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Students reflect on the presence of two different types of gratitude in their lives and brainstorm ways to build up their gratitude practice.


KEY QUESTION ADDRESSED: What do I feel grateful for?

GOAL: To help students become more aware of different levels of gratitude and help develop practices to deepen their gratitude.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Pen + Wayfinder Notebook


Gratitude is possibly the most important trait necessary for students to develop as a wayfinder. Research by Kendall Cotton-Bronk of Claremont University shows that the development of gratitude and purpose go hand in hand. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but her research shows that simply by having students develop a greater sense of gratitude, they are more likely to become purposeful. We have found that gratitude is one of the most shared emotions of wayfinders - not just practicing gratitude for things in the moment, but having a practice of evoking a sense of gratitude, or developing a practice of gratitude, or what one Austrian Benidictine monk calls, “practicing Thanksgiving.”

In this activity, we wanted to break down gratitude into different pieces: gratefulness + thanksgiving. Gratefulness is when you actively feel a sense of gratitude for something that happens to you, or what researchers call “state gratitude.” For example, when someone hands you a blanket when you are outside on a cold camping trip, you feel a sense of gratitude for the blanket, the warmth, and the person that shared their blanket with you. It is an “in the moment” reaction to a particular event that happened to you.

Thanksgiving is a deeper feeling and that researchers call “trait gratitude” - this is where you actively call into your awareness and consciousness things that you are grateful for that you might not think of on a daily or momentary basis. For example, you could feel a sense of Thanksgiving for the Sun by standing outside on a warm sunny day - giving thanks to the sun. What if the sun did not rise today - you would certainly notice it, but since it does everyday, we tend to forget its importance in our lives. The practice of Thanksgiving calls into our awareness many of these things - like the sun - that we can forgot.

 In Haudenosaunee territory (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) there is a practice known as the “Thanksgiving Address” - a prayer that is done in a circle thanking each part of the natural world and giving thanks. This is an address that dates back over a thousand years and is still used today to open traditional ceremonies in Haudenosaunee territory (at the border of what is known now as southern Canada and the northern part of New York State).

But this practice of Thanksgiving can be applied to more than the natural world. If can be applied to your relationships, your health, your belongings, and your life circumstance. For example, you could evoke all the the people in your life. All the people that have helped you along the way, that help you on a daily basis, or that have been a support on your life’s journey. Taking the time to think of this people individually and appreciate them is a practice of Thanksgiving that we want all of our students to develop.

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