#153: Gratitude for SLPs

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Gratitude Practice for Speech-Language Pathologists

Marisha was pretty skeptical when she was first introduced to the idea of a gratitude practice thanks to her new journal a few years ago.

Obviously, there were a lot of things in life to be grateful for, but why does it matter if you make a point to write them down — and is does it actually change your life that much to be more grateful?

There wasn’t a large body of evidence to support the benefits that a gratitude practice claimed to deliver (yet!) but Marisha figured she had nothing to lose, and started to look for moments that she was grateful for so she could write them down in her journal. To her surprise, intentionally practicing gratitude made a massive difference on her mood — and her work!

In the 4th episode of The Joyful SLP series (for the SLP Now podcast!) Marisha sits down with Dr. Laura Mansfield once again to talk about their experiences practicing gratitude.

They discuss how they began their own practice, the benefits of gratitude, and how they’ve changed their approach over the years. They also share the ways they incorporate gratitude into their every day as an SLP — whether that’s in the staff room, leading IEP meetings, or getting started with a mixed group in the classroom — and how it’s shifted the way they show up as SLPs.

“For me, I think it was most helpful to think about what’s a special moment that I’m grateful for? In the speech room, it might be as big as a kiddo saying their first word.

Those moments… when you really connect with a student. I’ve started to experience so many more of those when I started putting on that lens and looking for it.” —Marisha Mets

This conversation is a must-listen for any SLP that sometimes gets stuck on a negative loop in their head, who wants to feel more connected to others or is looking for ways to find more joy in their lives.

Episode Summary

In the episode, Marisha and Laura talk about:

Even though we know practicing gratitude is good for us, that doesn’t make it easy. Marisha shares that she has sometimes struggled to get into the gratitude mindset, and had to practice “a little begrudging gratitude”. Just because there are many things to be grateful for doesn’t make it easy to see those things if you’re head isn’t in a good space.

Specificity makes your gratitude practice more powerful. It might be tempting to jot down something quick and obvious, like “I’m grateful for my house.” But when you fall into the trap of generalizations, the things you’re grateful for can start to feel kind of blah. As Laura points out, there’s a big difference between “I’m grateful for my house,” versus, “I’m grateful for how soft and warm my blanket feels when I curl up in it and relax in front of the fireplace with a steaming hot cup of tea at the end of the long day.”

The best gratitude practices are tailored to your individual needs. For both Marisha and Laura, developing a gratitude practice felt like checking off a to-do list at first. Because they’re task-oriented individuals, they tried to do gratitude the “right” way, and ended up overwhelmed and discouraged. By letting go of the idea that their gratitude practices were supposed to look a certain way, Marisha and Laura were able to find something that worked for them — and as Laura mentioned, “The science doesn’t say it has to look a certain way.”

Incorporating gratitude into your SLP practice is a great way to shift the culture of schools in a more positive direction. When you’re starting a meeting with teachers, leading an IEP meeting with parents, or sitting down with our students and groups, we can open with asking about something that they’re grateful for — especially if anyone is on the struggle bus that day. Practicing in community is a great way to bring that sense of gratitude with us and to model it.

Gratitude helps us to uncover the learning opportunities in challenging situations instead of getting stuck. When you’re faced with a difficult situation or group or meeting that you’re maybe not looking forward to, and you’re anticipating there could be some conflict, studies show that people who practice gratitude are better able to cope with those difficult situations and bounce back from those setbacks. That doesn’t mean you won’t have any difficulties, but that you’re more likely to deal with the challenge in a healthy way.

“To step back and say, even in the difficult moments there is gratitude there — that we worked this out, or we had this opportunity to grow to know each other better, or helped me to build this skill within myself of resilience.” Dr. Laura Mansfield

Excerpts from the Episode

[00:00:12] Marisha: “I learned about gratitude several years ago now. But I was using a journal that had a section to write down gratitude. And I found that I was a little skeptical at first, but I found that when I started doing that, I just felt so much better throughout the day.”

[00:01:26] Laura: “Gratitude improves our mood, increases positive emotions, and a lot of the recent studies that have come out, they’ve shown that individuals who practice gratitude on a regular basis experience greater happiness and life satisfaction.”

[00:02:52] Marisha: “I can totally relate to doing things that are supposed to help us, but just getting so task oriented or running through — I used to have a bunch of tasks in my morning routine. I just tried to get these done and it was not supporting me.”

