*This post was originally featured on The Student Affairs Hub.
As we approach the season of giving, I thought it would be relevant and important to talk about the value of gratitude for ourselves and our students. We often take for granted that the people we care about and owe our success to, know how much we appreciate them. So many things go unspoken and feelings remain unknown because we assume people can read our minds and know how we feel.
Obviously, people can't know what we don't tell them. Students especially, owe a lot of people for getting them to where they are today. It can be a transformative educational experience to help convey the importance of gratitude as well as give opportunities to our students to put this value into action.
Here are some ideas to help implement this concept:
Organize a Scholarship "Gratitude Gala"
I've seen several campuses put on events like this, (I've even partaken myself as a student way back when). Essentially, you just set up an opportunity to have students hand write notes to the specific people who helped fund their scholarships to be able to go to your institution.
You can make it into a fun party atmosphere with refreshments and it's just a simple but powerful gesture for students to know that their scholarship came from another human being and they can share their gratitude with them, (it also will probably help retain the support from your generous donors to get these sort of notes).
You can even take this one step further and have the donors come and meet the students personally to engage on a deeper level. Investing in a program like this is valuable to everyone involved and is a quick way to spread a lot of positive energy to your community.
Send a Long Overdue Thank You Note
I took a Positive Psychology course during my graduate program, (with the super awesome Dr. Colleen Georges), and one of the assignments was to write a message to someone who you want to thank for having a big influence on your life that you've never told. It could be from years ago but it was just important to do it, and tell them about the impact that they've had on you.
A TEDx talk from Drew Dudley really captures this point well. His short but poignant speech in that video is an old favorite of mine that I share with students often.
Reflect on Accomplishments
Something that I did this year was think back on all of the things that I have done in my life. It was a really powerful exercise that really allowed me to feel like even if I was gone tomorrow, I have made a positive impact on the places I've been and the people I've had the pleasure of knowing. It also inspired me to want to think of more things I want to do before I turn 30 in a couple of years.
Looking back though, it really conveyed to me how grateful I should be for the life that I have been privileged to have. I'm typically pretty humble about anything that I do, so I had to allow myself to be a little proud of what I've done. Even so, my life hasn't always been easy, but I am thankful for everything that has happened, (or hasn't happened), to me to get my life to the point it is at now. I wouldn't have had this powerful epiphany unless I put intentional thought and energy into it. It's really valuable to encourage your students to think this way, especially if they're not feeling terribly confident in themselves or what they've accomplished. Acknowledging and being grateful for things that come to you in your life creates a foundation of positive energy for you and your students when you put thought and effort into it.
A quick email, a short hand written note, or a quiet reflection can positively influence your mind, wellness, and point of view. With the holiday season approaching, do yourself and your students the favor of giving the gift of thanks. You and everyone around you will benefit from it.