I recently spoke with a principal who conducted a “gratitude challenge” in his school. Over a very short period of time, he wrote dozens of thank you notes to all the people who had a connection with his school-teachers, paraprofessionals, central office staff, PTO, etc. Then he hid those notes around the school. Students, upon finding one of his notes were then supposed to present it to the person to whom it was addressed.
So what happened? A positive human connection. Students had a positive human connection when they presented notes to the recipients. The adults receiving a note had a positive human connection with the student and the principal who wrote the note. Students and teachers began snapping photos and posting them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The school’s social network lit up like a Christmas tree. Only the Grinch could find any downside to that.
What struck me about this was its simplicity. In education and in life, I think we tend to make things complicated. Things that involve a 10-step process or require a host of prerequisite skills or activities seem to be the norm. “It has to be complicated in order for it to be worth something,” said the voice in my head pretty much all the time for the better part of the last two decades.
In this case, however, the principal spent a few minutes for a few days writing notes of gratitude and hundreds of students and adults had a positive experience. Moreover, without making large arm movements and leading with “this week we will be learning about gratitude,” it just happened. Students learned about gratitude. People felt good.
And here’s the clincher…gratitude is like money, yet despite how much you give or receive, it is completely free. There is actually research that proves that spending five minutes a day practicing gratitude can increase well-being by 10%. What is amazing is that this is the same effect as doubling your income! And, in the sphere of happiness, practicing gratitude positively affects our emotions, our health, our social and human connection and our career.
Let’s try practicing gratitude. Not just this week, but forever. Like the research suggests, even five minutes a day is enough.