Sharing an Attitude for Gratitude
We believe that strong leaders project an overarching attitude for gratitude and share it with those around them. For some, this idea seems a little too touchy-feely, but for others, projecting gratitude is something they strive for in their interactions throughout the day. Whichever camp you’re in at the moment, we want to focus on the why and how of bringing gratitude into your life, classroom and school. We are constantly looking for ways to teach, inspire and allow educators to implement concepts into their busy days without having to disrupt everything to do it.
We asked Tracey Saia, an Art Psychotherapist in New Jersey with over 18 years of experience working with child, adolescent, and adult populations to give us a little intel on the topic. She has written a quick piece about how important gratitude is and how you can bring it into your classroom more consciously.
Gratitude is not what we learned as kids.
Gratitude seems to be one of those resurrected, soup de dour topics included in the list of things we should all be embracing in order to be happier, healthier, more productive human beings. We all know what gratitude is – saying ‘thank you,’ and ‘appreciating what you have.’ Most times our gratitude is on automatic pilot. We heard over and over again, “be thankful for what you have!” But what does that mean to your students? Do they know the lessons and meaning of gratitude? Saying thank you for most students is an afterthought. What psychologists are talking about today is the practice of gratitude. This practice is designed to enhance one’s happiness and social connectivity. According to a 2017 Positive Psychology article, gratitude is not just an action, it’s a positive emotion. That’s different than what we were taught when we were younger.
Understanding gratitude as an emotion can change the way we use and embrace the concept. The action of gratitude can be ritualized and practiced to elicit greater happiness and improve relationships. In a study by Dr. Robert Emmons of UC Davis, it was concluded that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent. More research shows that gratitude is part of the psychological foundation that prompts us to “give back” in many ways. When we allow gratitude to wash over us as both an action and an emotion we desire, we are more inspired to share these actions with those immediately around us. This is how gratitude inspires us to want to help others in society as a whole.
As teachers and educators, this is important for you to embrace as your classroom acts as its own mini society. Since gratitude is a key ingredient in the social rules of reciprocity, students will embrace a culture of “giving back” what they have received.
Small changes = Big impact
Start with yourself. It’s impossible to instill in others what we don’t do for ourselves. Take a few minutes each day to jot down 2-3 things you are grateful for. Don’t overthink it. Maybe there was less traffic on your way to work, or your partner made you coffee this morning. No matter how big or small, the power is that you acknowledge the simple, positive thing that happened to you. The practice of writing is key here. In order to make gratitude a part of your very being, you have to write it down.
Prioritize, share and repeat Depending on your students’ ages, you can incorporate gratitude into your classroom in many ways. You could bring it into circle time each morning. Middle and high school students could keep a gratitude section in their notebooks. You could create a gratitude board or keep a gratitude jar on your desk. You don’t have the be a psychology teacher to instill this value and its practice in your students. If gratitude is a priority for you, you can find 5-10 minutes to make this a daily ritual. This time will have lasting effects for you and your students.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Robert Emmons and his work, here is a link to a video that may be of interest.
About the author-
Tracey Saia is an Art Psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working with children, adolescents and adults. Tracey’s primary concentration had been serving theses populations in outpatient Domestic Violence programs. She is currently the Child and Adolescent Services Director got SAFE in Hunterdon. A non- profit agency serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Tracey also maintains a private practices where she sees varying populations with a variety of presenting issues.