This article includes FREE printables and resources for Educators.
Have you ever asked your students to share their stress levels with you?
If so, you probably discovered your students are STRESSED! They’re often stressed about school, stressed about their families, and stressed about world events they’re working to understand.
As an educator, you surely hate when your students are stressed, and you understand that stress impacts them negatively both at school and at home. But do you ever think about how the stress your students face actually runs the risk of negatively impacting your health as well?
In an effort to help your students and protect yourself, consider implementing a gratitude practice into your classroom.
Regular gratitude exercises are one of the best strategies for managing stress and helping students think more positively and experience more positive emotions.
Gratitude has been proven to increase wellbeing by improving mental and physical health, sleep quality, relationships, self-esteem, building empathy, and more.
Learn about the benefits of a gratitude practice in this video. Feel free to share it with your students too!
Expressing gratitude can have significant benefits on students’ overall well being. It can help students think more positively, experience more positive emotions, and even increase their physical health. Here’s the science behind these benefits of expressing gratitude:
• Regularly practicing and expressing gratitude can release the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which help reduce and regulate feelings of depression and anxiety. This means practicing gratitude can help students feel happier, calmer, and more focused.
• Expressing gratitude helps students shift away from negative or toxic emotions towards positive emotions.
• Practicing gratitude has long term effects that help students be more in tune with future feelings of gratitude. This means students start actively looking for things to be thankful for in their world.
• Brain research suggests people who regularly practice gratitude have increased activity in the hypothalamus, which helps control eating and sleeping patterns. So, practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on overall physical health in addition to mental health.
1. GRATITUDE GROWTH TREE:
Create and decorate a tree trunk from construction paper or another creative way. Have students fill out a Gratitude Growth Leaf. They can use this template to write what they are grateful for. Then, have students decorate their leaves and cut them out to decorate a class gratitude tree.
2. GRATITUDE STUDENT WALK:
Guide students on a nature walk outside. Encourage the students to be mindful of the nature around them. After the walk, use this worksheet to have the students list three things they are grateful for seeing during their walk and draw a picture.
For older students, instead of using the worksheet, have them journal about what they were grateful for seeing during their walk and reflect on why they were grateful.
3. GRATITUDE BREAK
Take a few minute break during class to guide students through this Gratitude Break. This activity can be done quickly, without taking up too much valuable class time, and can significantly help students relieve stress and shift to a more positive mindset.
4. GRATITUDE JOURNAL
A great way to further strengthen your students’ gratitude practice is through starting a gratitude journal. Starting a gratitude journal can help students become more intune with future feelings of gratitude, which means they may start actively looking for things to be thankful for in their world. But for many students, starting a gratitude journal and consistently writing in it can be a challenge. Providing prompts can help guide students’ practice. Consider giving these gratitude prompts to students...
5. MAKE IT COUNT
Guide students through this exercise to help them focus on the things they are grateful for. Tell students to sit up nice and straight. Students may close their eyes if they’d like, otherwise encourage them to bring their eyes to a low gaze. Then, have students take a few deep breaths, and count 10 things that you are grateful for. Students should extend one finger for each item. Once students are finished, both hands will be open and they may find themselves feeling a little more grateful. Use this visual to help coach students through this exercise!
1. FOR OLDER STUDENTS, GUIDE THEM THROUGH CREATING GRATITUDE JOURNALS
Set aside time for students to spend a few minutes journaling about the things for which they’re grateful. Give them prompts that specifically ask them about their feelings of gratitude. Have a consistent schedule so students know when each day, or week, they will be journaling. Expressing gratitude has a higher likelihood of becoming a habit when it is part of some sort of consistent, regular routine.
Remember, journaling can be done in both in-person or virtual classrooms. In an online classroom, you can post journal prompts for students or consider starting a gratitude discussion board. In either environment, try to give students an opportunity to share what they wrote to create a classroom that encourages giving thanks.
2. HAVE STUDENTS WRITE GRATITUDE LETTERS
This is especially great for students new to the practice of expressing gratitude. It can sometimes be difficult to identify all the things in one’s life to be grateful for, but expressing thanks and gratitude for what others have done for us, can feel a lot more manageable. Coach students through writing letters of gratitude and thanks, and assist them in sending those letters out, either through the mail or through personal delivery. Encourage students to be as specific as possible about what it is the person they are writing to did and why they are grateful. You could also simplify this and have students make post-it notes to express gratitude and post them somewhere they will be seen by the recipient.
HAVE YOUNGER STUDENTS WRITE GRATITUDE LETTERS OR DRAW GRATITUDE PICTURES
You can do gratitude letters with younger students, though depending on the age, you might need to provide a little more assistance. Have students draw a picture expressing their gratitude. They can draw a picture of a nice deed someone has done for them, and if they can write to explain the picture, great! Otherwise, you can have them dictate to you why they are grateful and write a quick note of thanks on their behalf.
4. CREATE GRATITUDE ARTWORK
All students, but younger students especially, tend to enjoy opportunities to express themselves through art and crafts. You can have students create construction paper flowers and write something they’re grateful for on each petal. Students can trace their hands and write something they are grateful for on each finger. You can cut green construction paper into the shape of leaves and have each student write down something they are grateful for on each leaf, and then compile the leaves into a classroom tree of gratitude. There’s a lot of different artistic ways to have students give thanks, and the great thing about all of these options is you can then display these expressions of gratitude around the classroom, creating a classroom community that values gratitude and each other. This practice can easily be adapted for virtual classrooms where students can share what they are grateful for and you can compile what students share into a word cloud or some other graphic that can be posted on a class website.
While establishing a new classroom routine can sometimes feel like a daunting task, incorporating a simple gratitude practice only needs to take a few minutes a day. In those few minutes, you can help your students manage their stress, improve their mindset, and find ways to start focusing on the positive. This regular gratitude practice can lead your students to higher academic scores, fewer behavior disruptions, and an overall healthier and happier classroom community! Be grateful, and create a great day!