The playing with gratitude project begun in late 2016 after hearing from some of Australia’s leading psychologists that the biggest threat to our children’s lives, by the time they reach high school, will be their mental wellness. In response to these messages, I felt an incredible responsibility to work as hard as I could to try and look for ways to counteract this growing concern. I knew deep within my heart that teachers, like myself, needed to shift our determined professional focus towards building strong mental health foundations early in life above all things.
As I looked into how we could make a change I discovered the astonishing influence both play and gratitude could have on mental wellness in all of us, but children in particular. Gratitude, I discovered through my research, changes how we feel about ourselves and our world. If we practice gratitude each day, we feel better about ourselves, our environment, we sleep better, experience a deeper sense of joy and pleasure and feel more connected to friends and family. Gratitude can even improve our immune systems and physical energy levels. As you can imagine this caught my attention and I researched as much as I could about this new science of gratitude.
While this gratitude was growing and forming, my curiosity inspired me to think about the incredible influence play has on wellbeing too. After all, play is something we love to do, especially children. I also learnt from my research, the opposite of play is depression. This means, however, a life full of play can result in a life filled with the possibility and capacity of mental wellness. Play changes how we think and feel about ourselves, play influences our self and emotional regulation and play inspires us to keep trying, not give and stay connected with our friends and family.
I very quickly realised that these two ways of being, when mixed together could create a real, tangible and observable change in mental wellness in us all! So, I threw these elements into the blender of life and played with gratitude every day and with everyone who would listen. 2 years later we have well over 3000 children, families, learning communities and businesses being changed by play and gratitude.
PROJECT AIM & CONTEXT
The purpose of The Playing with Gratitude Project is to examine the new science of gratitude and combine it with the powerful influence of co-play in order to make a positive change in general well-being for everyone everywhere.
The Playing with Gratitude Project began taking form as a heightened awareness of stress, anxiety and depression began to emerge within corporate and educational settings. As a consequence, an urgency to counteract these presenting issues was created by leaders in both work environments. Current research into wellbeing across the lifespan suggests when we start the investing in building wellbeing in young children, supporting strong socio-emotional foundations, their lives are remarkably changed. The change can be observed in the development of automatic positive neural pathways influencing positive cognitive and social capabilities, increasing a sense of well-being and relationships right through life from birth to death (Marbina, 2015).
The aim of the project then is to purposefully create as many opportunities in educational and corporate communities for wellbeing to flourish through playing with gratitude.