Making Gratitude a Habit

Traditionally, many of us use the New Year as an opportunity to make positive changes in our lives. While it is a wonderful idea to think of a New Year as a new you, according to a recent survey, 80% of our New Year’s resolutions sadly fail by the second week of February! Not very encouraging is it? Creating large bucket lists, or attempting extreme makeovers, whether personal or professional, is simply too difficult and generally not sustainable, despite the best of intentions. Essentially, shooting for the moon can be so daunting we end up failing to launch in the first place.

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, it has been suggested that we should simply attempt to change or add just one habit to create the most change in our lives. Most new habits are not activities, like going to the gym, but instead relate to creating new patterns for our thoughts. It was with this concept in mind that a few years ago I ditched the idea of resolutions and instead put my focus into making gratitude a regular habit. I started a gratitude jar, where I deposited small notes of things I was grateful for throughout the year. At the end of the year, I opened the jar and read all the things I had been grateful for and I noticed that most of the things I had deposited into the jar were not huge achievements or events. In fact, they were the small, daily things that so many of us take for granted. A kind word or deed from a friend or even a stranger, an awesome school assembly, a success for one of my children, a good night’s sleep and, even at times, gratitude that although life may not be perfect, it’s perfectly imperfect.

After personally going through a year of this gratitude practice and seeing the joy it brought to me, we decided to start the same thing here at the school. We are now entering Year 5 of our CGS Gratitude Jar. We have all learned so much from it. We quickly found that the best way to bring good into our lives was to be grateful for the good we already had. We also discovered that good things happen every single day. Yes, EVERY day! We realized that although every day isn’t necessarily a great day there are great things to be found in every day. We quickly understood and embraced the concept “We find what we look for”!

Practicing gratitude means different things to different people. To some, it is pausing to notice everything we have. To others, it is cherishing every waking moment and recognizing the preciousness of life. Some people see gratitude as finding peace in what we have and indeed in what we don’t have. Many feel that gratitude is the best way for us to find love and happiness. Whatever form gratitude may take, there is no doubt that practicing gratitude brings joy, satisfaction and wellness to our lives unlike anything else we may do.

On the first day back to school this term, I had the extreme pleasure of opening up and reading the 243 entries in the 2018 CGS Gratitude Jar. I was so pleased to see such an increase in submissions from last year (up from 85 in 2017) and I would sincerely love to share every single one with you but obviously that is not possible. I will tell you though, that entries came from students of all grade levels (including our youngest Early Start students), staff and parents. They were grateful for a wide variety of things, including family (Mommy and Daddy and siblings reigned supreme, but one lucky Uncle got an honourable mention), toys, books, good health, and lots of hugs and kisses. Of course there was a focus on the school experience with 56 submissions of gratitude for the playground, music and art classes, clubs and carefully planned activities, and the fact that we are a school with
‘no bullies allowed’, among other things. The entry that read “I wish I could stay at CGS forever!” particularly warmed our hearts. Even our hard working Student Government was recognized. CGS teachers were thanked 55 times and described as “patient, kind, understanding, talented, awesome, hard working and full of spirit”. The experience of helping those less fortunate, through our community outreach activities and Principal’s Club, clearly had an impact on students who were grateful for healthy food, clean drinking water, a warm bed and a safe roof over their head. Friends’ birthday parties, being loved, Terry Fox and his brother Fred, sports and Spring sunshine… the thanks just went on and on! Developing our Gratitude Habit was once again a successful and worthwhile exercise that we will continue to encourage and support here at CGS. A number of entries have already been placed in the 2019 jar so we’re off to a great start. The Jar is always available in the school office and I encourage all of you to take a moment to pause and give thanks. It is good for all of us to give and receive gratitude. Grateful people are more positive and more motivated to do better in this world. Remember ~ you can’t be grateful and unhappy at the same time!

With gratitude for all of you and the endless possibilities of a New Year ahead,

Marie Bates
Principal and Co-Founder
Children’s Garden School