There is only one thing that can absolutely stop negativity, stress, overwhelm, insecurity, fear and disconnection dead in their tracks – gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful mindset choices we can make in our day-to-day lives.
That’s why cultivating a grateful heart as a teacher is one of the foundational habits of wholehearted teaching.
Three Components of Gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of appreciating and finding the beauty and blessing in the moment. Gratitude encompasses thankfulness, humility, and mindfulness all in one.
This is the emotion we obviously most associate with gratitude. But thankfulness is more than just saying “thank you”. It’s about truly feeling full of appreciation, awe, and wonder.
When you can wonder in amazement at a song or work of art – or truly cherish a bite of an amazing meal – or take the moment to fully appreciate the heart that a student put into an assignment – THAT is the wonder and awe of thankfulness – of gratitude.
Being thankful is so powerful because it is the opposite of scarcity. Scarcity – where nothing is ever enough – is completely overruled by a grateful heart.
Being thankful for what you have, the moment you are in, the people whom you are with, the students in front of you etc. means that those things are enough. Thankfulness turns what we have into enough.
Humility is the art of putting another above you – of appreciating someone or something above yourself. It is stepping out of center stage and putting something/someone into that spotlight in your life.
In order to truly be grateful, we have to be humble. We have to allow something else to take center stage in our consciousness, in our lives, and in our hearts. We have to be willing to step out of that center stage – our self-centeredness – to truly appreciate someone or something else.
Mindfulness is the third component of gratitude because when you are grateful, you are in the moment. You are fully aware of that thing/act/moment – you are noticing it – giving your full mind to the moment.
In the book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp, the author is challenged to write down one thousand things she is grateful for. In her absolutely captivating and artful prose, she describes a moment washing the dishes when she notices the sheen in the bubbles.
And over the soaking pots, the soap bubbles stack. This fragile tension arched in spheres of slick elastic sheets. Light impinges on slippery film. And I only notice because I’m looking for this and it’s the rays falling, reflecting off the outer surface of a bubble…off the rim of bubble’s inner skin…and where they meet, this interference of light, iridescence on the bubble’s arch, violet, magenta, blue-green, yellow-gold. Like the glimmer on raven wings, the angles, the hues, the brilliant fluid, light on the waves.” -Voskamp, 2010 (emphasis added by blog author)
A breathtaking, beautiful moment of gratitude like this is lost if you are not mindful and in the moment.
Thankfulness + Humility + Mindfulness = A Grateful Heart
These three disciplines of the heart comprise gratitude. Without all three, a grateful heart is incomplete. Cultivating a grateful heart is important, challenging, and takes practice.
Cultivating a grateful heart as a teacher:
Below are some examples of gratitude exercises that can help you practice cultivating a grateful heart:
A Gratitude Journal: Use a gratitude journal and at the end of each day (or throughout the day) add 5-10 entries of things you are grateful for.
Gratitude Partner: Each night, text or email your gratitude list to your gratitude partner as a form of accountability
Gratitude Ring: Put hole-punched notecards on a ring and write 3-4 things on a card each day.
Gratitude Apps: Yes there are even apps for that! Check out your app store on your smartphone to find one. OR just open a note on your phone and start recording things you are grateful for.
No matter what way works for you, just follow these simple “rules” for cultivating gratitude:
- Make it daily (this will begin a habit that will make gratitude more than just a once-a-day ritual but rather a habitual way of thinking and approaching the world)
- Be grateful at the end of your day (whether this is when you write you list or if you just review it before bed – the benefits are exponential when you are grateful before sleep)
The benefits of gratitude exercises like the ones I listed above have been studied:
According to a study by researchers from University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day – and why the events made them happy – lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.” (quoted from Thrive by Arianna Huffington)
The End Result
The amazing thing is what happens after you begin the habit of gratitude. A wonderful shift takes place where you begin seeing the world as joy – from the perspective of love and appreciation. The songs of crickets and the sight of stars become wonders. The near-miss traffic accident becomes a celebration of safety. The seemingly common acts of coincidence become evidence of the universe conspiring for your joy and success.
We miss so much when we aren’t looking.
When you retune your radio frequency to gratitude, you entire perspective is shifted. You are tuned in to joy, peace, and love.
Cultivating a grateful heart as a teacher is one of the foundational habits of wholehearted teaching because it serves as a powerful tool to bring you back to center and to give you perspective and joy in your day to day life.
More importantly, as teachers we model the power of a grateful heart for our students. Thankfulness, humility, and mindfulness – the three key components of gratitude – also help students to collaborate effectively, honor their fellow students, and deal with the stresses of being a student.
What a powerful lesson to teach!
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend
Photo credit: @p1nk_ink
Interested in the books I mentioned in this post?