I was recently drawn to an article which focused on the need to slow down, to pause and to allow ourselves to be awestruck through the simple task of noticing. It was suggested that with such acts comes a sense of both wonder and gratitude.
In an era where being busy is the norm, where busyness is almost worn as a badge of honour, where ‘more is better’ and where indulgence and entitlement are common topics of conversation, the need for cultivating gratitude seems to be a priority, not only for our own wellbeing, but particularly if we are going to support and enable our children and the communities to which they belong to also be ‘well’.
Gratitude has been extolled to be the ‘social glue’ that fortifies relationships, a virtue, an emotion, an action and is even being viewed as medicinal. What we also know is that gratitude is an incredibly powerful component of the human experience and when encouraged, supported and developed benefits both individuals and their communities.
The John Templeton Foundation – Greater Good Science Centre has undertaken a meta-analysis of research and outlined factors associated with gratitude, benefits of it and interventions that may support the development of gratitude. Amongst their reported findings are traits that act as barriers to gratitude, which unsurprisingly include envy, materialism, narcissism and cynicism. Further analysis of research outlined both the individual and social advantages of cultivating gratitude as habit. A summary of these are listed, which validates the benefits of helping our children slow down, providing contexts and reminders about being thankful, helping them learn to take time to notice things, to be awestruck and learn the skills of reflection and grace in order to develop an attitude of gratitude.
- Individual benefits associated with gratitude include better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, and decreased materialism
- Scientifically-designed practices to increase gratitude not only improve people’s health they also encourage them to adopt healthier lifestyles
- Grateful people are less likely to suffer from burn-out
- Keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ or writing a letter of gratitude can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood
- Grateful people are more resilient after traumatic events
- Gratitude leads to, it is suggested, the development of other virtues, including patience and humility
- Adolescents who are grateful have also been found to be more interested and satisfied with their school life
- Pro-social behaviours, such as being kind, helpful and generous. also result from an attitude of gratitude.
These provide just a few examples from the increasing repository of research into the benefits of gratitude. Last year, in the Primary School, we focused on two mantras – Work Hard and Be Kind. This year we have added – Show Gratitude. By doing so, our aim is to ensure we develop the attitudes, dispositions and skills needed for our children to…be well, do well and build their character to be one that serves themselves, others and their community well.
So, if you find you child/children (or even yourself or any family member) falling into patterns of thinking or behaviour that are perhaps more reflective of an attitude of entitlement, undertaking a few of the suggestions below may assist in moving further along the continuum towards developing both habits of head and heart which are marked by a deep sense of gratefulness.
- Write a letter expressing gratitude
- Start a daily gratitude journal
- Stop, look around and find ‘awe’ in something that may be taken for granted
- Acknowledge yourself for something that you have achieved and what lead to that
- Simply ask yourself, ‘what do I have to be grateful for in this moment?’
- Don’t forget to say “thank you” for everything others do for you
- Think about others who may not be as fortunate as you and then list those things you are grateful for.
Trudi Edwards | Head of Primary School