Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and joy we feel in response to something we receive, whether it is a gift of something we can hold in our hand or as simple as a smile. When we reflect upon the things we are grateful for, our thinking becomes calmer and immediately comfort and uplift the spirit. People who express gratitude regularly have more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion, and even have stronger immune systems. This practice helps to shift our mindset and promotes a more optimistic perspective. Students are learning about the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems of the body and how the sympathetic or "fight or flight" system of the body is reserved for high stress situations where you may be in immediate danger. Expressing gratitude helps children to tap into their parasympathetic system which calms the body, slows heart rate, and contracts the pupils combating the sympathetic system response.
In mindfulness class, students have been learning about gratefulness and how to incorporate this practice in their everyday lives. Beginning with morning meeting, students greet one another and weekly express positive feelings about their peers. Often, when students share in meeting we thank them for their thoughts and participation. At closing circle students reflect on their day and on occasion we express something we are grateful for that day. To intrinsically motivate students to continue to reflect on what they are grateful for we change up the routine or how we reveal what we are truly grateful for. Throughout the year we strive to create opportunities for children to appreciate each other, all they have, and the simple things life has to offer.