Ten Rules for Being Human
Sunday, February 13, 2022
Recently, I saw someone posted a comment on my gratitude blog that said, “You gratitude people never feel any pain.” I first dismissed this as someone possibly “trolling” the blog. But then I reflected that there are many misconceptions about gratitude and this short comment aligns well with something I am working on lately, sitting with the pain in my life and embracing sadness.
For years, I have utilized the idea that what I focus on in life grows, and for the most part, I think that is true. But I also want to be whole, and I realize that exploring my sadness, anger, resentment, and other emotions that I may classify as “negative” is important. In fact, no emotion is negative or positive, but how I respond to that emotion can make it positive or negative.
Part of being human is experiencing pain and if I deny pain, then it will come out in distorted ways toward myself and others. These days, I am trying to be aware of pain, sadness, and anger, bringing new awareness and allowing them. Whenever possible, I explore and process them by talking to others and journaling, sometimes uncovering new information that allows me to discern if this emotion is prompting me to change something in myself or in my life. For example, my anger may serve as an impetus to rally others to help us change an unfair situation.
Dr. Lori Santos, a Yale Professor, has a powerful podcast on the subject of embracing sadness,where she talks to journalist Helen Russell, author of How to be Sad: Everything I’ve Learned About Getting Happier by Being Sad Better. This podcast reminds me that instead of ignoring my sadness, if I explore it and accept it, I will be healthier emotionally and have a new opportunity to connect with others and grow toward being authentic and whole.
A leading writer on gratitude, David Stendl-Rast, said that there are some things in life no one should be grateful for, such as war, violence, or the death of a loved one. This confirms my findings, that taking gratitude to an extreme form leads to negative results. Additionally, there seems to be a form of “toxic gratitude” where an individual may be ignoring something that needs to be changed in their life by trying merely to be grateful for it. Of course, seeking professional help is always recommended in these types of situations.
Personally, I have experienced loss, with my brother passing away a decade ago and my father a year ago. Through these experiences, I found that grief and gratitude can sometimes come together and help balance each other out. For me, this is not about avoiding pain, but letting the gratitude for another heal the experience of missing them. Gratitude will never fill the hole in my heart or take away the pain or sadness created by the loss, but it helps me remember that a physical death does not end a relationship with a loved one. You can read about this more in my blog on Huff Post.
Furthermore, Brene Brown, a professor and researcher on emotions, posted something on social media about the importance of gratitude and someone responded by writing, “gratitude might be an overrated cure for depression, trauma, and anxiety.” Brown points out that gratitude is not a “cure,” and we need to be wary of any single approach that sold as fixing or curing complex mental health issues.
However, gratitude remains a practice that can enrich our lives and allow us to participate more in our lives as the following quote from Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude, wrote:
“Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house-they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.
In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positive more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things-movies, computer screens, sports-but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.”
Sunday, August 8, 2021
Recently, I went for a mountain bike ride in my favorite forest here in North Georgia and had an experience that really changed the way I look at life and more importantly, altered the way I interact with the world. On this bike trail, the direction is one-way for safety, as some bicyclists get going pretty fast down the hills but the direction changes each day, so it can get confusing. When I ride and I come across someone going the wrong way, I stop and gently tell them the correct direction. Usually, they are new to the trail and they appreciate the information, since the signs showing the correct direction are sparse.
A few days ago I went for a ride, truly enjoying a mild summer day and the canopy of trees above me. I had not seen another rider all day. Suddenly, I look up and see a rider is coming right toward me, so I quickly pull off the trail and say, “You are going the wrong way.” This other rider speeds up and says, as he flies by me, “Yea, you are!” As he hurries away, I yell, “You better check that , DUDE!” thinking he may cause an accident and I am helping him.
I brush off this encounter and keep riding, trying to get back into it when I come upon a sign, marking the correct direction and I see, with surprise and chagrin, that I WAS GOING THE WRONG WAY. This was a complete paradigm shift, and I was abashed in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time, especially as I reflected on how I yelled, childishly after the other rider. I turned around and rode quickly, trying to catch the other rider and apologize and make amends, but I couldn’t find him. So, what do I do with this encounter?
