Ten Ways Teachers Can Cultivate Gratitude

Author: Beth Runkle

Want to live longer with more happiness? Consider taking time each day to be thankful for something. November involves the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, which focuses on gratitude. But worldwide, everyone can still experience long-term benefits from practicing gratitude.

Psychological researchers Chida and Steptoe found happiness and positivity produced psychological well-being and a lower mortality rate. [ 1] Based on this research and other studies, there is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. The more one is thankful, the less time there is for negative thoughts. Although there are benefits for gratitude in all areas of our life, for teachers, there are many rewards you can see in the classroom.

  • Giving thanks reduces impatience and improves decision-making.
  • It helps us find more meaning in the teacher’s role.
  • Gratefulness makes us more optimistic about the classroom and teaching.
  • It reduces stress when dealing with negative behavior in students. 
  • Gratitude causes others (even students) to enjoy being around us.
  • It increases job satisfaction.
  • A thankful attitude improves our self-esteem.
  • It enhances organizational and motivating abilities.

When you are facing the demands of a full classroom, papers to grade, and lessons to prepare, it is important to engage in regular practices that help you feel more gratitude. Following are some ideas for cultivating gratitude:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a point to write down thoughts about the blessings of each day. Write at least three things each day that you are grateful for. These don’t need to be monumental things; they can just be as simple as, “Today, I’m thankful I have a classroom where I can teach.” There are several apps to help you keep a digital gratitude journal. A few recommendations are the Gratitude app, Presently app, Delightful app, and Grateful: a Gratitude Journal app.
  2. Write a thank you note. You’ll boost your own happiness and nurture the relationship by expressing your appreciation of that person. Send one gratitude note each month.
  3. Pray. People who are religious use prayer to cultivate gratitude by thanking the source of their faith for their blessings.
  4. Assume the best of other people. Reframe the way you look at co-workers, parents, and students.
  5. Take time to laugh. Laughing releases chemicals in your body that relax you and birth a more positive attitude. 
  6. Spend time in nature. Engage in the sights, smells, and sounds of your surroundings to help you feel relaxed and grateful.
  7. Thank strangers. While it’s easier to thank those we’re close to, try to reach out to people you may not know as well. 
  8. Share thanks at the dinner table. If you have a family, encourage your loved ones to each share one thing about each day for which they are thankful.
  9. Give back to society. Donate money, items, or time to a charity to help you appreciate your own blessing and give you perspective.
  10. Smile and be kind. How you behave affects everyone around you, not just yourself.

For more ideas on how gratitude benefits your mental and physical health, see “Is Gratitude the Answer?”

1 – Yoichi Chida and Andrew Steptoe, “Positive Psychological Well-Being and Mortality: A Quantitative Review of Prospective Observational Studies,” Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 70, no.7 (September 2008): 741-756.

Beth Runkle

Beth is experienced with transition and adjusting to change because she’s moved 14 times as her husband served in the military. Beth discovered the joy of writing when teaching her children to write as part of homeschooling. Her husband recently retired from the Air Force. Beth and her husband now serve as mentors for married couples at military bases in the western United States. She and her husband have two kids in college.

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