[00:04:06] Marisha: “I think it was most helpful to think about what’s a special moment that I’m grateful for? So like in the speech room, and this doesn’t happen every day, but it might be as big as a kiddo saying their first word. Those moments… when you really connect with a student. And I’ve started to experience so many more of those when I started putting on that lens and looking for it. It doesn’t have to be anything super elaborate. A student made you laugh or there was a good conversation with a teacher.”

[00:04:44] Laura: “I know we have so many responsibilities in our days as SLPs with planning and data collection. And we can put a lot on ourselves to do it right and to get it all done, that we can miss out on looking for those little opportunities of connection with our students.

And when you are looking for them so that you can document them, it changes and the frame of how you’re looking at what you’re doing and the opportunities that you have within your day.”

[00:05:13] Marisha: “It almost feels like you’re romanticizing your life. In those moments, it almost feels like I’m in a movie. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that sensation, but you just fully take in the the specialness of the moment. When we’re working with students, we have so many of those, even with the students that might stretch us a little bit. Those moments are even bigger.”

[00:06:20] Laura: “Gratitude has also been found to increase resilience in the face of adversity. When you’re faced with that difficult situation or that difficult group or that meeting that you’re maybe not looking forward to, that you’re anticipating there could be some conflict.

People who practice gratitude are better able to cope with those difficult situations and bounce back from those setbacks. So not to romanticize it, it’s not like you’re not gonna have those difficulties. But can you look at the learning opportunity within that difficult opportunity or stretch yourself? If you are struggling to connect with a student, how can I do something a little bit different to connect with that student and then be grateful for whatever those moments are that I have the opportunity to learn.”

[00:07:08] Laura: “Gratitude has been shown to improve relationships. I know for me, like in my personal relationships, in my marriage and my friendships, you can definitely come across some difficult moments for sure.

But to step back and say, you know, even in the difficult moments there is gratitude there that we worked this out or we had this opportunity to grow to know each other better or helped me to build this skill within myself of resilience — and again, not making it attached to the outcome, but to the journey and enjoying the journey, I think is important.”

[00:11:47] Laura: “I think it’s something that we can bring into our small groups with our students of moments of gratitude. And I’ve even brought it into IEP meetings. So depending on your role, if you’re running your own IEP meeting.

I think a lot of parents come in with anxiety around what they’re going to hear about their student. And it’s really difficult for them to sit through all the things that are impacted by their child’s disability. So to start a meeting with, I’m so grateful for your child and the smile that he shares with me and the hard work that he’s put in and these moments that I got to share with him, I think is such a gift to our families that we work with too. And something that we can bring into the practice that we have. And it is a practice, you know, we’re not looking for perfection. It’s how can we practice this and bring it into our lives because it does help us look at things through maybe not a more focused lens on the, all the things that are going wrong.”

