Check out Owen's new book, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching

Sunday, December 27, 2020

How to Be Happier for 2021

         How to Be Happier

Even though you may intellectually reject the idea that happiness can be achieved or bought, you must be constantly vigilant against that internal voice that whispers, “But I would be a bit happier if only ...” One strategy to try is to reflect on those times when you were convinced that a certain accomplishment or possession would bring greater happiness, yet your life was not significantly different after you reached your goal. How many times have you had this experience? How many more are needed to finally convince you that it does not work that way?

People who volunteer to help those in need tend to report being happier. Perhaps it is because working with those less fortunate makes you grateful for what you have. Also, volunteering often brings satisfaction and self-esteem, because you feel engaged in worthwhile work and are appreciated by those you serve. Do not compare yourself with others who seem better off than you are, because that usually results in dissatisfaction.

If you grow too accustomed to pleasurable things, they will no longer bring you happiness. For example, you may enjoy two or three short vacations more than one long one. And you will enjoy your favorite meal more if you reserve it for a special occasion.

Rethink your beliefs about the nature of happiness. Experiences of great pleasure or joy stand out in memory, and it is easy to conclude that being truly happy means being in that state most or all of the time. The very reason you savor and remember such an experience, however, is because it is not the norm. Instead of equating happiness with peak experiences, you would do better to think of happiness as a state of contentment and relative lack of anxiety or regret.

Start small by focusing on your sensory experience while engaged in a routine task. Over time, spend less energy thinking about the past or the future.

--Originally published: Scientific American MIND 18( 1); 36-43 (February/ March 2007).

Monday, December 7, 2020

Updated Blog-Try Gratitude and Impove your Life

Would you like to improve your life? Try gratitude, it is one of the most powerful tools that I know. Gratitude has empowered me to appreciate everyone in my life more, grow in my profession and improve my well-being.

In addition, gratitude as a practice, is a call to action to be a caring individual, cultivates clarity of mind, moves us away from wants and worries, builds our capacity for forgiveness, grows generosity, and helps us respond to difficult situations constructively and with resilience.

Gratitude Journal

To get started with gratitude, you can choose from a number of gratitude activities at the Greater Good Science Center’s website, https://ggia.berkeley.edu/#filters=gratitude. An effective and research-based method is a gratitude journal. You could start your gratitude journal with being thankful for being alive, for having food to eat and clothes to wear. If you can think about someone you're grateful for, that's even more powerful, as gratitude can strengthen and improve our relationships. Here is an example you may use:

Thanks for ___________________________ because__________________________.

The more specific and the deeper we dive into this activity, the more powerful it will be. For example, instead of writing, “Thanks for lunch,” you could write, “Thanks for lunch because the tomatoes and lettuce in my salad  were delicious and for the cool, sweet iced tea on this hot day, as well as time with friends.”

You can also use a gratitude app on your smart phone. Here is a link to 9 possible gratitude apps: https://www.happierhuman.com/gratitude-app/

Exercising the Gratitude Muscle

Gratitude seems to work like a muscle and writing a gratitude list helps develop our gratitude muscles. Professor Philip Watkins of Eastern Washington University says that those who are the least grateful seem to gain the most from making this effort. That’s good news to those us who may find it hard to start a gratitude list.

Visible Change

Recent research by two leaders in the field of gratitude and education, Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Jeffrey Froh, supports the idea that gratitude improves the lives of  adults and students. They have found several benefits for students and adults.

Keeping a gratitude journal enables both students and adults to be more optimistic, experience more social satisfaction, exercise more often, have less envy and depression, have fewer physical complaints, grow in resilience and sleep better.

Keeping a gratitude journal on a daily basis helps students achieve higher grades; higher goals; more satisfaction with relationships, life, and school; less materialism; and more willingness to give back.

Tapping into the Potential of Gratitude

I challenge you to try it yourself and see how it works. My friends who have written a daily gratitude journal for at least two weeks speak positively of the experience. Gratitude has transformed many lives. What we focus on in life grows and our focus on gratitude can stimulate new positive growth. For me, the fruits of the focus on gratitude are happiness and well-being. Finally, check out Gratefulness.org for extra gratitude resources.


·        Jeffrey J. Froh, William J. Sefick, Robert A. Emmons, Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-beingJournal of School Psychology 46 (2008), pp.213-233 (PDF, 410KB).

·        Jeffrey J. Froh, Robert A. Emmons, Noel A. Card, Giacomo Bono, Jennifer A. Wilson, Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in AdolescentsJournal of Happiness Studies, Volume 12, No. 2, 2011 (PDF, 356KB).

