Want to be Happier? Start With Gratitude

Suzanne DaileyBlog, Lead Better, Self Care Better, Teach Happier

In This Post:

  • The first tip to teach happier: Gratitude!
  • Suggestions to focus on the positive and stay grateful.
  • Ideas to bring gratitude practice in to your classroom or school.

We all want to be happy.  In a perfect world, happiness would greet us each morning, usher us around, and surround our days with lovely things, moments, and people.  But positive psychology tells us that the world isn’t inherently positive or negative.  It’s neutral.  What we put out into the universe is proven to impact what comes back.  This is some of the best news we can receive.

Why is it the best news?  Because even in the midst of a dark, cold winter, we have the capability to impact our own happiness. Although there may not be a linear list of steps to follow to become happier, there is a definite place to start.

According to positive psychologists, what is the single, most impactful practice that boosts optimism and happiness? Gratitude.  When I first learned this I felt a bit…underwhelmed.  That’s it?!  I just have to recognize and recall the good?  I can do that!

Gratitude Step 1: Recognize

Any single happy experience may be minimized or maximized depending on how much attention is focused on it. It’s really that simple.  When something good happens today, recognize it.  It could be the first sip of a hot cup of coffee in the morning, the colleague who made an extra set of copies so you didn’t have to, the “aha” moment of a student f-i-n-a-l-l-y getting long division, the funny thing your son said at dinner, or an evening without commitments so everyone was home.

When we pay attention, scan for the good stuff, and recognize when it happens, we are literally rewiring neuropathways in our brain.  We are also on our way to living a life of abundance and gratitude.

If we believe the world is ultimately good and we believe our lives are abundant with people and things to be grateful for, that is what we will train our minds and hearts to see. Click To Tweet

Gratitude Step 2: Recall & Record

It’s worth repeating:  Any single happy experience may be minimized or maximized depending on how much attention is focused on it.  So how do we give those positive moments more attention?  We recall and record them!

Grab a journal or use an app like Grateful: A Gratitude Journal or Reflecty and record those happy moments.  After you get into this habit, you will notice 2 profoundly impactful things –  your brain is now more likely to “scan for the good” automatically, making your days happier.  Once you recall and record them, you are reliving those moments and ending your day in a state of peace and positivity.  Recalling them also increases the likelihood that your happy memory stays in your long-term memory.  The best part? It takes 30 seconds or less.

Now let’s bring this into our classrooms.  How empowering would it be if we could show our students that gratitude makes a significantly positive impact in their young lives?  We CAN!

Many students in my school district have science notebooks, reading notebooks, math notebooks, writer’s notebooks and….drum roll please…GRATITUDE books!

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It’s often a classroom habit to “End the Day Happy” and recall 3 positive things that happened that day.  And yes, some days it may be challenging to recognize 3 positive things that day.  But on those challenging, hard, will-this-day-ever-end days, it is even more important to scan for the good.  If we can help our students understand the positive impact gratitude can have in their lives, we are growing classrooms of rational optimists, and I can’t think of anything better.

Are you interested in spreading gratitude to your colleagues?  Check out what our Association does with our interoffice mail among 23 schools to recognize and express gratitude.








I’ve been keeping Gratitude Journals since 1999.  3 years ago, I found another fun way to record times of gratitude and happiness in 30 seconds or less(!) by using The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record by Gretchen Rubin.  It’s so great because it archives 5 years of happy moments, but you only get a tiny bit if space, so you have to recognize, recall and record the best of the best stuff.

Here’s an example from my journal:

I’ve heard from people who purchased this book for their child when they began high school or college as a way to archive the good stuff in a new journey.  I like to give this on a milestone birthday as a new season is ushered in.  When I travel, I keep a list of the moments I am grateful for in my Notes App so I am sure to record the precious memories when I get home without losing my beloved book!

Already a gratitude guru?  If so, consider using your strength in a new way.  I’ve tried to flex my gratitude muscles when I introduce people to one another. Instead of saying, “Mindy, this is Bev; Bev, meet Mindy.” It now sounds more like this: “Mindy, this is my friend Bev. I am so grateful for her because she encourages me to squeeze the heck out of every day.  And Bev, this is Mindy.  She is such a gift because she teaches me how to love and care for everyone around her.”

Introducing special people like this conscientiously puts positivity into a neutral universe.  And guess what? Happiness abounds for everyone involved.

During joyful seasons in my life, gratitude flourishes.  During challenging seasons, gratitude helps me sift through what’s in front of me to discern my next right thing.  It anchors just about everything in my personal and professional life.

We have all heard the phrase, seeing is believing, but let’s consider the opposite: believing is seeing. If we believe the world is ultimately good and we believe our lives are abundant with people and things to be grateful for, that is what we will train our minds and hearts to see.

Believing is seeing.

What a great place to begin!


Each Teach Happier posting will include a small shift that will bring positivity into your world.  Think back to the past 24 hours.  Can you recall 5 things you are grateful for?  Bonus points if there is somebody on your list and you reach out to them to say thank you!



Suzanne Dailey is proud member of the Teach Better Family! She is an instructional coach in the Central Bucks School District where she has the honor and joy of working with elementary teachers and students in 15 buildings. Suzanne is Nationally Board Certified, a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and has a Masters Degree in Reading. She is dedicated to nurturing and developing the whole child and teacher. Suzanne lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.