Learning to express gratitude is a gateway to happiness and student success. That’s why this EduGuide student activity is so rewarding, you may want to try it yourself.
You can see an experiment illustrating this experience in this video:
This video used to contain a partially-bleeped curse word, but we’re happy to report that the word has now been removed, making the video appropriate for all audiences.
Use EduGuide’s printable handout and teacher’s guide:
With this activity, you’ll give your students an opportunity to take time out to be grateful, which can help them process and experience other positive emotions and, with further reinforcement, increase their ability to be successful.
The activity was researched by Dr. Martin Seligman, sometimes called the founding father of Positive Psychology — a field that refocused psychology from curing mental illnesses to promoting human flourishing. Seligman’s research on happiness demonstrated a strong link between expressions of gratitude and our level of contentedness in our day-to-day lives. He also demonstrated how these positive emotions contribute to students’ ability to be more motivated and less affected by depression.
In one experiment, Seligman and his colleagues compared different activities designed to cultivate happiness with people from all walks of life. Those who wrote and hand-delivered a letter of gratitude to someone who had been especially helpful in their lives showed the largest gains in happiness and reductions in depressive feelings. Importantly, the participants maintained these boosts a full month after completing the exercise.
You can also use the activity to help address common core writing objectives, identified in the teacher’s guide:
- Students will increase positive self-motivation and learn experientially that, by practicing gratitude, they can decrease the influence of negative events and emotions in their lives. The research of psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman has established a clear relationship between the practice of gratitude and increases in student optimism. Optimism helps shield students from depression and makes them more self-motivated to take on new learning and experiences, raising achievement.
- Students will be introduced to a social norm of gratitude by doing the activity as a group, which can contribute to long-term improvements in climate and culture. In one of Dr. Seligman’s studies, participants who completed and delivered the gratitude letter, showed the largest boosts – that is, they were much happier and less depressed – compared to those who had done other exercises. And these boosts were maintained even one month later.
- Students will address common core requirements for planning and writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience. They’ll accomplish this by practicing the art of letter writing, preparing them for writing cover letters for job applications, scholarships or other professional communications that differ from the email and texts to which they may be accustomed.
If you use the activity, we’d love to hear about how it goes. Please help us all by sharing your thoughts in the comments!