·        Robert Emmons, How Gratitude Can Get You Through Hard TimesGreater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, May 13, 2013.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

My eCourse is now free-This is a great way to stay Grateful through COVID19

Gratefulness.org is now offering my five-session eCourse for free for everyone. This is a perfect way to keep energized through this time of COVID19 and interject some gratitude into your life and the lives of those around you!

This eCourse will include practical, research-based activities and a new gratitude curriculum shared by educator and author, Owen Griffith. Owen’s book, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching, will offer structure to help guide the course as we create opportunities for educators to explore gratitude as a way to improve class culture; academic and social success for students; and resilience and satisfaction in students and educators alike. These are tense and challenging times with COVID19 affecting us all in new ways daily! The safety of our kids and ourselves is imperative and having tools that uplifts and strengthens what is going right is essential. Gratitude has a role to play in building resilience and reducing stress, especially during these extremely challenges times. So, join our class and take action now to improve your life. Here is the link, eCourse and comments.

Gratitude: A Way of Teaching should be required reading for teachers, administrators, parents, and anyone else who has a stake in our children’s future. You will be challenged, edified, and stirred to take a fresh look at this timeless virtue and see why we owe our children the gift of gratitude.

~ Robert A. Emmons, Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Positive Psychology; author of Gratitude Works! and Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier

In a time of tests, accountability, and burnout, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching beautifully encourages teachers and students to connect to their own and each other’s humanity by stopping for a moment and asking, “What is wonderful about life?”

Vicki Zakrzewski, PhD, Education Director, Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

In Gratitude: A Way of Teaching, Owen M. Griffith does a superb job at giving teachers practical strategies for making their students grateful. Following these strategies, and with patience and persistence, we can significantly influence the children in our own personal worlds. And, if we do, that will influence programs, clubs, schools, and other institutions in the community, too….Our society needs this more than ever. 

Jeffrey J. Froh, Associate Professor, Hoffstra University and co-author of Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character

In a very practical way, Owen M. Griffith shows us how gratitude can be incorporated into the schools. Filled with inspiring examples and many practical suggestions, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching can be used to improve the gratitude of students in your classroom, and perhaps more importantly, it should help teachers generate a more grateful attitude toward their students.

Philip Watkins, Professor of Psychology, Eastern Washington University

Monday, February 3, 2020

Gratitude Can Rewire Your Brain.

I am so excited, I found a compelling and powerful article about how "Gratitude Can Rewire Your Brain." So, please read it when you get a chance and keep practicing gratitude and reaping the benefits!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Gratitude Poem by Kurt Vonnegut

I found this poem today and love it. This was one of the last things Kurt Vonnegut wrote and it is powerful. Enjoy and share!
Joe Heller
True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel

to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”
— Kurt Vonnegut
The New Yorker, May 16th, 2005

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Powerful videos to help children

Here is a link to some fantastic videos from the Greater Good Science Center on helping kids in a number of important areas, like feeling loved, being honest and feeling compassion:


Thursday, August 15, 2019

This will be a short post today because I know this is the busy time of year. This post goes out to all the truly amazing teachers who are back in the classroom or will be soon. Right now, at my current job at WGU, I have the pleasure of helping about 100 college students become teachers. Today, I found a great article on "How to Fall In Love with Teaching Again" and wanted to share it. Thanks to all the inspirational educators out there who are helping reshape the future of our planet!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Gratefulness.org is offering my five-session eCourse for educators on-demand now. A perfect way to keep energized through the school year and interject some gratitude into your life!

This eCourse will include practical, research-based activities and a new gratitude curriculum shared by educator and author, Owen Griffith. Owen’s book, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching, will offer structure to help guide the course as we create opportunities for educators to explore gratitude as a way to improve class culture; academic and social success for students; and resilience and satisfaction in students and educators alike. These are tense and challenging times. The safety of our kids and a classroom culture that uplifts and strengthens what is going right is essential. Gratitude has a role to play in building resilience and reducing stress.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Guest Blog by Aaryn Birchell-"It's a Trick, but a Treat!"

It's a Trick, but a Treat!
By: Aaryn Birchell

My Grandma Snow had a non-negotiable Halloween tradition. If you wanted a treat, you had to do a trick.  Whether it was playing a song on her piano, or reciting a poem, or doing a handstand, we prepared a trick before we knocked on her door. Though I would start off feeling pretty silly playing a piano song in my butterfly costume, Grandma’s clapping and, “Thank you for your performance!” made me feel pretty good, even better than the treat of a honey-sweet popcorn ball.

