Teacher Wellness Tips
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*** GRATITUDE *** Keeping it Real
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Issue #2 November/2009
Jeanne Welcomes You

Teacher Wellness Tips brings you encouraging and thought-provoking ideas about your health, well-being, productivity, and happiness.  You may also want to check out  www.TeachingWellness.com to learn more about the joys and benefits of treating yourself to better health and less stress.  Use the green tab to the left to pass this newsletter on to a friend or colleague.
Be Well,

Jeanne Kuntz
GRATITUDE-Keeping it Real
Gratitude isn't just for Thanksgiving anymore.  It can be as effective as medicine for everything from depression to cardiovascular disease.  But only the genuine article will do...
Jeanne Welcomes You
Here comes November, with it's chilly days, return to Standard Time, and, of course, Thanksgiving.  The name says it all...this holiday is about feeling grateful for what we have.  Gratitude, like many positive emotions, provides health benefits, encourages creativity, and improves problem-solving skills.  Wow, how can a simple emotion do all that, you ask...
The short answer is, authentic gratitude allows you to feel safe and protected.  It releases chemicals in the body that are the opposite of the "fight or flight" response.   This happy hormonal mix courses through your body, sending out the signal, "It's all good!", so that you can relax and regenerate. Since your energy isn't focused on watching your proverbial back, you have easier access to the higher-functioning areas of the brain.  Conversely, fake gratitude not only fails to provide these benefits, but can be hazardous to your health! The body prefers to stick with the truth, and cognitive dissonance can show up in a variety of physical ills.  (To learn more about this fascinating field of body/mind research, check out  Barbara Fredrickson's groundbreaking book, Positivity.) 
So how do we get more of the real thing?  The good news is, it costs nothing and can take as little as 10 minutes per week.  Like anything worth developing, however, you will need to make a commitment.  In the yoga community we refer this as a"practice",  a specific series of action steps that you engage in regularly which create the result you are seeking.  This can be anything from a formal Gratitude Journal to some quick notes that you jot down on scraps of paper and keep under a paperweight.  My advice is to start where you are, run some "experiments" and see what excites and energizes you.  There are no "shoulds" in this process, so let your inner-critic take the day off.  The only guideline is that your gratitude gems truly inspire you, make your heart sing, and put a smile on your face.  Ready to start your practice?  Read on...
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

The Practice
Step #1  Write down a list of 10 or more things that you are glad to have in your life.   Don't think too hard or you'll spoil the fun. When you are done, close your eyes, take a few relaxing breaths, then open your eyes and review your list. Notice which items ring true and which ones feel more forced or false.  Re-write your list keeping only the genuine items.  If gossiping with a friend over cupcakes allows you to appreciate life, leave it in.  Don't be surprised if your list changes as you re-visit it over time.
Step #2  Observe the physical or subtle sensations that accompany gratitude.  What signals did you get in step #1 that helped you distinguish genuine thankfulness? Some common indicators are a sense of physical lightness, release of tension, an "inner smile" or sensation of warmth in the area of the heart.  Fake feelings, on the other hand, often feel flat, unpleasant or energy-draining.
Step #3  Record episodes of gratitude and review them regularly.  One time-tested technique is to list entries in a special notebook, the Gratitude Journal I mentioned earlier, usually at the end of the day.  For some people, leaving a day or two between entries keeps the experience fresh and genuine.  If you're short on time, re-reading a particularly powerful experience of gratitude for several days can be as effective as collecting a new example everyday.  Keep it magical rather than monotonous.  Maybe you can get a friend to join you, or even start a "Gratitude Club" with your colleagues, and periodically share your "gratitude gems" .
One of the secrets to successful behavior change is to be realistic, so be patient with yourself in this process, especially at the beginning. Click here to view more secrets of successful goal setting.  
A Gift for Your Students
You may already have some ideas about how to infuse your Thanksgiving curriculum with more genuine, meaningful experiences for your students.  As ateacher, you have ample opportunities to experiment. As my friend Dottie, a veteran public school teach with over 25 years of experience, points out,  "We teachers are fortunate.  We experience 20+ children each day and  20+ children experience us.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple 'thank you' for passing out papers to teach appreciation and gratitude, and let kids know their actions matter."
How would your classroom be different if gratitude and related positive emotions were given as much importance as memorizing the capitol of South Dakota or learning the days of the week?  In Daniel Pink's groundbreaking book, A Whole New Mind, we are reminded again and again that a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) is critical for success in the complex future we are now facing.

More Possibilities:
How can you build gratitude programming into your daily or weekly curriculum for the rest of the year?
How can you integrate themes of gratitude and other positive emotions into your language, math, and science curriculum?

Would you like to share your ideas with your fellow teachers?  Send your favorite gratitude enhancers and personal successes to Jeanne@teachingwellness.com.  They will be shared on the Teachers page of the Teaching Wellness website.
"We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics."
Billy Vaughn~
Be Well,
Jeanne Kuntz
Certified Wellness Coach


1 hour
If you have gotten this far, then something about Wellness Coaching is resonating with you.  Trust your instincts, click here to schedule a free trial phone session today.  And be sure to share this offer with a friend or colleague who also wants to make this the best year ever!
Offer Expires: January 15, 2010