People who practise gratitude regularly:
When people carry out an exercise known as the ‘gratitude letter’, they report immediate and significant boosts to their levels of happiness that last up to one month (Seligman et al., 2005). In the exercise, they write to someone special in their lives to express appreciation for that person and then give them the letter.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that is felt after being the beneficiary of a gift. Gratitude is normally directed towards another person (the giver of the gift) and can often be felt towards a ‘higher power’ or something greater than oneself. It is often felt when a gift is not necessarily deserved, or comes as a surprise, and when there is no reciprocity expected in the giving of the gift.
It is important to note that we can express gratitude for ordinary, everyday things such as a beautiful sunrise, or our health, or the breakfast we are about to eat. When we practise appreciating the small things we normally take for granted, they can be viewed as ‘gifts’. Practising gratitude not only helps us feel happier, but it boosts our immune system and helps make us more generous towards others.
Show your class this clip from Action for Happiness (The Happiness Challenge – Part 2: Being grateful for the good things). It follows two people as they give gratitude letters to people they appreciate.
Ask your class:
Your class could then move on to writing their own gratitude letters using the supporting resource.
Once students have written their gratitude letters, the important next step is to post the letters or, even better, for them to give the letters to the recipients in person. When everyone has given their letter to someone they are grateful for, discuss the following questions.
Emmons, R. (2010) ‘Why gratitude is good’. Greater Good Magazine.
Adrian Bethune is author of Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom – A Practical Guide to Teaching Happiness (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the founder of www.teachappy.co.uk @AdrianBethune.