Gratitude is not only the greatest of all the virtues but the parent of all the others. —Cicero
The following exercise combines three practices of positivity, choice, and reflection. Hal Urban has conducted the exercise for many years with amazing results. Since young people think about what they lack—more often than they think about what they have—the exercise is a wonderful way to foster gratitude and positive thinking and self-discipline.
Inform your students to conduct themselves for the next twenty-four hours without complaining.
- Tell them not to stop the experiment even if they do complain.
Just have them see how few complaints they can make in one day.
- Give each student a blank card, such as 3 x 5 or 4 x 6.
This makes it convenient to note each time a complaint comes forth and each time they catch themselves about to complain.
The next day, ask:
- What was the purpose of the assignment?
- What did you learn from doing it?
Students will have discovered the frequency and smallness of their complaints.
Then, have students label a paper, “I am thankful for,” and make three columns:
Column 1 Things
They list all the material things they are glad they have.
Column 2 People
They list all the people they appreciate.
Column 3 Other
What will emerge will be freedom, opportunity, friendship, love, intelligence, abilities, health, talents, peace, faith, God, security, learning experiences, beauty, kindness, and the list continues.
Instruct students to review the list four (4) times within the next twenty-four hours:
- In the afternoon
- After dinner
- Before going to sleep
- Before school the next morning
When attention is given to the positive, when the option of choice is recognized, and when reflection is employed, stress is reduced, life is conducted more successfully, and greater pleasure results.