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Keep The Gratitude Going

Keep the Gratitude Going

Traci Flowers
Deerfield High School

November is a month when we think about gratitude. In our November newsletters to students, we tell them it is an excellent opportunity to thank the teachers and counselors who worked hard to write their letters of recommendation.

At the beginning of the school year, our staff heard from Dr. Doug Bolton and he also shared the importance of gratitude in his talk about cultivating resilience during COVID. He mentioned the dozens of studies that show how gratitude works to improve our mental health. Indeed, many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously reflect on what they are grateful for tend to be happier and less depressed. So it is incredibly fitting that the 2021 IACAC Annual Conference will also have a gratitude theme: Look for the Good. Thanks, Tony, for sharing your leadership with IACAC.

For myself, it’s been a rollercoaster with gratitude. Gratitude is complicated when we’re struggling. Right now, many are facing real and imagined death or illness, and we’re also facing so much loss: loss of our ability to be with the people we love, loss of fall travel, loss of in-person conferences, loss of traditional graduations, weddings, and Thanksgiving celebrations. But I find myself being grateful for a lot of things that I wasn’t grateful in the same way before: a houseparty call with fabulous friends around the country, a warm November weekend that allowed me to host a distanced outdoor gathering for my family, a distanced plexiglass Santa Visit – where my boys smiled instead of cried.

So even though it’s a time in which I can’t see so many of the people I love, and I’m yearning for connection, I feel grateful for technology, outdoor activities, food delivery, and IACAC. I’ve formed closer bonds with my children and grateful for the ability to work from home. I think many of us are feeling a lot of gratitude, especially for the healthcare workers on the frontlines, teachers who are working harder than ever to make sure our students succeed, and all the unsung heroes at the grocery stores and vet clinics, and everyone who’s out there putting themselves at risk. I saw a quote that really summed up 2020 for me:

This is not the year to get everything you want. This is the year to appreciate everything you have.

In case you missed the 30 days of gratitude from the IACAC Mentorship committee, you can still take a minute to slow down and reflect on what you are grateful for! Give gratitude-writing a try with these writing prompts! Expressing what you are grateful for and what makes you happy is even more important now. Take about 10 minutes and write down responses to some of these questions. Write in a journal, on a piece of paper, or even in a note on your phone. If writing isn’t your favorite, talk through these prompts with friends or family members!

  1. Write about something that made you laugh today.
  2. What is something that you like to do at home?
  3. Describe your favorite person and list all of the best things about them.
  4. Describe something that helps you relax.
  5. What place are you most grateful for?
  6. What memory are you grateful for?
  7. What abilities are you grateful for?
  8. Name your favorite song and what you love about it.
  9. Who in your life are you grateful for?
  10. What season are you grateful for?
  11. What tradition are you grateful for?
  12. What challenge are you grateful for?
  13. What book are you most grateful for?
  14. What in nature are you grateful for?
  15. What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?
  16. What food are you most grateful for?
  17. What technology are you grateful for?
  18. What are 5 things that you like about yourself?
  19. What is something that you are looking forward to and why?
  20. What are you the most grateful for today?

Want to keep the gratitude going for 2020, try this monthly Happiness Calendar which is a day-by-day guide to well-being. Perhaps you are looking for a project through which you can express your gratitude, OR perhaps spreading some joy will prompt some gratitude … OR BOTH! Consider participating in one of these activities with your family or your quarantine squad!

Volunteer virtually through Operation Gratitude
Create a thank you sign for first responders to hang in your front window
Write a thank you note to the staff at a hospital
Get crafty making a card for a Hospitalized Child
Send a few gently used books to Books for Africa
Donate gently used clothing to a donation center near you
Collect gently used bedding, towels, and more, and donate them to the dogs and cats at your local animal shelter – one example – Orphans of the Storm in Riverwoods
Share pantry items with your local Food Pantry – one example – West Deerfield Township Food Pantry*

Practicing compassion and gratitude will help us get through this together.

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