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The Science of Gratitude

Thankyou!

It’s a simple word that everyone uses many times throughout the day towards many different people; to the person who holds the door open, to the worker who packs our groceries or the person who lets you cut into the traffic on a busy road during peak hour.

It gets used so often that sometimes the meaning of gratitude is lost and we aren’t really sure what we are truly grateful for. Gratitude is often spoken, but not to those people that need to hear it the most.

During the past term the year 8 Science classes have been focusing on chemical sciences. We looked into the chemicals, periodic table and chemical reactions. As the unit neared the end the teachers collectively decided that the classes would make bath bombs to be a fun way for them to take a chemical reaction home. As we began discussing the activity, the suggestion that bath bombs were usually given as presents became apparent, and, the idea of accompanying these with a letter of gratitude was born.

The lesson began with a Youtube clip about expressing gratitude and the effect that it can have on your own happiness. ‘The Science of Happiness’ is a brain child of Youtube channel SoulPancake and begins with a simple question ‘What makes you happy?’.

When you ask people what makes them happy most people could make a list of things including having fun, family, friends, money or delicious food but SoulPancake asks us to consider that the greatest contributing factor to our overall happiness is how much gratitude we show. Students seem to use their please and thankyou’s but the idea of expressing their gratitude for a person that has had an impact on their life or someone they are thankful for was something that many had not thought of. Who was it in their life that they were most grateful for?

For some students it was an easy task and a single person came to mind, for others they had too many people and found it hard to narrow it down to just one person, and for some, they really had to think about and find that person they were grateful for. One thing was certain, that all students had someone in their life that they were grateful for.

The activity was embraced by most students and even the teachers had a go at expressing their gratitude. It was a simple letter; it didn’t even need to be extensively researched or written, no one marked or assessed it. It was quite simply, a powerful intrinsic motivator for these students to take a step back and realize there is something to be grateful for.

Students needed to express onto paper the reasons they were grateful for this person, perhaps the words they would never say to them in person. I found myself personally enthralled to see these students express their gratitude, because, when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing. It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, its gratitude that brings us happiness.

There are so many different ways that gratefulness can be expressed; what went well, Project 365, you can even introduce the hashtag #thankfulthursday. It’s about taking the time to write a simple thankyou for those people, or things that we are really grateful for in our life.

Aldous Huxley once wrote “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted” and the teacher inside me can’t help but leave a little homework for you to try at home so your assignment is as follows: Today, just notice the things or people you take for granted.

Make a list and say “thankyou” for each of them.