Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

By: Neil Mufson
Mr. Mufson discusses this year's theme at school: gratitude.
Thornton Wilder once wrote, “We are most alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” This year at The Country School we will focus on developing within our children the capacity for gratitude. Why? Because according to the research of Robert A. Emmons, professor at University of California at Davis and author of the book Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, “grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and… the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.” Furthermore, Dr. Emmons states, “a person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress, may show increased resiliency…, may recover more quickly from illness, benefit from greater physical health, [and may have] increased feelings of connectedness, improved relationships, and even altruism.” He sums it up by saying, “Gratitude, we have found, maximizes the enjoyment of the good.”
Like our past focus on empathy and kindness, our teachers will emphasize the concept of gratitude through group discussions, class readings, reflections, and writing assignments. All faculty and staff this summer read Emmons’s book for background. A simple way we will inculcate “an attitude of gratitude” is that every student and faculty member will be keeping an age-appropriate gratitude journal throughout the year. Psychologists have found that this is one of the most effective ways of instilling this element of a positive outlook.
Emmons cites the writer, psychologist, and priest Henri Nouwen who wrote, “Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are steep and hurtful and resentful. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.” I invite you to consider complementing the school’s efforts by also sharpening your family’s focus on gratitude. 
As one element of our efforts, I invite you to join me for a discussion of Emmons’s book on Wednesday, October 16, from 8:15 - 9:00 in Hanrahan Hall. Kristin Diem, in my office, has several copies available for parents who would like to borrow one. I look forward to a lively exchange.   
In the meantime, know how grateful I am for your decision to invest in your child’s education at The Country School. We are off to a great start of the 2019-20 school year, and my goal is for this to be the very best year in the school’s 85-year history!

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