That statistic comes from research across multiple cultures and countries, it isn’t just a western statistic observed when an entitled culture suddenly realises it has running water, jobs, schools and supermarkets.
Happiness researchers agree that gratitude is the quickest way to become happier – it beats winning Lotto and it’s free, no risk and fun to do.
Brains 31% More Productive
Did you know that happy brains are 31% more productive than unhappy, stressed or neutral brains?
Did you know that happiness releases dopamine and turns on the learning centres of the brain?
Did you know that happiness increases focus, attention and makes for more flexible thinking?
Shut your eyes for second and imagine your school with happier staff. Staff who smile at you in the lunch-room or who laugh more often than they complain.
Imagine calmer, more attentive students who are appreciative that you’re there to teach them.
Imagine a school where everyone is more tolerant, kinder, more helpful and much less stressed.
This is a Mere Glimpse
What you’ve just imagined is a mere glimpse into the potential of the power of gratitude when it gets loose in a community environment such as a school.
The benefits of gratitude practice are numerous, surprising and far reaching. Gratitude has benefits that all educators will love.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, Head of The Division of Biologic Psychology at Duke University Medical Center said, "If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system,"
Just a few of the indications Doraiswamy goes on to mention include lower blood sugar, increased immunity, influence on reproductive hormones and, of course, the release of feel-good hormones.
Stunned by the Changes in My Life
When I first began to practice gratitude I’d heard that it would make me happier and, in all likelihood, reduce the crippling depression I was battling with.
Both those things happened quite quickly, however those weren’t the only changes that I experienced, in fact I was stunned by how many there were.
Over time the benefits kept increasing along with my curiosity.
Why Didn’t Everyone Know?
If this was the outcome of one tiny practice why didn’t everyone know about it? Why wasn’t it the first ‘prescription’ given to you by every psychologist? Why wasn’t this taught in every school?
The big question I really ended up with was “Is what I experienced real? Would everyone have a similar experience if they practiced gratitude too?”
Off to Find Out
I spent the next few years researching gratitude and happiness. I travelled overseas to meet and interview world leaders in the fields of happiness research, gratitude research, psychology, neuroscience and even a few spiritual leaders.
Through this research I began to understand the science behind the positive effect that gratitude has on almost every area of life - from mental illness to relationships.
It also confirmed to me that anyone taking up the practice could expect similar outcomes to what I’d experienced.
Shout About It
I became so excited about all I’d learned that I began teaching about gratitude, and other helpful practices, I simply couldn’t keep this information to myself.
I wanted to run out into the street and shout about it.
My favourite place to teach about gratitude is in schools – to the staff - because teachers teach!
I hope that by exposing teachers to gratitude practice that we end up with a society where gratitude becomes the go-to practice prescribed by psychologists and that more families will come in contact with this life-changing skill. I hope that teachers will teach kids about gratitude as those kids will be more resilient because of it.
Here are three quick things every educator needs to know about gratitude.
More Engaged Thinking with Gratitude
Twenty years of research into gratitude and its pertinence to education by Tasmanian professor Kerry Howells has led her to the conclusion that gratitude practice results in significantly more engaged listening and increased retention of information.
Howells discovered that the words ‘thank’ and ‘think’ come from the same root word ‘thonc’.
“If we thank while we think, we think in a more engaged way.”
Prof Kerry Howells
Prof Howells recommends that educators start to allow students some time for internal preparation, such as reflecting on an aspect of the subject they could be grateful for, prior to learning and believes the research shows that this is time very well spent.
Gratitude is Calming
According to Prof Robert Emmons, who has researched gratitude for over 30 years, it only takes a month of gratitude practice to reduce the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. There are numerous studies that support his finding, showing, again and again, that gratitude is the perfect ‘de-stress’ medicine.
These days, as someone who has practiced gratitude for a long time, I can bring my stress level down from a 10 to a 2 in about a minute – simply by practicing gratitude. Even after years of practice I’m still stunned by how quickly and how effectively gratitude practice can change how I experience every day.
Gratitude Improves Relationships
We humans have a big need, a driving need and no, it’s not sex, or food, or even love. The need we have is to be recognised, valued, significant, and to truly matter to someone.
This need drives all sorts of behaviours from “Mummy, mummy, look at me.” to disruptive actions in the classroom and on to adults who just have to top the story you just told.
Gratitude gives us a powerful tool to meet that need in those around us which in turn creates bonding in the relationship.
Gratitude isn’t about making lists of all the nice things in your life – it’s most essentially an other-oriented practice where we become more aware of other people and appreciate them in new ways.
Gratitude practice is, at its heart, interactive mindfulness and the gift that this mindfulness gives us is increased concern for others and less focus on our own issues.
Additionally, research also clearly shows that gratitude practice grows kindness, tolerance, patience and empathy - which are, along with really noticing others, a great contributor to good relationships.
Even in a full day workshop I cannot begin to communicate all there is to know about gratitude – which isn’t surprising given the huge amount of research into gratitude that’s been done, and continues to be done.
These years of teaching about gratitude have confirmed to me, again and again, that this practice brings huge change in the lives of those who practice it.
If you’d like to improve your life, your workplace and your teaching seriously consider taking up a gratitude practice.
This may be the best advice you ever get.
To find out more about my entertaining and effective PD workshops please visit my website: www.tonipowell.me