How I Practice & Teach Gratitude with Duke Students

In any given year, it is estimated that over 46 million turkeys are consumed in this country on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving not only provides us with a chance to visit with family and friends and take a well-deserved break from routine, but it also gives all of us an opportunity to acknowledge and express our gratitude for the many things that make our lives meaningful and fun. 

 Expressing our appreciation doesn’t need to be limited to Thanksgiving Day. As Dr. B shared, research shows that people with an “attitude of gratitude” experience better physical, emotional and mental health. As a positive emotion, gratitude allows us to be more open to discovering and building new skills, meeting new people, gaining new knowledge and experiencing new ways of living and being. So, intentionally and purposefully thinking about those things for which we are grateful is quite powerful!

During the last five years as the Dean of Students at Duke, I had the good fortune of becoming a certified Koru mindfulness meditation teacher and actually teaching Koru to a number of students. I still start many of my classes with a Koru meditation.

The developers of the Koru model incorporated gratitude in the daily teaching of the practice of mindfulness. It asks that students deliberately and intentionally list three things for which they are grateful each day during the four-week Koru class. As the instructor, I had the opportunity to review these lists and was so uplifted by the gratitudes shared by the students. 

I am so grateful for the students who chose to take my Koru class, as it undergirded my mindfulness practice and enabled me to interact with students in an enormously positive way.  I immediately felt my stress level subside as the class began and was bolstered by the many experiences that students disclosed.

Each of us and our children have the opportunity to learn and practice mindfulness. But even if we choose not to, we can still make a list each day of things we’re grateful for. This is a life-long skill (along with confidence) that we can grow, enabling all of us to better deal with and manage the stresses of life and to learn the power of gratitude. 

I wish to you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with many opportunities to express and feel gratitude—and a yummy meal!

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