Years later I was sitting in my classroom wondering what to do.   Though I started every day with a burst of positive energy and taught my students with unending excitement for literature and communication, my students resented my rigor.  I cut down the amount of essays and novels from the previous teacher, but they complained about every step of the process.
I had a culture problem in my Sophomore English class.
“We really like you as a person . . .we just really hate your class.”
Some students approached the class with a great attitude, but the majority’s destructive complaining  affected my students’ learning and emotional health.
How does one force teenagers to have a good attitude?
That’s the trick.

My summer focused on looking for ways to influence my classroom culture.  But giving my students every part of me had me feeling pretty burned out. The thought of doing More and MORE felt overwhelming. Hence my criteria
  1. Effective
  2. Cheap
  3. Simple
Quite the Trick indeed.

Enter Gratitude! I read how gratitude opens learning and floods the brain with positive hormones that actually help students learn more.  It promotes better sleep, better relationships, better overall health.
Effective? Check!
Cheap? Check!
Simple? . . . .Hmmm. I imagined the first day of school telling a bunch of teeagers, “Just be grateful!”  and watch their jaded and resentful eyes narrow in.

However, deep down, my students needed gratitude. I needed it too.
Fast forward a few months and I had my “simple to implement” method figured out. To avoid a logistical nightmare, “The Gratitude Tracker” is a simple grid sheet with five columns for the school days in a week and three rows for the weeks. Each box is numbered
A glance revealed my students’ gratitude.  I kept the criteria simple. As long as there were five words written down each day, (It could even be the same 5 words every day) they got the participation points. I also warned them that they could not just fill in a bunch in one day.  The benefit was from the daily practice.
Some kids thought it was dumb.  No worries. “This is a simple thing that will get you points that will improve your grade.” Avoiding the “Just be grateful” trap, I taught them how this practice will help their brains learn more in class with less effort and longer retention. It was all about learning.

Soon this little trick became a treat.  Students started talking about what they were going to write down as they shared their gratitude observations with others.  Some students self selected to write down something different each day. Other students started looking for things to write down in the gratitude tracker as they went throughout the day. My daughter when she was in my class loved cold cereal and tried to come up with as many different types of cold cereals that she could find just to see how long she could go.
The method didn’t matter.
Kids were practicing the powerful behavior of gratitude.

Most importantly, our classroom culture changed. Same teacher using the same stories and poems, but the overall attitude of the class about the learning improved!  Now I will never say that ALL students loved EVERY day in my classroom. I still have students who occasionally resent the rigor, but enrollment in the advanced classes went from two sections offered at my school to needing five sections. Yes, the class is challenging, but so many former student said it was really worth it.
And the treat?
Increased learning.
Better emotional health and attitude about learning.
More thank you notes at the end of the year than I had ever received before.  

Grandma knew what she was doing those many years ago. If you want a treat, you have to do a little trick.

Aaryn Birchell’s Bio:
Draped on the wall in lace and burlap a sign in Mrs. Aaryn Birchell’s classroom asks, “Does your Grit have Gratitude?” Modeling this mindset with eager eyes, endless energy and a “You-can-do-it!” attitude, she champions and celebrates students. As the 2018 Utah Teacher of the Year, Aaryn continues that advocacy for students statewide to help address the teacher shortage while supporting a citizen initiative that would bring additional funding to education.
Aaryn honed her teaching skills after earning her degree by volunteering at the Utah State University Writing Center and working as a substitute teacher for twelve years. When a part-time position teaching advanced sophomore English classes opened at her alma mater, Uintah High, she jumped at the chance to teach emerging adults the beauty of life through world literature. Now teaching full time, she has additional responsibility and joy teaching AP Literature.
In school, Aaryn advocates by listening to overwhelmed teens and arranging over eighteen service projects for Honor Society; by coordinating a scholarship writing workshop and teaching ACT prep classes; by decorating for Prom late into the night and co-writing the annual Senior Poem.
In her community, she serves as a board member of the Uintah Literacy Commission and as former director of the Vernal Storytelling Festival, constantly looking for opportunities to connect a well-lived life to literacy.
In her professional affiliations, her service on the local and state Education Agencies demonstrates the grit needed to advocate for the teaching profession also enriches the lives of her students and her own family.
In her home, she shares her deep gratitude for the joy that teaching brings with her husband Garn and their four kids, often nestling them under a tree in the Uintah Basin she calls home.