Write a good things diary (aka a gratitude journal for the classroom)

The last days of school are upon us, and both students and teachers are eager for the holidays. At this time, motivation can drop, as we are all tired from the extra work requirements of exams and reports, and the end of year school and social activities.

‘This is a time when grumpy behaviour from students is more likely to appear’.

Having students write a gratitude journal each day until the end of term is a simple and fun way to help improve their mood. Although you may roll your eyes at the term ‘gratitude’, nearly 20 years of research has found that regularly acknowledging and appreciating the good things in our lives (gratitude), is linked with increased positive emotions, stronger relationships, better attitudes towards school, and improved physical health.

Instructions

Encourage your students to create and decorate their own diaries, and to give them a title. Some may choose titles such as gratitude journal, good things journal or good stuff diary. They might like to use a pen and paper journal, or create an online version. Some students wish to make, photograph, or paint the good things. I have also seen students make a movie highlighting things they were grateful for during the year at school which they shared with the class. Other classes have shared one thing with a partner each week, or with the whole class during circle time.

Not everyone will want to create a gratitude journal according to the guidelines below. That’s okay, provide the suggestions, and encourage students to be creative and to employ ideas that work for them.

Write or draw 1-5 things you are grateful for/feel lucky to have/that made you feel good. These things may be:

  • Small – little things (e.g. someone loaned me the extra 20 cents I needed today to buy a muffin. Or a friend explained how to complete a task I didn’t understand).
  • Large – significant things (e.g. going on a holiday).
  • Actions – something you did (e.g. I helped my friend with his maths homework, or I scored a goal in soccer).
  • Nature – something you saw or experienced in the natural world (e.g. a beautiful starry night, a ladybug landing on a flower).
  • Others – something you witnessed someone else do (e.g. listening to your friend sing at assembly).

Try not to write the same thing twice. If you do write the same thing twice, try and write about another aspect of it. For example if you write ‘my favourite tv show because it made me laugh a lot’ next time you may write ‘my favourite tv show because watching it after school helps me relax before I do my homework.’

Choose different types of positive events. For example, if you tend to write mainly Actions, instead try to write some points about Nature, in the following days.

Write at least one sentence describing the positive event, and another sentence reflecting on the event. Reflection sentence prompts include:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why is this meaningful to me?
  • What can I do tomorrow to ensure this happens again?
  • What can I learn from taking the time to notice and acknowledge this good thing?
  • What way can others or I contribute to this in the future?

Example of a sentence for the good things journal

Good thing: Feeling really happy running in the park after school listening to music.

Reflection: Exercising outside helps me feel happy. I need to remember this when I can’t be bothered.

It’s a great end of year activity – give it a try!

Best wishes for a safe, happy and restful break.

 

Zoe Ganim

Psych4Schools Psychologist

  • A.D.M.

    I have had success with students naming one thing they are grateful for in a circle activity. We try to do this every week or so.