Studies have identified that students who practice gratitude during their teen years are more content with performance in school and they exhibit more positive behaviours such as kindness and social connection (Froh, Bono, Emmons, 2010). Using gratitude activities in the classroom has been associated with benefits to student mood, wellbeing and even a decrease in materialism (Polak & McCullough, 2006).
So could you use gratitude in the context of your own teaching?
This Gratitude exercise could be used with students (or adults) from late Primary School age onward during Tutor time, as part of PSHE or Religious Studies. Gratitude exercises such as this can also used when students are approaching periods of high levels of stress such as the exam season.
It is helpful to ensure students are settled and quiet before beginning this exercise. Short stilling exercises such as those encouraging students to focus on their own breathing are useful for this purpose and Mindfulness colouring exercises can also be used to this end.
In the classroom context, if students are not used to this type of exercise, some of them may find it unsettling. Therefore, it can be helpful for students to fold their arms on the desk and then lie their head on top when taking part on activities such as this. This strategy avoids students feeling vulnerable with their eyes closed and worrying that other students are looking at them! It is also helpful to assure students that this is a stilling and mindfulness exercise that should help them to feel more relaxed and is not a religious practice.
When reading the Gratitude meditation aloud, take the time to pause at the end of each phrase for a second or two. It is helpful to lower the tone of your voice and model a sense of calm for the students.
At the end of the exercise, give students a few minutes to stretch and talk about their experience during the exercise. Then the students can be encouraged to reflect on what they are grateful for in a variety of ways. Some suggested gratitude related activities are:
- Students make a list of 50 things they are grateful for.
- Students may like to draw a diagram or mind map of what they are grateful for in a variety of categories: relationships, experiences, facilities, things, places etc.
- Students may want to take the opportunity to write notes of gratitude to the people they are most grateful for.
- Decorate a gratitude rock that can be kept in pockets as a reminder to try and focus on gratitude.
Froh, J. J., Bono, G., & Emmons, R. A. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivationand Emotion, 34(2), 144–157.
Polak, E. L., & McCullough, M. E. (2006). Is gratitude an alternative to materialism? Journal of Happiness Studies,7(3), 343–360.