During the past several weeks I’ve spent time in schools throughout McKinney ISD. Under the circumstances, one would assume that the most common theme among campus discussions would be related to stress and fear or frustration and anxiety over the complexities of living and learning during a global pandemic. But that’s not what I heard at all.
I heard a teacher thanking students for their hard work, a student showing gratitude to her teacher for help, a parent thanking a teacher for their dedication and even students showing appreciation toward other classmates.
It turns out gratitude is more important than we may realize.
In 2015, Dr. Glenn Fox, a neuroscientist from the University of Southern California, and several colleagues hypothesized that if they induced gratitude in study participants, the subjects would experience an increase in brain activity in the regions of the brain responsible for reducing stress and increasing positive emotions.
The participants were asked to place themselves in the context of the Holocaust and to imagine what it would be like to receive lifesaving food, clothing, and shelter. These prompts were collected from over 50,000 testimonies from Holocaust survivors. Participants were then monitored under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study revealed that when participants demonstrated gratitude they experienced increases in positivity and stress relief. In fact, it turns out that many studies have provided evidence to support this claim.
Most of us don’t need scientific studies to be convinced that gratitude plays a significant part in our ability to manage stress and adversity. We know that when we stop and take time to appreciate our family, friends, community, health and other blessings, we feel happier and healthier.
This year will go down as one of the most difficult years in the history of McKinney ISD due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our staff, students and parents. Admittedly, it would be easy to focus on all of the challenges that have come our way, but what could benefit us the most at this time is to demonstrate gratitude toward others.
I am grateful for the over 24,000 students in McKinney ISD and how they continue to smile behind a mask when they walk into our schools each day. I am grateful for the nearly 3,000 McKinney ISD teachers and support staff who will do whatever it takes to ensure that our kids are successful. I am grateful for our parents for their unwavering support. I am grateful for a Board of Trustees that always make decisions in the best interest of students. I am grateful for a community that truly believes in living kind and taking care of one another. I am grateful for organizations like One Heart McKinney, MISD Adopt a Classroom and the City of McKinney.
I believe we can respect and acknowledge the challenges we are currently facing but at the same time demonstrate gratitude for living in such a special community. If gratitude truly does impact our social, emotional and physical well-being, then we could all benefit from being reminded of how fortunate we are to live in McKinney, Texas.