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Transcript

04 Gratitude
[00:00:00] Laura: So, Marisha, when I say gratitude, what do you think of?
[00:00:05] Marisha: Being grateful?
[00:00:07] Laura: Well, that was an obvious answer. Have you ever had a gratitude practice?
[00:00:12] Marisha: Yes, I learned about gratitude several years ago now. But I was using a journal that had a section to write down gratitude. And I found that I was a little skeptical at first, but I found that when I started doing that, I just felt so much better throughout the day.
[00:00:37] Laura: Yeah. So did you do it in the morning?
[00:00:39] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:00:39] Laura: That is really neat. Yeah. I mean, it's not new. I feel like the gratitude practices have been around for decades.
[00:00:48] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:00:48] Laura: For sure. But what's really cool is that the science is actually catching up with the practice.
[00:00:53] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:00:53] Laura: And there's been these really large scale studies about the impact gratitude has on our brains and actually [00:01:00] shifting our perspective.
Because what we focus on is often what we see.
[00:01:05] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:01:06] Laura: And so by focusing more on gratitude, it can actually change how our brain perceives things.
[00:01:11] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:01:12] Laura: Which is really kind of neat.
[00:01:13] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:01:13] Laura: Um, all of that science, there's some major areas that gratitude can help us improve. And the first one is improved mood.
And I think you kind of hinted at that.
[00:01:23] Marisha: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
[00:01:24] Laura: You talked about your own gratitude practice. Gratitude improves our mood, increases positive emotions, and a lot of the recent studies that have come out, they've shown that individuals who practice gratitude on a regular basis experience greater happiness and life satisfaction.
And I don't know about you, but I want greater happiness and life satisfaction.
[00:01:45] Marisha: Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
[00:01:46] Laura: Yeah, I'll sign up for that.
[00:01:46] Marisha: I like that.
[00:01:47] Laura: Yeah. I know when I started practicing gratitude, sometimes I got into some generalizations and it almost felt like I was writing the same things every day, especially [00:02:00] when I was having more challenging days.
Did you ever feel that way?
[00:02:03] Marisha: Sometimes it did feel hard to get into the gratitude mindset. I'm grateful for my house. I guess.
[00:02:14] Laura: Maybe.
[00:02:15] Marisha: A little begruding gratitude, which is so sad because there are so many things to be grateful for, but I've definitely been in the space where I just couldn't see it.
[00:02:27] Laura: Yeah.
[00:02:27] Marisha: Or it was hard to see it.
[00:02:29] Laura: I think when I first started practicing gratitude too, I'm very much task oriented and like wanna do things the right way.
[00:02:36] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:02:36] Laura: And I think the first time I was exposed to gratitude, it was like write 10 things and I
[00:02:41] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:02:41] Laura: Felt so overwhelmed in the beginning to try and come up with 10 things because I wanted to do it right and it had to be a certain way.
[00:02:48] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:02:48] Laura: That it kind of took the joy and happiness out of the gratitude practice even.
[00:02:52] Marisha: I can totally relate to doing things that are supposed to help us, but just getting so [00:03:00] task oriented of running through. I used to have a bunch of tasks in my morning routine. I just tried to get these done and it was not supporting me.
So, yeah.
[00:03:10] Laura: I needed the little push to start to think about it so that
[00:03:14] Marisha: yeah
[00:03:14] Laura: I was looking for those
[00:03:16] Marisha: mm-hmm
[00:03:16] Laura: very specific moments of gratitude during my day, but taking away any kind of list or had to be, or had to look like a certain number really helped me. The science doesn't say it has to look a certain way.
[00:03:33] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:33] Laura: Really framing, looking for things to, you know, note that you're grateful for at the end of the day or in the morning or things you're looking forward to, changes what we're looking at and what we're looking for.
[00:03:45] Marisha: Yeah.
And I think it helped me instead of making that big list of 10 things you're grateful for today.
When I knew that every morning I was going to write a little gratitude statement, [00:04:00] I started looking for those special moments in the day.
And for me, I think it was most helpful to think about what's a special moment that I'm grateful for? So like in the speech room, and this doesn't happen every day, but it might be as big as a kiddo saying their first word.
[00:04:18] Laura: Yes.
[00:04:18] Marisha: Those moments are... Or when you really connect with a student.
And I've started to experience so many more of those when I started putting on that lens and looking for it. It doesn't have to be anything super elaborate. A student made you laugh or
[00:04:37] Laura: Yes.
[00:04:37] Marisha: There was a good conversation with a teacher.
[00:04:40] Laura: Yeah. The science has shown that gratitude reduces stress.
[00:04:44] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:44] Laura: And I know we have so many responsibilities in our days as SLPs with planning and data collection. And we can put a lot on ourselves to do it right and to get it all done, that we can miss out on looking [00:05:00] for those little opportunities of connection with our students.
