Gratitude and Finding Happiness

High School Social Emotional Learning Activity

Teen SEL activity gratitude journaling worksheet

Gratitude Journaling Activity


Students learn that noting things one is thankful for helps increase overall levels of happiness. Strategy helps teens and tweens cope with the normal ups and downs of emotions.

Grade Level

High School, Middle School

Health / Social Emotional Topics

  • Health strategies for managing emotions, sadness
  • Self-awareness


Quotes and Teaching Notes

Choose one of these quotes on happiness:



1. Choose one of the quotes above and review the teaching notes on the quote page.
2. Use the quote as a launching point to discuss how life has ups and downs:
- Everyone gets sad sometimes. Social media can make it seem like everyone is happy and doing amazing things all the time, but social media isn't reality. In real experience, life has normal ups and downs. Struggles are a natural way to learn and to grow. For most people, difficult times pass and sadness is temporary.

Option: Discuss the Hedonic Treadmill, a psychological concept that people tend to have steady states of happiness. We have moments of ups and moments of downs, but we tend to level off in a middle stead state. View the hedonic treadmill activity.

Option: Consider the difference between temporary sadness and depression. See these resources on understanding the difference between sadness and depression and strategies for coping with sadness.

3. Explore a strategy for increasing happiness- A Gratitude Journal
- According to research people who take note of things they are thankful for have more positive attitudes, are more likely to exercise, report fewer physical complaints, and make more progress toward reaching personal goals. In young adults in particular, keeping a gratitude list improved positive states of attention and enthusiasm.

- Using the Gratitude Worksheet, students keep a journal of a few things each day they are thankful for. They also rate their overall level of optimism or positivity. At the end of the week, discuss how moods changed and whether gratitude journaling improved levels of happiness.

Download Worksheet PDF