We are taught from a young age not to be ungrateful, it is definitely seen as a negative trait and typically parents instill behaviours in us like using our P's & Q's and writing thank you letters to relatives at birthdays or Christmas. So expressing gratitude is not a new concept, but what is relatively new is the research that has highlighted the huge benefits that the person being grateful can experience. The evidence ranges from increased happiness, life satisfaction, improved immune system activity to strengthening relationships. In addition and one that as teachers we may be interested to know about, is Chang (2011) found that teachers engaging in gratitude interventions experienced greater satisfaction in the job and less emotional exhaustion.
With benefits so wide ranging, considering spending more time focusing on gratitude could well be worth it. Psychologists suggest that it is not only the expressing gratitude that is important (Emmons, 2010). It is also the process of acknowledging that there are good, positive things in your life to be grateful for, even on the worst days. This means that you can benefit from a gratitude exercise even if you are not attributing your gratefulness to a specific person, or do not feel ready to share it with them.
I’m sure many of you have come across all sort of gratitude interventions and I have written about the 3 Good Things exercise in a previous blog, but today when you read this, consider writing a letter. A real one, if you like! I’m old enough to believe there’s still something very special about a handwritten letter. But it doesn’t have to be, research has actually been done with sending a gratitude text! And found positive results.
But I challenge you today to write a letter to someone and express gratitude for something they have done for you or do for you. Address it to them, write it with heartfelt gratitude. This one is not a thank you letter you have to send to your aunt who sent you that knitted jumper you hate! This letter is on your terms, for your reasons.
You don’t have to send it
As already mentioned one aspect to the benefits of gratefulness is recognising in yourself all the good and positive things that you receive in your life. So, if you do not feel you can send the letter to the person, it is still worth writing.
If you choose to send it, that’s great, perhaps it will also bring some happiness and satisfaction to the recipient. But, either way, write it.
I hope you enjoy the process
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Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.