The Amazing Effects of Gratitude and How to Practice it in the Classroom
This school year has been anything but easy. You’re working with students who have experienced serious impacts from the pandemic on top of all your normal teacher responsibilities.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in all of the stressors that accompany teaching right now. And your students can feel it, too.
But did you know there’s a simple way to combat this stress? The secret weapon - gratitude.
Let’s look at how small daily acts of gratitude can affect you and your students in a big way.
5 Benefits of Showing Gratitude
Fall is finally here. That means beautiful shades of orange, bright yellows, deep reds...and the holiday breaks are fast approaching!
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to start practicing daily habits of gratitude. And you can build community in your classroom by inviting your students to join in.
Here are 5 compelling reasons to start noticing and giving thanks regularly.
1. More Happiness - Feeling more happiness and giving gratitude go hand in hand. The more time you spend thinking about things you’re grateful for, the more positive emotions you’ll feel. The more positive emotions you feel, the happier you’ll be.
2. Improved Mental Health - Feeling down? Try implementing a daily gratitude practice. According to WebMD, verbally expressing or silently reflecting on gratitude decreases depression. And, regularly practicing gratitude can even prevent depression from coming on in the first place.¹
3. Rockin’ Relationships - It’s true...gratitude can improve relationships with those you care about. When we feel and express gratitude, it starts a chain reaction. It makes others want to return the kindness and boosts acts of support in a relationship.²
4. Upsurge in Optimism - As a teacher, you know how important optimism is. But some days, it seems out of reach. According to Psychology Today, gratitude is the antidote for toxic things that come into our lives. Simply put, gratitude fosters optimism, which strengthens hope.³
5. Longer, Sounder Sleep - Does your mind race at night with the neverending to-do list and stress about tomorrow? Try cultivating gratitude during the day. A study of 400 adults - 40% with sleep disorders - led by researchers at the University of Manchester found that those who practiced gratitude had more positive thoughts at bedtime. Because of this, they dozed off faster and slept deeper and longer.⁴
The great news is benefits like these can come easily by just shifting your thoughts toward the things you're thankful for each day. And this can be contagious when implemented in your classroom. There is a wide world of possibilities when it comes to practicing gratitude in your classroom.
Before beginning any of the ideas below, make sure to share with your students what gratitude is and some of the amazing benefits associated with being grateful.
A Letter of Thanks
One great way to share in the practice of gratitude with your students is to write letters of thanks. We all have someone in our lives who has impacted or helped us in a significant way.
Take time to really flesh out how grateful you are to that person, then share it with them. Not only will you be feeling the effects of gratitude, you’ll also spread the joy to someone you care about.
Looking for an easy way to engage students in morning meetings or those first few moments of class? A gratitude jar is the answer.
This is a quick and easy way for students to settle in, get to work, and start class off on a positive note. When students arrive, they can grab a small slip of paper and jot down 1-3 things they’re grateful for. Their notes can be anonymous, or they can include their names. Then pass a jar around for students to put their papers in.
Periodically throughout class, you can pull slips of paper out and read what students have written. This also helps students stay engaged, adds a positive tone to class, and is a no-prep activity for you!
Gratitude journaling is similar to a gratitude jar, only more in-depth. This can be a 5-10 minute activity where you and your students take some time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for and record them in a journal.
After journaling, you can give students who want to share a chance to do so. This helps build classroom community, and you may begin finding gratitude in places you would never have looked before.
Once you begin to practice gratitude journaling on a regular basis, you and your students will find yourselves thinking about things throughout the day that you can include in your writing. This helps foster a mindset of looking for the good in your daily lives.
The Great Wall of Gratefulness
Visually displaying what you and your students are grateful for can be a powerful reminder. Creating a gratitude wall keeps gratitude at the forefront of your mind, and it gives students the chance to recognize their classmates and share what they value about each other.
So how does it work? Begin by choosing a location for your gratitude wall...this can be an actual wall, a cabinet space, a door, or anywhere that is easily accessible to students. Then, share the idea with your class, letting them know that when they complete work early or when you schedule a time, they’ll be able to add a sticky note to the gratitude wall.
The sticky notes on the wall can include things students are grateful for inside or outside of class. Plus, students can write why they are grateful for each other.
Begin Practicing Gratitude Today
Practicing gratitude has major positive effects on your well-being and happiness. Plus, it costs nothing to be grateful. Even when the teacher life seems overwhelming, taking the time to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for can make a difference in your overall mental health and that of your students.
As a teacher, you set the tone for your classroom. Let that tone be one of gratitude that will spread among your classroom community.
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