And when you are looking for them so that you can document them, it changes and the frame of how you're looking at what you're doing and the opportunities that you have within your day.
[00:05:13] Marisha: It almost feels like you're romanticizing your life.
[00:05:20] Laura: Hmm.
[00:05:20] Marisha: In those moments, it almost feels like I'm in a movie.
I don't know if you've ever had that sensation, but you just fully take in the the specialness of the moment. When we're working with students, we have so many of those, even with the students that might stretch us a little bit.
[00:05:42] Laura: Yes.
[00:05:43] Marisha: Those moments are even bigger.
[00:05:44] Laura: Absolutely.
I think when you shift your attention away from kind of those negative thoughts and emotions, you know, even reframing that student that you're struggling to connect with, and we can get ourselves anxious around them. You know, it's almost 2:30 on Thursday [00:06:00] and that group is coming to me. How can we look for those moments of gratitude and reframe the little connections? You know, we might not make these huge leaps with that group, but just that small little step and to be grateful for it and to hold it.
You know, and to just say "I'm gonna be grateful for that moment" is really awesome.
[00:06:19] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:06:20] Laura: Gratitude has also been found to increase resilience in the face of adversity.
[00:06:24] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:25] Laura: When you're faced with that difficult situation or that difficult group or that meeting that you're maybe not looking forward to, that you're anticipating there could be some conflict.
People who practice gratitude are better able to cope with those difficult situations and bounce back from those setbacks. So not to romanticize it, it's not like you're not gonna have those difficulties.
[00:06:46] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:46] Laura: But can you look at the learning opportunity within that difficult opportunity or stretch yourself? If you are struggling to connect with a student, how can I do something a little bit different to connect with that [00:07:00] student and then be grateful for whatever those moments are that I have the opportunity to learn.
Despite what the outcome might be.
[00:07:06] Marisha: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
[00:07:08] Laura: Gratitude has been shown to improve relationships. I know for me, like in my personal relationships, in my marriage and my friendships, you can definitely come across some difficult moments for sure.
[00:07:21] Marisha: More than some.
[00:07:22] Laura: Yeah.
[00:07:23] Marisha: A lot of difficult moments.
[00:07:24] Laura: Depending on the day, right?
But to step back and say, you know, even in the difficult moments there is gratitude there that we worked this out or we had this opportunity to grow to know each other better or
[00:07:37] Marisha: mm-hmm
[00:07:38] Laura: helped me to build this skill within myself of resilience.
[00:07:41] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:42] Laura: And again, not making it attached to the outcome, but to the journey and enjoying the journey, I think is important.
[00:07:49] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:07:50] Laura: So people who practice gratitude experience greater feelings of social support and connection, which is really cool.
[00:07:57] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:58] Laura: They can have improved physical [00:08:00] health. Gratitude has been found to have physical health benefits, reducing inflammation in your system, improving the quality of your sleep, and boosting the immune system.
I don't know about you, but if I'm in a negative space, my brain can just start going.
[00:08:14] Marisha: Oh yeah.
[00:08:15] Laura: And it can keep me up at night.
[00:08:16] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:17] Laura: Just thinking about those things. And so the gratitude practice for me, something I close my day with to have a look back on the day and find those little moments, if I can leave that as the last thing that I'm thinking about, it really helps me drift off to sleep a little bit easier.
[00:08:34] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:08:36] Laura: And gratitude has been linked to overall wellbeing, increased life satisfaction, greater sense of purpose, and greater sense of meaning in life.
[00:08:45] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:08:45] Laura: That's really cool.
[00:08:46] Marisha: That's very cool.
So if there's an SLP listening who hasn't really implemented gratitude practice, what are some ways that that could look like?
So I shared that's part of my [00:09:00] morning routine. I jot down some of my gratitude. And you said you do yours before bed. Do you write it down?
[00:09:07] Laura: I do, yeah. I have a reflection journal. Actually I'm a reader and journaler morning and night. I journal a lot if I'm really struggling at work or stressed out at work, I have a little journal that I keep right at my desk. So I actually really like to write down those moments with students moments of connection during the day.
[00:09:26] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:26] Laura: So I might even just write them on my data sheet or if I take a break while I'm doing other things at work, I might write something in my journal just to help me work things out. I'll write them down.
[00:09:37] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:38] Laura: I think it's important to know that gratitude is a scientifically researched and supportive way to help you feel more joyful in your day. And so it's a great practice to try, but it doesn't have to look one way.
[00:09:51] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:52] Laura: And it's okay if it's one or two things one day and 10 or 20 things the next.
