Vol. 14, Iss. 11
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Discover 5 ways to develop a gratitude practice
By Karen Costa
A growing body of research is looking at the positive
impacts of gratitude. Harvard Mental Health news-
letter detailed the connections between gratitude
practices and individual well-being, employee
motivation, happiness, and fundraising initiatives.
Gratitude feels good, motivates us, makes us happier,
increases our generosity, and is equally beneﬁcial
to both giver and receiver.
If you’re ready to get started, here’s ﬁve ways you
can cultivate this practice:
1. Start your day with gratitude. Start your
morning with a list of ﬁve things for which you’re
grateful. Try to do this for at least one month to
make it a consistent habit. Want a challenge? Aim
to never repeat an item on your list for that month.
2. Remember the middle. In my former role as
the director of student success at a community col-
lege, one of my responsibilities was to manage the
early-warning letter process, where we notiﬁed stu-
dents in danger of failing a course. I realized we were
focusing a lot of energy on these students (rightly so)
but giving no attention to those who were succeed-
ing. I imagined the top 10 percent of students were
probably receiving the boost they needed through
their high grades, but what about the students in the
middle? To reach them, I asked our faculty to send
me the names of one or two students who weren’t
necessarily the strongest in the course, but rather
had shown improvement or overcome a challenge.
Then, we emailed these students to praise them
for their hard work. The responses I received from
students were profound and inspiring. Consider
creating a system that helps to notice this often-
invisible population and express gratitude to them
for choosing your campus. You’ll be amazed at how
much gratitude you receive in return.
3. Reclaim your email. Take a moment to scan
your sent email folder. When was the last time you
sent an email, not to ask for something, check on the
status of a project, or set up a meeting, but rather
to just say, “Thank you.” Aim to send at least one
gratitude email each day — just a quick note that
doesn’t ask or answer any questions. There’s a saying
in the neuroscience ﬁeld that says, “We wire what
we ﬁre.” As a leader on campus, you’ll likely notice
that not only are you rewiring your own brain for
positivity, but you’re also inﬂuencing your institu-
tion’s entire culture toward gratitude.
4. Perform a gratitude audit. Students come to
campus with academic, social, mental, and emotional
needs. In our desire to meet those needs, it’s easy to
lose focus of the fact that these same students also
bring gifts in the form of creativity, energy, ideas, and
wisdom. The same student who is struggling to pass
their remedial math course might also have survived
life challenges that have instilled them with a sense of
justice and grace. We can choose to look at students
as needy. We can just as readily choose to be grate-
ful that they chose us. What messages do you send
to student-athletes about how you feel about them?
Do you regularly thank student-athletes? If you’re
focusing only on what they’re taking, you’re missing
a chance to notice what they’re giving. Remember too
that how your faculty and staff treat student-athletes
is modeling for them how you’d like them to treat you.
Show them gratitude, and you’ll receive it in return.
5. Talk back to stress. How many times a day
do you notice a negative thought enter your mind
or stressful energy create tension in your body?
Gratitude can help to stop stress in its tracks and
begin to rewire your mind toward positivity. The
next time life doesn’t go as planned, pause, take a
deep breath, and call to mind something for which
you’re grateful: “I am thankful for my health. I am
thankful for access to clean water. I am incredibly
grateful for the person in the cafeteria who makes
sure we have hot coffee.” You might even wish to
speak your gratitude out loud or write it down. Very
often, this small act can help to shift your mindset
in less than a minute.
This was adapted from an article that appeared
in Women in Higher Education, also published by
Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand. For more information on
that publication, please go to http://wihe.com/. ■