In the car, on the ride home, I reflected on this and thought that the lesson here is to be more careful bike-riding, but that seemed too small. I tried to enlarge my view and thought, this is about me being more patient when I drive. Again, I realized this was probably not the message. Then it came to me, this is really about me not being so “self-righteous” when I think I am right, because as I saw in this story, I may not be right.
Many times in life, I am going the wrong way, in one way or another, and I try to correct others, when I should be self-reflecting and ensuring I am on going in the right direction, whatever that direction is for that day or in that moment. Also, I am deeply grateful for the many, many loving family members and friends who have helped me throughout my life, as they lovingly pointed out when I was going the wrong way or when I get completely off the path, lost in the forest. Innumerable people have lovingly held my hand, walking with me to help me find the path and go the right direction. One last thing I learned, I can laugh at myself in this story and in life, remembering not to take myself so seriously, DUDE!
Sunday, May 16, 2021
I was interviewed for a virtual education conference where I am presenting by the inspiration educator and colleague, Dr. Marquita Blades. Here is the link:
Also, please check out Dr. Blades amazing work at:
Friday, February 26, 2021
English Version-My interview with the Spanish Education magazine, Educacion 3.0 was published this week.
This is the English version of the interview published in Educacion 3.0 this week.
Interview with Owen M. Griffith, educator, consultant, mentor and blogger.
Book: Gratitude: a way of Teaching. (Publisher in Spain: Narcea)
· In your book you state that gratitude can change the classroom. What are the elements that make up this feeling of esteem and can transform a class?
Gratitude is more than a pleasant feeling for us and our students. Gratitude is a verb; it is an action. Our gratitude will grow as we practice it consciously and make it part of our lives. As educators, we can bring gratitude into our classrooms by encouraging students to take part regularly in gratitude activities, such as writing in a gratitude journal, verbally expressing gratitude, creating artwork that helps gratitude grow, and also exploring creative new ways to practice gratitude outside the classroom in our families and lives. As we make conscious gratitude part of the lives and ourselves and our students, gratitude elevates the culture of our classrooms. Initially, I was interested in bringing gratitude into the classroom because I read the research that students who practiced gratitude achieved better academically and also had less discipline problems and reported enjoying school more. For teachers, when they utilized gratitude, they experienced less stress, felt more satisfaction in their work, and also felt more willing to help their students and colleagues. After using gratitude in my classroom for over a decade, I can overwhelmingly report that I have found all that to be true. Gratitude is not a panacea that will cure all challenges in education, but it a powerful tool that can improve the culture and climate in any classroom.
· The current situation has forced distance education, how can this gratitude be extended when students from the same centre are separated?
With our current situation with forced distance learning, we can still practice conscious gratitude. In fact, it seems even more important to integrate gratitude into our distance learning to help balance out the difficulties that our students experience. We should first admit that this situation is challenging, but then we can look at the opportunities to bring gratitude into distance learning. I know teachers who will start virtual conferences with students, asking how everyone is, checking in, sharing challenges, and then also asking all students to share at least one thing they are grateful for. This helps balance out all the negatives going on and gives students the opportunity to find the positive things still going on in their lives and with distance learning. Attitudes are contagious, even remotely, and gratitude can help us all survive and even possibly thrive through these challenging times. Also, students and educators should look for empowering stories to share about how people are using creative ways to get through the isolation of social distancing.
· What are the three ingredients you would use to keep gratitude active in the classroom?
The three ingredients a teacher should use to keep gratitude alive and growing in the classroom are:
1. Practice Gratitude Personally
As with any action or change, we need to model the behavior before we ask our students to try it. You can start with a gratitude journal, writing each day: “Thank you for ___ because___.” Apps and websites such as Greater Good Science Center (www.thnx4.org) can send gentle reminders and prompts to help you practice this new gratitude exercise daily.
