One of the things I’ve found most challenging when beginning my gratitude practice was just that - starting. How do I do it? What should it look like? Am I doing it properly? Why is it so difficult? It was enough to put me off beginning for a very long time.
The impacts of gratitude on wellbeing are well reported in the literature.
Sharing gratitude can build deeper relationships between colleagues, acting as a buffering mechanism towards the stress and other negative emotions such as guilt and frustration associated with teaching (Baxter et al., 2021; Bower & Carroll, 2017; Casely-Hayford et al., 2022; Chesak et al., 2019; Krieger et al., 2021; Milatz et al. 2015).
Specifically for us teachers, gratitude has huge potential to support wellbeing through:
- Decreased stress
- Increased resilience
- Enhanced outlook
- Enhanced positive perception
- Deeper connection with colleagues
So how do we go about doing it?
Well an important first step is considering your mindset. ‘Doing’ gratitude for the sake of it or because others tell you to is a problem. In order to get the best benefits from it and express your gratitude in a meaningful way, your actions need to align with your mindset. Being intrinsically motivated (gathering your motivation from enjoyment and satisfaction) is a solid start because it highlights that you’re doing this for the right reason. You’re not seeking a pat on the back from friends or looking to boost your social status, you’re motivated by self-improvement.
Also beginning your gratitude practice is not the end point.
It’s an ongoing journey that gets built upon. Here consistency is important. We want to integrate a grateful and thankful perspective into each moment, each day. You might choose to purposefully write or reflect about it once a week, but the mindset is with you always, becoming your normal.
Research shows that writing down what you’re thankful for is a particularly beneficial way to practise because it allows you to have a record.
On particularly tough days or when you find yourself in need of a boost, revisiting your gratitude from previous days can be a powerful perspective shifter and motivation booster. Flicking through pages of moments that have brought you joy can quickly pull you out from down in the dumps.
Well, where to next?
Open up your diary [or notes/calendar on your phone] now and write down three things that have brought you joy or made you smile today. Do it now.
Next, set a reminder for the same time each day.
This helps with consistency and habit building. When the alarm goes off, write down your gratitude. Some people find it easier to do this in the evenings, when the day has passed and events are fresh in their minds. Others prefer to do this in the morning, setting themselves up in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead.
During the day, search for the positives. Keep an eye out for moments that have made you smile. Take note of the little wins you have. Stop and be still when something captures your attention. Let your curiosity take hold for a moment.
Your gratitude practice will not now, or ever, be perfect.
What’s important is simply starting. As your habit builds, your mindset will strengthen and change. Start today.
Want to read more?
Baxter, L. P., Southall, A. E., & Gardner, F. (2021). Trialling critical reflection in education: the benefits for school leaders and teachers. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 22(4), 501-514. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2021.1927694
Bower, J. M,. & Carroll, A. (2017). Capturing real-time emotional states and triggers for teachers through the teacher wellbeing web-based application t*: A pilot study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 65, 183-191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.03.015
Casely-Hayford, J., Bjorklund, C., Bergstrom, G, Lindqvist, P., & Kwak, L. (2022). What makes teachers stay? A cross sectional exploration of the individual and contextual factors associated with teacher retention in Sweden. Teaching and Teacher Education, 113, 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2022.103664
Chesak, S, S., Khalsa, T. K., Bhagra, A., Jenkins, S. K., Bauer, B. A., & Sood, A. (2019). Stress management and resiliency training for public school teachers and staff: A novel intervention to enhance resilience and positively impact student interactions. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 37, 32-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.08.001
Krieger, M. A., Balint, S., & LaBelle, O. (2021). Predictors of physical and mental health in recovery: The role of state and trait gratitude, social contact and helping others. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-021-00644-6
Milatz, A., Luftenegger, M., & Schober, B. (2015). Teachers’ relationship closeness with students as a resource for teacher wellbeing: A response surface analytical approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01949