Gratitude Supports Happiness

Gratitude is an emotion that signals our recognition of the things others have done for us. Interestingly, we generally don’t feel gratitude when things are done through exchange, effort or achievement, but when they are unexpected or undeserved acts of kindness. When we feel thankful, we show our appreciation and return kindness to others.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the US, and a well-deserved break for educators, teachers may be spending time in their classrooms appreciating each other and cultivating a culture of gratitude. If you need ideas, check out these lessons for tweens and teens or these 30 activities for K-8 students. While gratitude is built into the Thanksgiving season, you can and should practice gratitude in your classroom all year long.

Over the past decade, research has shown that practicing gratitude has great social, physical and psychological benefits; increased happiness and life satisfaction, stronger immune systems or reduced anxiety and depression are just a few examples of how practicing gratitude can improve our lives.

We can feel happier, be healthier and stay more connected to others by making gratitude part of our lives. 

Gratitude has three dimensions:

  • Gratitude begins with an increased awareness of our own experiences, by looking within and paying attention to the small moments. As we become more mindful, we realize that we have choices when it comes to our emotions, thoughts and the way we perceive our surroundings.

  • Gratitude is the expression of appreciation, when we become active by doing something to show we are thankful. According to Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, this social dimension is especially important because “it is a relationship-strengthening emotion.” It brings us closer to others and builds strong connections that fuel our ability to move forward with more resilience.

  • Gratitude is an intentional appreciation of the self–who we are as individuals, our strengths and all the people who have contributed to who we are. In this post, I share strategies to help you cultivate a grateful mindset for self.

I want to take this opportunity to appreciate the team that made possible the publication of Pedagogía con corazón, the Spanish translation of Teaching with the HEART in Mind, and all my advanced readers. Getting this second book out into the world has challenged my perseverance, and I couldn’t have done it without all the love and support. It has been energizing to engage with educators in Spain, Mexico and Chile, and share my belief in a better educational model for our children, teachers and families. The work continues.

My deep appreciation also goes to you, my readers and SEL advocates. I am grateful for the many educators who are committed to improving their classrooms by leading and teaching with their HEARTs. It is not an easy task, but one that has meaningful and long-lasting impact on students, families and other educators. I see you and appreciate you.

Wishing you all a safe and restful Thanksgiving holiday.

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