2017-04-20 / Living

Thankful Thursdays has many wonderful benefits

BY TANYA TERRY
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — Psychologists have scientifically proven that one of the overall contributing factors in happiness is gratitude.

Research is also finding that those who regularly reflect on gratitude consistently report a host of benefits including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, acting out more compassion and feeling less lonely.

These are some of the reasons two teachers at Bentley High School talked to the administration about bringing Thankful Thursday to the school monthly.

“We wanted to get student buy-in, by telling them they could write about whoever they wanted,” said Rebecca Malmquist, one of the two teachers, of the program which urges students to write letters expressing gratitude to people who have touched their lives. “We figured this would help with morale. They seemed to like it from the very start.”

Malmquist showed her leadership class video clips of other schools who had done Thankful Thursdays. One person in the clips wrote a letter to someone who passed on, which was very emotional. In the videos, some people said Thankful Thursdays brought about a life changing experience for them. Malmquist observed the people who wrote the letters got just as big a lift as the person who received the letters.

“It got the kids pumped,” Malmquist said. “It was kind of neat to see.”

Malmquist’s class took a leadership role in the project. The first Thursday of every month the class is divided into groups. Initially, the leadership class students explained how Thankful Thursdays worked and talked about people who had impacted them in some way. The groups continue to go to a specific class once a month. In some of the classes with younger students, the teacher likes the leadership students to stay in the class and help the students. In other classes, the leadership students return to the other class and simply pick up thank you cards. Then, the leadership students sort through the cards and hand deliver what they can. They mail what they cannot deliver.

Some students express gratitude to other students, parents, teachers, custodians, coaches, office staff, aunt, uncles or former staff members.

“You don’t have to be gushy,” Malmquist said. “Some of my boys who are thankful to a coach are not gushy. Some of my girls are gushier.”

Staff also write letters of thanks.

“We knew the staff modeling writing cards would be good for the students to see,” Malmquist said. “They see everyone has someone that has been a positive role model and inspired them in some way, or someone they can just be thankful for.”

Malmquist said she has written to staff members who were helpful, such as one teacher she helped plan prom with. She also writes to students, such as one on student government who stays afterschool to get things done.

Malmquist said she hopes Thankful Thursdays will continue at Bentley because she sees a benefit in it.

“It has helped make the atmosphere even better than it already was,” she said.

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