2. Spread Gratitude to Students
We can introduce the concept of gratitude to our students by starting with a gratitude list or another activity. Embedding gratitude into existing classroom activities makes the process spread more successfully into classroom culture, as well as saving precious instruction time. In social studies class, for example, students might research a historical figure who had a positive impact on the world and write about why they are grateful for that person. In English class, a teacher may have students compose a gratitude letter to someone they are grateful for, either in the school or in their family, and then, if possible, deliver the letter to the recipient.
3. Keep Applying Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude can bring transformative changes, but it often happens incrementally, so be patient and persistent. Encourage students to lead the initiative, changing it, and making it their own. Let their interests, strengths, and passions guide the process. Change gratitude routines to avoid “gratitude fatigue.” Keep activities fun and novel, allowing students and colleagues to create their own gratitude activities, and incorporating gratitude into art, music, science, or technology projects. One creative high school class used henna tattoos to display character traits they were grateful for in each other. When an educator and their class embrace gratitude, it can be a powerful tool to improve and energize school culture.
o What about teenagers?
Teenagers may pose a special challenge to the implementation of gratitude in our classrooms and families. Adolescent brains are still developing, and the last area to fully develop is the pre-frontal cortex, where executive decisions are made.
Gratitude activities can be successful with teens, but we need to be patient and flexible. Giving teens choices and independence helps. Even if we are not successful initially, don’t give up. Some teens will respond after a little time. Include them in researching new gratitude activities and let them lead us in new directions. Remember that teens may not express gratitude the way younger children do, but they still feel it and need it.
· In one of the chapters of your book you show some of the myths related to gratitude, such as that it leads to complacency or that it is only a positive thought, what is true in those myths?
Misconceptions and myths about gratitude prevent some people from trying gratitude. In the book, I present compelling research that shows in detail how those
myths are not true, but are also easy for some people to buy into. By investigating and presenting the latest scientific research, misconceptions may be dispelled. Educators may be resistant to the implementation of gratitude for a number of reasons, but by trying to create school-wide support, the application will be more successful. In addition, students may feel that gratitude is merely an obligation, but by introducing a gratitude curriculum a deeper level of practicing gratitude may be achieved. Also, to overcome the myths and resistors, we can show teachers what gratitude in the classroom may look like. Fantastic articles, blogs, and videos are available on-line, showing gratitude being implemented successfully in the classroom with a variety of activities. After these obstacles are overcome, gratitude will help shape classes and an entire school in a new and positive manner.
How can gratitude be applied among students to try to disprove them?
As we use gratitude, we can relate our experience to students to counter any obstacles. Also, an educator can present gratitude and the latest scientific research to help students to overcome any resistance to using gratitude. Not only does the research confirm that gratitude works in the classroom, it also offers activities and tools. Also, readers should feel free to share stories from my book about the benefits gratitude brings to educators, students, and their families. Students are often excited about the idea of spreading gratitude to their families and communities. As I said earlier, gratitude is contagious and soon after I was successfully implementing gratitude in my class, many other teachers in my school started doing the same thing, In fact, one teacher started a “Gratitude Chain” hanging from the ceiling in the hallway. On each link, students had written something they were grateful for. Every day different teachers and students added to the gratitude chain until it went all the way down the hallway. Students were so excited seeing this every time they walked in the hallway that they kept asking if they could add their gratitude to this chain. This kind of enthusiasm powerfully dispels many of the myths and misconceptions students and teachers may hold about gratitude.
· In his book you show that gratitude is not compatible with materialism or with believing oneself to be 'entitled to everything'. A question that is very much related to today's materialistic society. In this scenario, how can a child learn to be grateful if he believes he doesn’t need anything?
