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A Path to Good Mental Health: Joy and Gratitude, Gratitude and Joy.

We have entered the month of Adar and the Talmud advises us, “Mishenichnas Adar, mar bin b’simcha!” – When the month of Adar arrives, we increase our joy. This year we get a double dose of Adar as it is a leap year on the Hebrew calendar (known as a pregnant year) which means Adar happens twice. Though the first Adar is the extra one added to the calendar with Purim officially celebrated during Adar II (this year, sundown March 16th -March 17th), I personally love the idea of increasing our joy during both months.

This is a wonderful time to slow down and consider what brings you joy. With the continuing challenge after challenge we all face due to what feels like a never-ending pandemic, in the spirit of Purim, I choose to flip the connection to the word “challenge” on its’ head and make it a positive thing. I challenge everyone to take a few moments to reflect on your sources of joy, what brings joyful feelings into your life?  Write them down and either chose one to commit to doing at an increased level over the next few weeks or commit to engaging in one of the things you listed every day during the months of Adar. The beauty of doing things that make us feel joyful is that it is so easy to connect to feelings of gratitude. For example, that you have a body that is working well enough to hike, do yoga, dance, smell the flowers, etc.  I originally thought this was the main connection between joy and gratitude – that when you are doing something that brings you joy, you can’t help but be in touch with all the things related to it that you’re so grateful for; however, I’ve uncovered an interesting connection between joy and gratitude that also turns that idea on its’ head. Researcher Brene Brown found that people who describe their lives as joyful had one main thing in common, that of a “gratitude practice.” She describes this finding HERE.  In other words, practicing gratitude in an intentional way results in bringing joy into our lives. And, the beauty of having a gratitude practice is that it can help to support our overall emotional well-being. Practicing gratitude has numerous mental health benefits, physical, emotional, and spiritual. As caregivers on the front lines during this pandemic, early childhood educators need to support their own mental health as well as that of the children with whom they work.

Here are a few suggestions for bringing more gratitude (and therefore, more joy) into your life:

  • Pay attention and notice the good things in your life – this takes skills we in ECE really value: mindfulness, observation, and reflection.
  • Slow down and be grateful for the small things that are easy to overlook. The natural world provides so many opportunities for this – noticing the beauty of a frosty morning, the patterns in a flower, reflections of the clouds in a puddle, etc. Watch this TEDtalk and video on gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg for some beautiful inspiration.
  • Adopt a “gratitude practice.”  It might be keeping a gratitude journal or creating a ritual where at a certain time each day you pay attention to something you are grateful for in that moment and either write it down or share it verbally with others. For the greatest benefit, it needs to be articulated.  The key thing is to make it a practice – something you do regularly that builds your gratitude muscle.
  • Start your day with inspiration and a reminder to stay in touch with feelings of gratitude by signing up to receive a quote of the day from
  • Here are some more ideas for practicing gratitude.

Wishing you all many moments of gratitude and much-increased joy to sustain you through these times!

A few final quotes of inspiration:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”     -William Arthur Ward

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” —Karl Barth