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Gratitude - April 2024

Updated: Jun 3

"Rest and be thankful" - William Wordsworth


As we break from the demands of school life, and the days get lighter, the air warmer and the nature around us more vibrant, we may experience feelings of gratitude fleeting in and out of our minds and hearts. However, gratitude can be much more than a fleeting experience which happens to us; indeed, in various cultures and religions around the world, it is deeply rooted in traditional and disciplined spiritual practice.


During the religious festivals of Easter, Eid al-Fitr and Passover taking place this month, millions of people will dedicate time to honour the blessings bestowed on them, enjoying grateful hearts, calm minds and renewed bodily appreciation. Similar practices occur in the Sikh celebration of the spring harvest, Vaisakhi, and the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, as well as the American day of Thanksgiving and the Buddhist Makha Bucha Day devoted to appreciation of “The Three Jewels”: the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community). With so many different individuals and communities finding value in practicing gratitude, there must indeed be something profound and transformative within it, right?


"The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see” – Mary Davis (Special Olympics CEO)


Beyond its spiritual and philosophical roots, gratitude has garnered attention from modern science for its myriad psychological and physiological benefits. Numerous studies have highlighted the positive impact of gratitude practices on mental health, relationships, and overall wellbeing. The combination of this research empirically demonstrates the positive effect of regular gratitude practice on not only mental wellbeing but also physical health, including better sleep quality, reduced inflammation, and strengthened immune function.


In his 2018 book, ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’, medical doctor Rangan Chatterjee highlights 3 such studies, linking them to heightened life satisfaction and reduced levels of both mental and physical stress. Like many of the scientists, psychologists and doctors in the field, Dr Chatterjee recommends keeping a gratitude journal and in his book ‘The Stress Solution’ suggests acknowledging a Person, Pleasure and Promise, the Three Ps, as a quick and easy framework for doing so. You can also hear him talking about the practice of journalling more generally on his podcast, Feel Better, Live More


I am reminded of a recent walk with my 11-year-old son when we came across this fallen tree. Toby noticed that even though the tree had been completely uprooted, it had seemingly later sprung three new trunks and started to grow upwards again, from its side. He added, “There’s a story in there for your coaching! Take a photo and write about it in one of your blogs.” Well, here you go, son.



When difficult and upsetting events occur around us, there is always a choice in how we respond once the immediate emotional reaction has cleared. I have written previously about the negativity bias in the human brain and ways to reframe this. It isn't always easy, but it is always possible.


"When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself." – Tecumseh (Native American Chief)


Coaching is a powerful approach to help individuals focus on the strengths, connections, opportunities and other blessings that already exist for them, instead of focusing on what is lacking. As a coach, we may ask:


  • Who has supported you through this?

  • What has brought a smile to your face through this?

  • What are you looking forward to being different about this?

“Having a space held for you which is dedicated to you to enhance your ability to reflect and to problem solve is gold dust. The opportunity to have support in processing, clarifying, and contextualising your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a way that you can make sense of them and respond to them is beyond empowering.” – Leadership Edge participant, Patrick Cozier, Headteacher, Highgate Wood School.

As we know, gratitude is not limited to private thinking or 1:1 conversations and can be very powerful when practiced as a team. We started our recent Leadership Edge Associates’ meeting by sharing short, anonymised examples from our coaching work this term which have given us joy and fulfilment. Sharing these stories and moments compounded our individual experiences into gratitude for the collective efforts being made by our colleagues. Why not give it a try in your next team meeting?


In the meantime, enjoy your Spring break, rest and be thankful. Then as we return to the business of school life later this month, let us remember to count our blessings and draw upon the timeless and boundless wisdom of actively practicing gratitude.


Warmest wishes



 

Leadership Edge is a growing team of experienced school leaders who have seen person-centred coaching create high-performing, happy and healthy cultures within our schools. Our mission is to empower other school leaders to create positive workplaces where staff are solution-focused and actively responsible for their own personal wellbeing and professional development.


Our 3-Tier Coaching Accreditation Programme is low-cost and self-sustaining, providing a systematic and structured model for staff across your school to become powerful coaches for each other, enhancing colleague relationships and their feeling of being valued as an individual within a supportive school community.


Connect with us: Twitter/X @EdgeSchools | LinkedIn: Leadership Edge – Coaching in Schools




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