Thanksgiving is a special time. As a child, I remember singing “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.” I remember pilgrim costumes and crafting turkeys by tracing my hand.
As I got older, I remember deeper lessons about history and social justice. I remember essays and poetry and singing “Tis a Gift to Be Simple”.
But mostly I remember someone asking me every year to pause for a moment and give thanks. English teachers, music teachers, social studies teachers. Art teachers, science teachers and math teachers all found engaging ways to incorporate a lesson about gratitude. And it stuck!
I really do choose to see the best in the world, and we know from research that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a powerful way to develop that mindset.
This is not just me talking. Forbes outlines 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Our own physical and psychological health can be improved, our relationships can be improved, and our mental strength can be improved. There are simple, tangible things we can do to improve our lives.
It isn’t always easy though. Life can be hard. In the midst of illness and grief, during times of fear and stress, gratitude is likely the farthest thing from your mind. But practicing daily or weekly gratitude rituals can ease your stress and cultivate a positive attitude.
“You can’t be grateful and unhappy in the same moment.” (Dan Baker, What Happy People Know)
I have included several links this week because many have written about the benefits of gratitude and outlined concrete steps you can take to be intentional about growing in this area… taking a gratitude walk is a great one.
This week I offer a challenge to all of you. Take some time to pause and reflect on the good things in your life. Write them down or make a mental list of them as you take a long walk in nature (with a warm coat). If you work with students, ask them to do the same. You have the opportunity to shape a mindset that just might stick with them for the rest of their lives!
For me, I am grateful for my family and my friends, for my life’s work, and for the opportunities that continue to present themselves on an almost daily basis. I am grateful to be alive, and make no mistake, that is no small thing.