Have you ever considered the role of gratitude in building resilience?
In this School Behaviour Secrets episode, we uncover the connection between gratitude and resilience. Explore real-life examples and practical strategies for integrating gratitude into your classroom for stronger, more resilient students and a calmer learning environment.
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Show notes / transcription
Emma Shackleton 0:00
When you practice gratitude, that lowers down your stress chemicals, which means then that you feel calmer, and you're less hyper vigilant and you're less hyper alert because what we do when we slip into that fight or fight stage is we become hyper vigilant and we start scanning for more threats. In this situation, then gratitude is used to reduce that stress response, which means that we become less hyper vigilant, and we stop looking out so much for those threats.
Simon Currigan 0:30
Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another Essentials Episode of School Behaviour Secrets. In these mini essentials episodes, we share one important bite sized piece of information or a helpful strategy from a previous episode, which will develop your understanding of key concepts and enhance your classroom practice around SEMH and behaviour that will have an impact with the kids that you work with. In this Essentials Episode, we pick up the conversation I was having with my co host Emma Shackleton, where we were exploring how gratitude can impact on students long term goals, their resilience levels, and their stress system.
Emma Shackleton 1:49
So another aspect that we were going to focus on was people's ability to focus on long term goals. More resilient people tend to focus on the long term, and less resilient people tend to focus on short term wins, and if they don't achieve those short term wins, they're likely to give up quickly. So the people who've got the sticking power tend to be the ones who can suffer a little bit of uncomfortableness or difficult feelings now, because they know in the long run, that they're going to benefit. But those people who are less resilient, come up against a problem or feel a bit uncomfortable or feel some negativity and are more inclined to give up.
Simon Currigan 2:31
There's some evidence here to show that social emotions like gratitude, do focus us on our long term goal. So gratitude is social emotion, because normally you would express gratitude to someone else was something they have done for you. Now, there was a really interesting study again, on adults, which is a version of the marshmallow test. I don't know if anyone's familiar with that on 75 participants, and they were randomly assigned to one of three groups, the first group was asked to spend five minutes writing about an experience that made them feel grateful. The second group were asked to write about something that made them feel happy. And the third was just asked to diary their day. So we've got two different emotions here, we've got gratitude as socially facing emotion. And we've got happiness, which is something we just experienced in ourselves. At the end of that experience, they were then asked if they would like $54 now, or $80, in 30 days. And what happened next was really, really interesting, because the people who were neutral tended to take that smaller $54 straight away, they tended to think in the very short term, the people who were asked to write about being happy, which is a positive, optimistic emotion, also took the $54. If you were asked to think about gratitude, you were much more likely to take the $80, which meant you were happy to put up the discomfort of not having the money now in return for a future profit. So it seems that when we experience gratitude, when we think about things we're grateful for, it puts our focus on the long term, instead of focusing on short term goals, which is a form of resilience.
Emma Shackleton 4:06
So what you're saying is then that we're more likely to focus on long term goals. So it's almost as if we can see our future thanking us for the actions that we're taking right now.
Simon Currigan 4:18
That's right, we can see future Simon and Emmas waving at us being thankful for the things that we're doing now.
Emma Shackleton 4:23
The next aspect that we're going to talk about is the calming effect on our neurobiology of gratitude. Gratitude has been shown to calm down your biological stress system, and if you haven't listened to it yet, do go back to episode two, the fascinating interview with Stuart Shanker where he talks about the effects of stress on behaviour. When you practice gratitude that lowers down your stress chemicals, which means then that you feel calmer and you're less hyper vigilant and you're less hyper alert because what we do when we slip into that fight or fight stage is we become hypervigilant and we start scanning for more threats. In this situation, then gratitude is used to reduce that stress response, which means that we become less hyper vigilant and we stop looking out so much for those threats.
Simon Currigan 5:15
There was a great experiment that proved this. It's one of the cruelest social science tests in existence. It's called the Tria social stress test. So what they do is they put people in front of a situation that they dread that's very, very common for people to have a phobia about public speaking. So what they do is they get some volunteers to come in, and they give them just a few minutes to prepare a speech and then they have to go out and deliver this speech to a panel of judges. Now, here's the cruel part. They told the judges to be absolutely impassive while they were listening, to give no feedback, not to smile, not to nod, be completely stony faced. So these poor people had no time to prepare had to go out and deliver this speech to an audience who gave them absolutely no reaction whatsoever. The Tria test has been shown that it amps up stress hormones, it increases people's anxiety, it increases people's negative feelings. Researchers have used the Tria test to test whether gratitude has an impact on our ability to regulate all those kinds of stress, chemicals, all those anxieties that would be related with being in that experience. So they took in a group of people, and they looked at the people who said they had a habit of expressing daily gratitude, and compared their blood pressure and their stress chemicals to the rest of the group. And what they found was throughout the experiment, throughout the stress test, they had lower blood pressure. And this is going to lead to less wear and tear on their cardiovascular system, their heart and their lungs. It's also been shown that having gratitude literally decrease the stress chemicals going through their body.
Emma Shackleton 6:52
So what we're actually saying here is that gratitude can help people to feel calmer, and calm people are generally more resilient and more able to cope with failure. And just as a side note, I have practiced gratitude over the years, I have tried to do this. And I think it can be helpful to have a cue time when you do it. So maybe just before you go to bed, have a little look back on the day and think about what's gone well, that day. What we tend to do as humans is get into bed and mull over all the things that have gone wrong or mistakes that we might have made. So this is a great way to combat that. In schools, I've seen some lovely activities involving gratitude with the children. One classroom I saw had a little gratitude jar and slips of paper. And each time a child felt grateful for something or expressed gratitude, they would just pop down on that little slip of paper what it was that they were grateful for and that went into the jar. And then periodically, the teacher just sat down with the class and pulled out of the jar slips of paper didn't say the children's names, it was all anonymous, but just drew attention to positives. So even when we are having a hard time, it can be very useful and beneficial to draw attention to the positives.
Simon Currigan 8:07
I think and what's lovely about having that jar or that journal as well is it gives you a bank of evidence you can look over and when things are bad, you can actually flip back and say actually, lots of small things have happened that I can be grateful for.
Emma Shackleton 8:19
So to conclude, we've discovered that evidence around gratitude is positive, but mostly the effects with adults have been studied.
Simon Currigan 8:28
More research needs to be done on its effect on children to see if children respond the same way as adults do.
Emma Shackleton 8:34
Anecdotally people tell us the results are positive. And we know many counselors already recommend the use of gratitude diaries with children of school age.
Simon Currigan 8:45
And that's all we've got time for on this week's Essentials Episode. If you'd like to know more about the pros and cons of using gratitude and gratitude diaries to help children develop resilience and stick to long term goals, then head back to episode nine for the full conversation. I'll put a direct link in the show notes. If you've enjoyed listening today. Please remember to rate and review us. It takes just 30 seconds and when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend School Behavior Secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got your podcast app open, Do please remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another thing. Thanks for listening and I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)