It’s Thanksgiving in the US and the traditional start of the Holiday season. For me, it’s a time to intentionally reflect on gratitude for my family, friends, and my incredibly dear colleagues around the world who are engaged in such important work in spreading EQ and social emotional learning and living it in the process. I so value your courage and passion and friendship.
Researchers have shared the many benefits of gratitude: it helps people be happier, and healthier, and more resilient following adversity. They say gratitude is associated with increased self-worth, satisfaction with life, and connection with others. We know from our own experience, that cultivating gratitude is a practice that yields rich rewards. Not only does it allow us to appreciate the good in our lives, and our loved ones, it also allows us to heal from trauma and extreme stress.
In the US, we’ve been coping with the aftermath of events in Ferguson, MO, where an unarmed black youth was killed by a white police officer, who, this week, was not indicted by a grand jury. Many believe that this grand jury decision reveals the deep inequalities in our country between different racial groups. An important aspect of social emotional learning is to validate feelings, explore them, and allow for transformation into healing and positive action. The Association of Black Psychologists recommends that schools and communities find ways to help students explore what they are thinking and feeling as a result of the Ferguson tragedy. Helping students to express their feelings and, at the same time, recognize and express what they are grateful for may be a small step in the healing process.
Gratitude can’t just be polished off for the holidays. It would be great to develop a “gratitude in action” habit and practice it on a daily basis. Earlier today, I was reading a lovely post from Maurice Elias on teaching students about gratitude. Dr. Elias suggests that the greatest gift we can give our children is the “gift of gratitude.”
Gratitude to my friend, Cindy Handler, for sharing this photo she took at the Wisdom 2.0 conference last year. I love the different gratitude ideas expressed within this photo. We use it in our iSEL discussion groups.
What would you add to this gratitude wall?
Suggestions for parents wishing to instill a gratitude practice at home:
- model and encourage giving a gift of time or money or supplies to a cause that is important to your kids
- help children to identify local heroes in the community, such as firefighters, transportation and safety workers, first responders and military and appreciate them with personal thank you notes and gifts
- create opportunities for children to give the gift of “memory” by spending time with older members of the family or community
- use family meetings to express gratitude to each other on a regular basis
- encourage a regular practice of writing a gratitude journal and sharing with one or more family members regularly
Suggestions for teachers wishing to help students turn gratitude into action at school:
- find connections to gratitude and serving others in curriculum lessons and activities; use current events such as Ferguson to encourage discussions of difficult issues to find ways to come together and work towards peaceful solutions
- use class meetings as opportunities for demonstrating gratitude in action
- generate ideas for a class gift or service activity that will offer appreciation and gratitude to others
- explore the concept of not only being willing to do “for others” but also “with others,” working alongside students and adults who are different than they are; finding connections and collaborating together to make a difference to someone or something in the world
For my own “gratitude in action”–I’m looking forward to tomorrow, Thanksgiving, when I’ll be joining dozens of community members in walking dogs at our local shelter, and giving them the gift of a few hours of sunshine and fresh air.
Please share some things you’ll be doing in the days ahead to express gratitude and make a difference to others?