[00:09:58] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:58] Laura: I think getting specific is [00:10:00] really what's important and really highlighting those specific points of gratitude.
[00:10:04] Marisha: Instead of being, I'm grateful for my job, I'm grateful for my house, I'm grateful for my spouse. I think looking for those specific moments
[00:10:12] Laura: Yes.
[00:10:12] Marisha: I think both of our experience shows that that's very impactful.
[00:10:16] Laura: Yeah.
[00:10:16] Marisha: And it feels more like genuine and I think it helps us be more joyful in the moment.
[00:10:23] Laura: And not to say we're not grateful for our spouses and houses and jobs. We are.
[00:10:26] Marisha: Absolutely.
[00:10:27] Laura: But those moments of, I am so grateful that I have this peaceful space.
[00:10:32] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:32] Laura: You know, in front of my fireplace with my favorite blanket that's soft.
[00:10:36] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:10:36] Laura: To just decompress for a few minutes today. That was a grateful moment in that that day.
[00:10:41] Marisha: Can you imagine yourself just like soaking that in, like it makes the actual moment that much better and it has all of those other benefits that you talked about.
So we can write it in a journal. We could think about it. One thing that helped me when I was struggling, [00:11:00] whenever I walked into the door of the school, when I was walking in to go to work, I would think back to one moment that I was grateful for the previous day.
Or you could do the same thing when you're walking out the door.
If you're not a big writer, I think that could be a fun way to do that too, but I think there is something really powerful about writing it down.
[00:11:22] Laura: There is something powerful about writing for sure, and I think it's something we can bring into our practices too as SLPs.
I know as an administrator, I would start any kind of team meeting that I had with my special education staff with moments of gratitude.
[00:11:34] Marisha: Yeah.
[00:11:35] Laura: We would end gratitude. A lot of schools that I've worked at have had like staff positive things.
[00:11:41] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:42] Laura: You know, staff high fives or thoughtful Thursdays, I think teachers do it in their classrooms a lot.
[00:11:46] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:47] Laura: I think it's something that we can bring into our small groups with our students of moments of gratitude. And I've even brought it into IEP meetings. So depending on your role, if you're running your own IEP meeting.
I think a lot of parents come in with anxiety around what they're [00:12:00] going to hear about their student.
[00:12:01] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:01] Laura: And it's really difficult for them to sit through all the things that are impacted by their child's disability. So to start a meeting with, I'm so grateful for your child and the smile that he shares with me and the hard work that he's put in and these moments that I got to share with him, I think is such a gift to our families that we work with too. And something that we can bring into the practice that we have. And it is a practice, you know, we're not looking for perfection. It's how can we practice this and bring it into our lives because it does help us look at things through maybe not a more focused lens on the, all the things that are going wrong.
[00:12:36] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:36] Laura: I think our brains are tilted towards those negative stories.
[00:12:40] Marisha: It's so much easier.
[00:12:41] Laura: It's so much easier.
[00:12:43] Marisha: And it's kind of fun sometimes, but it's also very, very painful at times. So yeah, the gratitude feels a little bit better all around.
[00:12:50] Laura: Definitely feels better. I agree.
[00:12:53] Marisha: We shared a bunch of benefits of implementing gratitude, and just I'll do a quick recap of some of the [00:13:00] strategies.
Journaling in the morning, or before bed, throughout the day.
[00:13:03] Laura: When you're having that tough day, you could go back and read through it. Yeah.
[00:13:06] Marisha: Yeah. I love that. And just having it on your desk or by your therapy table so you can jot those things down as they come up.
Oh, that'd be so beautiful. I love that.
[00:13:15] Laura: Yes.
[00:13:15] Marisha: Deciding, okay, when I walk out the door to leave for work, I'm gonna think of one moment that I was grateful for throughout the day.
Or when you're starting a meeting with teachers or an IEP meeting, or even with our students and our groups, we can ask them something that they're grateful for.
I think that would be a great strategy if we feel like we're struggling on a particular day. Or our students are struggling. That can be like a great thing that we use to support each other.
[00:13:45] Laura: Yes. It's another way that we can be culture changers.
[00:13:48] Marisha: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:48] Laura: You know, wherever we are to bring that sense of gratitude with us and to model it.
[00:13:52] Marisha: Yeah.
And maybe if we see a teacher in the break room, what's something that you're grateful for today?
[00:13:58] Laura: Yeah. Just one moment [00:14:00] that you can tell me about. That could really shift things in a teacher's room.
[00:14:04] Marisha: Yeah. Yeah. I love that.
[00:14:07] Laura: Yeah.
[00:14:08] Marisha: Well that's gratitude.
[00:14:10] Laura: I'm grateful for you.
[00:14:11] Marisha: I'm grateful for you and I'm just so grateful for the podcast and getting to connect with a bunch of SLPs through this.
[00:14:20] Laura: If you decide to try it, we'd love to hear about it.
[00:14:22] Marisha: Yeah, let us know.

 

marisha-mets-about-mobile

Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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