By Alison Comeau
October means beautiful fall colours, crisp, cool mornings, and of course Thanksgiving here in Canada. And while Thanksgiving has recently come and gone, many of us are still basking in the glow of family, friends, and the spirit of gratitude in which we gathered.
Did you go around your dinner table and say what you were grateful for? My family did. We do it every year, in fact. But, what if instead of doing it just this once, every October, we did it daily? What if gratitude wasn’t just an emotion we tap into occasionally, but rather a practice we incorporate into our lives?
At Sacred Heart, our Elementary School students are doing just that through a new gratitude challenge we started in September. In this daily challenge, students stop, reflect, and note in their Gratitude Journals three things they are grateful for. This is an important ritual to instill in children and it’s an important part of our School’s mission. But we also know gratitude has many benefits.
Dr. Jody Carrington in her book Feeling Seen wrote that practising gratitude is “…the present-bringing reminder that often results in a slower breathing, a more focused clear mind, and a sense that there just might be something bigger at play in this whole universe deal.”
This is a gift to share with children, this sense of being connected to the world around them, one that ignites their senses and helps them feel more alive.
How wonderful is that?
Another of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, wrote in her important work, Atlas of the Heart, “Gratitude is an emotion that reflects our deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives, and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others.” What more could we want for ourselves and particularly our children? Imagine a world where everyone understands what they value, is connected to what brings them meaning, and is aware of themselves and others. Not only would we see more beauty around us, but there would be more beauty to see.
Today’s world is a heavy place — climate change, war and conflict, social upheaval. Our goal is not to ignore these challenges but to maintain hope that we can overcome them. While we navigate the ups and downs of life and try to help children make sense of what can sometimes seem so senseless, we can remind them that there is still so much good in the world to be thankful for. Small things, like the changing colours of the leaves, the smell of the sea air, or a friend to play with at recess. And big things, like the food they have to eat every day, the roof over their heads, and even the privilege of attending school. If we don’t take the time to stop and reflect on the many ways in which we are so blessed, we risk missing out on opportunities for joy, balance, and meaning.
So, as I challenge our students to practice conscious, daily gratitude, I invite you to do the same. I encourage you to find ways and opportunities to practice gratitude daily. Whether it be through prayer, a journal, a text to a friend, or a check-in with co-workers. Let us all lead by example for the children watching, and show them that gratitude is a simple yet powerful way to be alive in this world and to see its breathtaking beauty.