Today (Monday, May 29th) America will celebrate Memorial Day. It is a day where people stop and remember all the individuals who have died for their country while serving in the armed forces. This is done by displaying the American flag, backyard barbecues or picnics, parades, etc. It is one of two major holidays on the American calendar that is expressly for the purpose of showing gratitude. The other major holiday is of course Thanksgiving which is known all over the world for its many traditions (turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, the story of the pilgrims, watching American football, etc.). The traditions of Thanksgiving and the outdoor activities of Memorial Day are fun but the key to these holidays, is that at their core, their purpose is to remind a nation to be grateful.
The interesting thing is how much this fits into our current discussion about resilience and developing it in our students. The power of gratitude has been proven in over 100 studies. Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude consistently in their lives experience more positive emotions, are more likely to accomplish personal goals, are more energetic, sleep better, have lower blood pressure, and live an average of seven to nine years longer. Wow! That is quite a list.
So how does this fit with being resilient? One of the key characteristics of resilient people is that in the face of setbacks, adversity, and tragedy, people who “bounce back” are those who can still see the positive in their situation. They are able to see what they still have, and it helps foster the optimism necessary during tough times. Simply put, people who practice gratitude are more resilient.
So how can we encourage gratitude in our lives? Here is a simple list of ideas (there are hundreds more on the Internet):
- At the dinner table, have each person name one thing they are grateful for.
- Start a gratitude journal where once a week you list the things you are grateful for.
- Increase the word “thank you” in your classroom, home, and daily life.
- Model having a thankful spirit around your house, and express gratitude to family members from time to time.
- Take 5 min a week to have your students tell each other what they are grateful for.
So as I sit writing this article, here are some of the things that pop into my head that I am grateful for:
- Dedicated staff who invest in the lives of our students every day.
- A beautiful school campus.
- The lovely island of Penang and all it has to offer.
- Dedicated and hard-working school board.
- Energetic and enthusiastic student body.
- A healthy family.
I am proud that I am from a country that has holidays that remind us to be grateful and thankful. That said, we need to develop in ourselves, our children, and our students the habit of gratitude and not just leave it to twice a year. Have a wonderful Memorial holiday and may we never forget.