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  • Robert Dunlop

Gratitude - Staff Wellness Program

My name is Robert Dunlop. I am an educator and author of the book STRIVE for Happiness in Education. I am beyond excited to introduce the theme for this month, gratitude. If you were to ask me what habit or routine has had the greatest impact on my happiness since writing the book, gratitude would have to be it.

Prior to writing the chapter on Mindfulness and Gratitude, I was not consciously practicing either. Sure there were times or events in my life where I felt gratitude, but it was rare that I actually carved out time to build it into each day. Part of my process for writing a chapter was to live it out and learn as much as I could about each aspect that can bring us more happiness.

The more I read about gratitude the more important I realized it to be. Often gratitude is referred to as the gateway to happiness. Studies have shown that around 18.5% of people’s happiness could be predicted by how much gratitude they experience. Not only that gratitude is considered to be a keystone habit. These are habits that have numerous positive effects that are not directly related to the habit itself. For instance, people who practice gratitude experience;

  • Better relationships

  • Exercise more

  • Experience fewer aches and pains

  • Experience less negative emotions

  • Less aggressive and more empathic

  • Sleep better

  • Higher self-esteem

So many benefits for a habit that take so little time to complete each day. Since writing this chapter I have practiced gratitude every single day. Within weeks of formally recording three things I was grateful for each day, I began to feel happier and more appreciative for my life. Not only that, I also feel more positive and optimistic.

I think it is important to tell you that over this period of time I have had some struggles in my personal life. Someone I love deeply has become very sick and one one my greatest fears is imminent. Despite this news, I have been able to maintain an optimistic and positive outlook, something that I would have struggled to do in the past. I believe that practicing gratitude has helped me to see the positives even during the toughest of times.

Neuroplasticity tells us that we can train our brain like we do our muscles. Each time we practice gratitude we are training our brains to pick out the positives. The more we do this, the easier and more natural it becomes. We need this most during the tough times to help us see the light at the end of the tunnel which helps motivate us to persevere.

One mantra that I now live by is: Replace expectations with appreciation. Often when we become negative or frustrated it is because we are entirely focussed on how something is not meeting our expectations. Through practicing gratitude daily, it helps us to find the good in each situation and helps us to be more positive.

Being an educator can be tough at times. However, it is important that we stay positive and model this to our students. The activities for this month will give you a different way to practice gratitude. Hopefully, you find one that works best for you and make it a part of your everyday life. It can truly change your perceptions and help you create a more positive reality in education and beyond.

Thank you for joining us, and remember to strive for happiness in education! You deserve it!

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