November 10, 2022

The Gratitude Project Returns!

It’s GRATITUDE month!

We are so excited to be bringing back the Gratitude Project for its second year. The Office of Spiritual Life started this ritual in 2021 as a simple way to reconnect with the broader community.

A year ago in the fall, the Office of Spiritual Life was buzzing with joy and gratitude for being in more regular physical presence with our communities. Wanting to express and share this energy, we came up with gratitude as a value critical to all of our various spiritual/religious practices and something that we wanted to celebrate more broadly in the community. Despite some cold weather, we stood outside J.R. Howard Hall and shared hot cider, donuts, and a little gratitude activity for those heading to and from class. People expressed their gratitudes on fabric ribbons and we made a tree. It certainly warmed our mood!

Gratitude Project 2021

Spiritual Life is about showing up for ourselves and for one another… creating intentional community through live-giving practices and rituals… and building a sense of belonging with one another and our world. Down at our office, we also always remind one another that it’s about JOY and PLAY too.

Hilary Martin Himan, Director of Spiritual Life and Chaplain to All, shares her personal gratitude practice: “One of my spiritual practices is expressing gratitude, even on the hard days. Every night before we fall asleep, my spouse Jennie and I tell each other some gratitudes. Gratitudes can be as simple as noticing a beautiful tree to being grateful for a friend’s help. The practice has served as a great antidote to my anxiety!”

Gratitude is a practice that one must cultivate regularly. It has been shown to:

  • improve sleep quality
  • improve emotional regulation
  • increase feelings of happiness and positive mood
  • foster hope for the future
  • reduce stress, burnout, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • increase resilience Grateful in every moment

Intentionally choosing to be grateful helps to rewire our brains away from scarcity and productivity mindsets toward one of openness and appreciation for that we do have in our lives and all that does make life worth living, despite the stresses. It’s not about big serious things or forced positivity. Even expressing gratitude for the tiniest of moments can have a huge impact on our attitude. It’s not always easy, but its worth it!

We chose to hold the Gratitude Project during autumn because of the energy of release and of cozying up with what we hold dear. Trees let go of their leaves, knowing they will grow back in the spring to serve their purpose. We light candles and slow down as the colder, shorter, darker days remind us to rest and conserve our energies. No matter what our stressors are – from academics to elections – cultivating a practice of gratitude can help ground us in the present and in life’s process.

This year, in addition to warm and sweet treats, we will be decorating rainbow flags with our community’s gratitudes to hang on the lower level of the main Chapel, where our office is located. Our team has been craving rainbows lately and are excited to bring some collective pride and gratitude to our space!

Let’s practice gratitude together! Wednesday, November 16, 10-2, outside J.R. Howard. See you there.


Our new traditions are still unfolding, with new iterations and questions as we go - please share your feedback!