Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Classroom through Gratitude

By cultivating a daily practice of gratitude in the classroom, we can create a safe and nurturing environment that promotes positive mental health and empowers pupils to thrive.

Zeena Hicks

5/10/20233 min read


Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions that has been proven to have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. When we express gratitude, we acknowledge and appreciate the good things in our lives, no matter how many challenges may appear to be present. Awareness of gratitude can positively impact our happiness, emotions, and resilience. In a classroom setting, an increasing number of studies have shared that positive mental health is a key contributor to pupil success and academic achievement (1 ,2). In this blog, we'll explore the positive psychology intervention of gratitude to further understand how it can promote positive mental health in the classroom.

Defining Gratitude

Gratitude can be defined as a feeling of deep appreciation or thanks for something that has been given or received. It may also be known as ‘thankfulness’ and can take several forms, from simply thanking someone who has helped us, to feeling grateful for the simple things in life, like a beautiful sunset or a delicious cup of warm tea. The psychological benefits of gratitude are plentiful, and research over the years has shown that it can increase happiness, positive emotions, and resilience (3).

Benefits of Gratitude in Promoting Positive Mental Health

The physical benefits of gratitude on mental health are significant. Research has shown that gratitude can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in both adults and young people. The feeling of gratitude helps trigger one’s brain to release happy hormones, including oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin and as a result it increases positive emotions, social connections, and overall well-being. When young people practice gratitude, they are more likely to have a positive outlook on life, feel more optimistic about the future, and have higher attainment (2).

Academic Research on Gratitude in Education

Recent studies have examined the link between gratitude, engagement, and academic achievement. One study found that gratitude interventions led to improved grades and increased social-emotional wellbeing in students (4). Further studies found gratitude to enhance relationships between peer groups and teachers and students, leading to better social interaction, reduced judgement and improved academic outcomes (5). These findings suggest that gratitude practices can have a positive impact not only on mental health but also on academic success.

Strategies for Promoting Gratitude in the Classroom

There are many interventions for promoting gratitude in the classroom. Here are just a few exercises for pupils to get you started:

  • incorporate mindfulness practices, such as breathing exercises and visualisation techniques, into lessons, which can help students become more aware of their emotions and appreciate the present moment.

  • encourage pupils to keep a gratitude journal, where they write down people, activities or things they are thankful for each day.

  • get students to write gratitude letters to someone who has made a positive impact on them.

  • create gratitude circles, where students take turns sharing moments of gratitude for something positive that has happened to them, that day or that week.

Teachers can also benefit hugely themselves by creating a culture of gratitude in the classroom by:

  • expressing their own gratitude and appreciation for their students, which can help pupils feel valued and appreciated, leading to a more positive and supportive learning environment.

  • enjoy mindfully walking in nature, engaging each of the senses to notice those small things that may be easy to miss when rushing about, such as a cool breeze on the face, listening to birdsong or seeing new buds bursting into bloom.

  • positive reinforcement is also an effective tool, where teachers can praise students for their efforts and accomplishments, which can help build self-esteem and confidence in both parties.

Tailoring gratitude practices to different age groups and learning levels is also key for successful implementation. For younger pupils, gratitude activities can be more visual and hands-on, such as creating gratitude wall art or drawings. For older students, gratitude discussions and reflective writing exercises may be more effective.


In conclusion, encouraging gratitude in the classroom is an effective tool for positive mental health, increased optimism and academic success. By fostering a culture of gratitude and actively implementing practical interventions, teachers can help their pupils and themselves to develop a more positive outlook on life, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving overall wellbeing. Encourage your pupils to practice gratitude and experience the positive impact it can have on their lives. Let's take the time to spread gratitude and positivity in our schools and watch the benefits both in and outside the classroom.


(1) Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PloS one, 7(12), e51380.

(2) Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of school psychology, 46(2), 213-233.

(3) Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in practice and the practice of gratitude. Positive psychology in practice, 464-481.

(4) Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213-233.

(5) Froh, J. J., Bono, G., & Emmons, R. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivation and Emotion, 34, 144-157.