I saw a funny meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “I’m not turning my clocks back this weekend because I can’t endure an extra hour of 2020.” I did chuckle a bit, as it has been a particularly rough year for many of us. I was also reminded, however, that this is exactly why we need to practice gratitude. I’m not talking about the material things — this is about the little, everyday stuff that we can sometimes take for granted.
One of my favorite parts of our curriculum is when we share entries from The Book of Awesome and The Book of Delights with our students. These authors both engaged in the practice of writing about the little things that are “awesome,” brought a smile to their face, or “delighted” them. In a moment of grumpiness last week, I was listening to these stories while planning a lesson for students and found that it completely shifted my mood. Stopping to notice the little things, can have a profound effect.
Gratitude pushes us to recognize and show appreciation for the best in ourselves and others, and to appreciate the little things around us every day. Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve immune function, lower blood pressure, increase sleep quality, and even boost mood and happiness*. By taking stock of the things in your life that are positive and focusing your energy on them, even when things around you might seem pretty bleak, you can strengthen your optimism. There is also a social component to the practice of gratitude, in that it strengthens bonds with others, which can be beneficial to morale in a team, family, or classroom.
One important thing to remember is that gratitude practices are meant to help you recall and focus on the positive aspects of your life. They are not meant to shame you for not always being able to do so. Being grateful doesn’t mean not feeling sad or overwhelmed because you have positive things in your life. Rather, it means allowing yourself a moment to experience and fully appreciate the things and individuals that bring you joy, regardless of your current emotional state.
We hope you’ll join us for our 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge. We have filled in a calendar with 30 ideas of things to be grateful for in November. You can print ours out, or print a blank one and write in something each day that is awesome, makes you smile or simply “delights” you.