The Grateful Portrait Project

September 10, 2020  
Rev. James Rogers - Deputy Principal and Chaplain

There is wide acknowledgement that as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, our individual and collective wellbeing is being negatively impacted. We are creatures who thrive on hope and when hope is depleted, we suffer.

Those who are well-read in the science of wellbeing will attest that the practice of gratitude is a major contributor to positive wellbeing. There seems to be a correlation between counting one’s blessings and feeling blessed.

I did some training a few years back with the Institute of Positive Education. We were led in an exercise at the end of each day called ‘panning for specks of gold’. This practice involved recording positive events in a gratitude journal and recounting those events to others. It is a ritual that can help to balance out our inherent negativity bias; that is the tendency for us to focus on and remember negative experiences in our lives. As these rituals become habit, we become more proficient in embracing the good and, consequently, more positive emotions will be experienced. Research has found that experiencing positive emotions has benefits for mental and physical health, social relationships, and academic outcomes. It can even be one way we can navigate successfully through a pandemic.

There is a strong resonance here with the teaching of the Bible. We are told often in the Bible to be thankful and express our gratitude. One example among many is Psalm 136 and the constant refrain that we ought to give thanks to the Lord. Why? For he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. This is the unique distinctive the Bible brings to the practice of gratitude. The object of our gratitude is God who is the giver of all good gifts. It goes well with us when we express our gratitude to him.

Recognising the benefits of gratitude, Wollongong Council has introduced an initiative for young people called The Grateful Portrait Project. It is a photographic opportunity for participants to submit a portrait of themselves and complete the statement, “I am grateful for …”. The Council is to be commended for responding to the current need for us to bolster our wellbeing, especially amongst young people. I commend the initiative to you for your consideration. For more information about how you can get involved, please visit Wollongong City Council’s website below.

The Grateful Portrait Project


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