From the Head of Junior School
Year 4 Red led us in liturgy this week, focusing on the theme of gratitude. We live in a society that often promotes individuality over community, and entitlements over gratitude. It can also be very difficult to live in a disposition of gratitude when we are challenged or anxious, like when we are living in a type of isolation and there is so much change in our lives.
Gratitude has a powerful effect on the brain. Positive psychology tells us that people who practise gratitude experience high levels of wellbeing and are less anxious and stressed. They have much more satisfying relationships. When we actively look for the good, our brains become wired to look for the positive, even when we hit rock bottom.
As an Ignatian school, we actively encourage our students to be grateful and joyful, among other virtues. Students are actively encouraged to cultivate gratitude in their lives at school through the weekly Examen and their gratitude journals. At times it is difficult to be grateful when we are challenged and struggling, and yet it is exactly at that time we need to try harder at cultivating this virtue. We cannot depend upon built-up reserves of gratitude from previous moments or times in our lives. It is a virtue that is better placed if lived in our daily lives.
Neuroscientists tell us of the concept of neuroplasticity, where the brain can develop new pathways or strengthen existing ones – including those linked to happiness. Saint Ignatius was strong on the idea of gratitude. In the last contemplation in the Spiritual Exercises – the contemplation to divine love − he invites retreatants to remember all the gifts and blessings in their lives, offering these gifts in thanks to God.
Parents can easily cultivate gratitude in conversation around dinner time, asking their children each day what they could be grateful for. These practices help us to listen to what others are grateful for and to see what is moving in their lives. Through this they can be encouraged to say thank you to those people who are grateful for those who encourage us to be who we are (including parents!).
Henry Nowland summed this up well in saying that gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.
Mr Nic Boys
Head of Junior School