles." As stated in the last chapter, for those of us who are comfortable with technology, we may find that keeping a gratitude journal on your iPhone or our computers can be equally powerful and easier to keep current.
Practicing conscious gratitude gives us an opportunity to choose our attitude every day. The gratitude practice is more likely to take off in our classrooms as we became passionate about it. Subsequently, many students may become passionate about gratitude, reminding each other to choose their attitudes and truly make every day a great day. Before long, we may find that parents also notice the changes in their children and adopt gratitude into their lives, spreading the positive message.
The Research and Rewards of Gratitude
After a couple of weeks of implementing gratitude, we may then introduce the body of gratitude research to the students and their parents. This research supports the effectiveness of gratitude in the classroom. The scientific studies demonstrate the power of gratitude to help students and adults in numerous areas. This is extremely exciting as we watch this field of study grow and develop. We can all find hope here.
Recent compelling research by two leaders in the field of gratitude and education, Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California at Davis and Dr. Jeffrey Froh from Hofstra University, strongly supports the idea that gratitude helps students and adults.
The research illustrates how keeping a gratitude journal on a daily basis helps students achieve the following:
• Higher grades and higher goals
• More satisfaction with relationships, life, and school
• Less materialism
• More helpful, generous and compassionate behavior
• More resilience when stressed
• More joy and pleasure
• Feel less lonely and isolated.
For adults, keeping a gratitude journal enables people to:
• Be more optimistic and happy
• Experience more social satisfaction and be more outgoing
• Exercise more often
• Cultivate a stronger immune system
• Feel more forgiving
• Experience more joy and pleasure
• Have less envy and depression
• Have fewer physical complaints and sleep better.
The Gratitude Conference
In August 2015, I attended a "Transforming our Classrooms with Gratitude Conference" at the Greater Good Center for Science at U. C. Berkeley. This conference was truly astonishing in the way it showed the power and actual practicality of utilizing gratitude in the classroom. Twenty-five experts in Social-Emotional Learning (S. E. L.), along with twenty-five teachers explored the latest curriculum that is being tested throughout the country through the Youth Gratitude Project, generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
During the conference, we saw the latest gratitude research, presented by Dr. Giacomo Bono, a leader of this project. I was able to give a brief presentation about my experience with gratitude in the classroom and then participate in focus groups, as we worked to create new gratitude activities that could seamlessly work in our classrooms. The ones that seemed most easily applicable were the activities that aligned with current classroom exercises, like making writing a gratitude letter part of an English lesson or studying a historical figures use of gratitude in achieving their goals and helping humanity.
The use of gratitude in the classroom is expanding rapidly and the resources we will be able to share and utilize effectively will grow quickly. This is encouraging news to all of us who are trying to refine and improve our implementation of gratitude in our lives and in the field of education. Most importantly, as we are helping our students practice gratitude, we are reshaping the world.