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Create a Daily Practice of Gratitude

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many people choose to spend time this month being grateful for the good things in life. Gratitude is simply a feeling of thankful appreciation, a moral virtue, positive habit, or attitude.
 
Gratitude can be practiced in many ways. Reflecting on things you’re grateful for is a natural mood booster that can also enrich your relationships. Here are a few of the ways practicing gratitude can impact your life:
  1. Gratitude can give us a deeper sense of joy. Researcher BrenĂ© Brown has spent years studying vulnerability, shame, and a variety of other human emotions. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, she shared a quote from a Jesuit priest that says, “it’s not joy that makes us grateful, but gratitude that makes us joyful.” Her research found the data backed it up. Study participants who intentionally incorporated a practice of communicating their gratitude (through journaling, meditation, prayer, communicating appreciation, etc.), reported experiencing more joy. 
  2. Gratitude improves our overall health. In a nine-week study called “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens,” participants who kept a gratitude journal reported:
    • 16% fewer physical symptoms.
    • 19% more time spent exercising.
    • 10% less physical pain.
    • 8% more sleep.
    • 25% increased sleep quality.
  3. Gratitude nurtures new relationships. According to a 2014 study published in Emotion, thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek ongoing friendship. That could mean simply saying “thank you” when they hold the door open for you or sending a note to a coworker – a little gratitude goes a long way. 
  4. Gratitude improves empathy and reduces feelings of aggression. A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky revealed that study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when they were given negative feedback. They also showed more sensitivity toward others and less desire to seek revenge. 
At National Heritage Academies, our curriculum includes a different moral focus virtue each month. We believe that by emphasizing these core virtues in the classroom, they can have long-term results on our students’ overall character, kindness, and empathy.
 
This month, our students are talking about gratitude, discussing simple ways they can put it into practice. Here are some questions you can ask your child at home to continue nurturing this important dialogue:
  1. What does “gratitude” mean to you?
  2. When has someone said “thank you” to you and really meant it?
  3. How did that feel?
  4. When have you felt gratitude?
  5. I am grateful for ______. What are you grateful for?
  6. What are you learning in class about gratitude? 
Even pausing at the end of a busy day to share one sentence of gratitude can change the way you feel. Consider trying this simple practice for the month of November and see how it impacts your family.