Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude
Quite possibly the most important value that we teach in our classes is the habit of practicing gratitude. Gratitude ties in with being present and the power of positivity. It can help you get out of a bad mood, reminds you to be kinder and appreciate others, and helps you put things into perspective. Practicing gratitude is a great habit to start when you are young!
I always teach my first lesson on gratitude by saying that gratitude is the OPPOSITE of complaining. We all complain sometimes, and that is ok. Part of being mindful is noticing your thoughts and feelings, and finding ways to help you deal with thoughts and feelings when they are unpleasant. I ask if anyone knows someone who complains a lot (they always do), and I ask if you think that someone who is complaining all the time feels very happy? Probably not.
I remind the students that it is totally normal to complain a little bit, but when you recognize that you are being too negative, then try to flip the switch. You should intentionally start thinking about all of the wonderful things in your life. Then, we take turns sharing all of the things we are grateful for. We actually take a few minutes to do this at the start of many of our classes to really reinforce this concept.
After the kids each have a turn sharing their list of things they are grateful for, we do a gratitude meditation. We close our eyes, sit very still, take deep breaths, and picture images of each of the things for which we are grateful for 1-2 minutes. I encourage students to spend just one minute each day doing this. It is a great tool for dealing with a bad day and in general can make you a happier person.
Once a year we make gratitude boxes! The students each get a little box that they decorate with stickers and markers. Then, they get 10-20 small pieces of paper, and on each piece, they write something in life that they are grateful for to put inside the box.
A lot of common responses include family, friends, sports, pizza, iPads, and school. As the kids listen to other students’ ideas, they discover more and more wonderful things in their own lives! The kids then go home and put their gratitude box in a special place so they always know where to find it. ☺
If ever you’re having a bad day, or just want to feel more joy, then pull out the box to remind you of all of the wonderful things in your life…and add more if you can think of any!!
Great Books About Gratitude
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