Embracing and practicing gratitude has been shown to remedy some of the pernicious effects of materialism and entitlement. Gratitude gives us a new way of seeing the world and connecting to other people, instead of negatively tying ourselves to “things” that make us happy. In what regards are materialism and gratitude diametrically opposing forces? Gratitude focuses on the positive aspects of life and the people that make those good things possible. Conversely, materialism focuses on the “things” we think we need that will bring us happiness. Applying gratitude in our classrooms and families is
another powerful step to displace entitlement. Coming from a foundation of gratitude, families can undertake acts of altruism and compassion to foster gratitude and overtake feelings of entitlement. Moreover, by demonstrating gratitude as a family, we are helping to recalibrate our priorities and to eliminate those overpowering feelings of privilege. Finding an organization to contribute to or to become volunteers as a class or as a family are steps that help gratitude eclipse feelings of privilege. Even volunteering a few hours a month can bring about the desired change. Nevertheless, this change doesn’t always happen quickly. We need to be patient and realize we are trying to supersede some entrenched habits of thinking and acting.
· You also link gratitude to responsible use of technology, what is the common ground between the two?
As we navigate our digital world, simple guidelines and interjecting some gratitude will help keep us centered and grounded. This will also enable us to lead our students and children to a balanced life with regard to technology. Encouraging students’ balanced use of technology and limiting screen time helps students and adults lead a more integrated life. Gratitude may be interjected into our technological lives, helping us stay grounded. We need to realize that gratitude is its own kind of technology. Unplugging from technology periodically may allow us time to reflect and become truly grateful. When we take even a few minutes away from digital distractions to focus on gratitude, we are recalibrating ourselves and becoming grounded again. Furthermore, we can think of the positive ways technology impacts our lives, such as making many aspects of our lives easier an
Can gratitude redirect students' relationship with technology?
When we take even a few minutes away from digital distractions to focus on gratitude, we are centering ourselves and becoming grounded again. This is even more imperative when life gets hectic and our stress levels rise. One gratitude activity we can do personally and with our students is to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and think of whom we are really grateful for, why they are important to us, as well as the things they do for us. Taking just a minute and delving deeply into gratitude can refresh us and restore some sanity to our frantic day. Some of our screen time may be replaced with a gratitude activity. Could we also integrate a gratitude activity with screen time? Sure, we can have students write a text or email to someone, telling them how grateful they are for them. Also, gratitude lists on smart phones, tablets or computers are wonderful ways to count our blessings. Personally, I still keep a gratitude list I started over 20 years ago on my computer and enjoy going back and reading over the things I have been grateful for at different times in my life.
· Although mindfulness and emotional education are becoming more widespread in schools, they are not considered compulsory subjects. What do you think about this? How can gratitude be introduced so that students recognize their emotions?
Currently, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), including gratitude, is growing strength and traction in education. I now work at university where we train teachers in every area of education, and in every program we include the area of Social Emotional Learning. Our training and curriculum cover Social Emotional Learning and how to implement it personally and in the classroom. I see this trend and I am very encouraged by this. Research shows that Social Emotional Learning empowers academic success, as well as giving effective life skills like emotional awareness and tools to help deal with the entire range of emotions. Also, it is encouraging to see new funding to help this movement spread, but we need more. We can all help by using these ideas to start implementing gratitude in education in whatever role we play and then encourage colleagues to do the same. Feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help. We can all make a ripple effect that can turn into a tidal wave that can reshape the future of education and the world in a positive way.
· What do the following words suggest to you? (This question can be answered with 2 or 3 synonyms)
Positive discipline-cultivation, affirmation
Complaint-criticism, protest, grievance
Family-powerful, love, teachers
Teacher-guide, mentor, advisor
My interview with the Spanish Education magazine, Educacion 3.0 was published this week. Here is the link to the article “La gratitud es una poderosa herramienta en cualquier aula”
I will also post the interview in English in the next blog post.
Also, here is a link to my book that was translated to Spanish:
Sunday, December 27, 2020
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
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.
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.
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-being, Journal 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 Adolescents, Journal of Happiness Studies, Volume 12, No. 2, 2011 (PDF, 356KB).
· Robert Emmons, How Gratitude Can Get You Through Hard Times, Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, May 13, 2013.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
My book, Gratitude: A Way of Teaching, was just translated and published in Spanish. The title is Gratitud y Educacion and here is the link to the book on Amazon:
Saturday, April 18, 2020
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.