According to Cicero, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others." It seems that science is proving Cicero right!
Whilst many positive emotions and factors are important to well-being, there is evidence that gratitude may be uniquely important (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). Numerous studies support the value of practising gratitude, living gratefully, and counting our blessings (Boehm and Lyubomirsky, 2009).
Being grateful is seen as one way to raise our overall level of well-being and boost optimism even in the face of trouble and stress. Feeling grateful also broadens positive learning which in turn builds optimism. It allows people to see the good in their lives by focusing on positive events. Gratitude also decreases envy, anger, and greed (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).
Three good things is an exercise used to increase positivity (Seligman et al., 2005). Students are asked to write down three good things that happened to them each day - these do not have to be dramatic, just something positive. Students are also asked to reflect on why they went well, what it means to them and how they can ensure that the good thing will happen again in the future.
You can encourage children to write these three good things in a Happiness Diary and ask them to continue to do this on a regular basis. Essentially this exercise works by retraining their attention to the good things in life - simple things that happen in the here and now. Here are some examples from pupils:
Why not try this yourself - no matter how bad the day has been, try to document three good things that have happened. See what happens to your mood.
Here are some other strategies for increasing positive emotion with your students using the idea of gratitude:
Boehm, J. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). The promise of sustainable happiness. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84,377-389.
Froh, J. J., & Bono, G. (2010). The gratitude of youth. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Positive psychology: Exploring the best in people. Westport, CT:Greenwood.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K., & Schkade, D. (2005). Perusing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111 -131.
Reivich, K. J., Seligman, M. E. P., & McBride, S. (2011). Master resilience training in the U.S. Army. American Psychologist (66), 1, 25-34.
Seligman, M. E. P, Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60 (5), 410-421.