Gratitude Exercise

By AHA! Staff from AHA!

Part of living a balanced and conscious life is to be aware of and to acknowledge what we give to others, as well as what we have received.

Description: Appreciation/Gratitude Circles To Native Americans, the place of gratitude is located in the west on the medicine wheel and is also the place of rest and nourishment. Appreciation circles are a way to remind us of the cyclical nature of life: beginnings, actions, endings, rest and reflection, gratitude and acknowledgement. Appreciation circles help us remember our essence and the effects we cause in our lives. Having this reflected back to us by peers is very nourishing and often a powerful reminder of who we really are. These circles are usually very moving and satisfying. They give teens a somewhat rare and valuable experience pondering and voicing what and whom they do appreciate.

Variations on a theme:

  1. For the Facilitator: We invite all participants to express their gratitude to the facilitators, especially when a visiting facilitator is present. Participants are invited to appreciate what the facilitator has brought to the group in personal terms—how they have been affected by the facilitator directly or what they specifically liked about the lesson presented.

  2. For the group: Occasionally (usually after the group has been together for some time) we will ask the participants how this group is affecting their life. What are they thankful for? Why? Going around the circle, everyone has the opportunity to speak if they wish.

  3. For each other: Going around the circle, each member receives three or four appreciations from individual participants in the group. It is by choice that participants express appreciation. This can be divided up into two rounds, where the first round is expressing gratitude for what the member has positively contributed to the group. The second round is an appreciation for who they are…the attributes that the others admire about their essence.

Try it on: Novice vs Experienced: Novice Facilitators deflect appreciation and minimize the need for people to be appreciated.They make fun of the compliments or get uncomfortable taking in positive feedback.Experienced facilitators look for every opportunity to receive and give specific appreciations. They do not praise talent but effort.

Assessing Impact: These gratitude exercises reveal quite quickly how bonded the group is. Distance will come through by a lack of eye contact and not acknowledging anyone in the room. On the other hand when gratitude is practiced continually and focuses on efforts and specifics groups become quite cohesive and inter-group sharing of gratitude becomes spontaneous and easily expressed.Gratitude is often a great way of managing difficult emotions by helping youth also focus on what is going well in their lives.

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