Resilience: 13-Gratitude 

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Resilience: 13-Gratitude

Lesson Title: 

Cultivating Gratitude: Embracing Appreciation for Personal Growth

Vocabulary Word:

Gratitude – The quality of being thankful and showing appreciation for the positive aspects of life, acknowledging the goodness in oneself, others, and the world around.

Lesson Content:

I’ll always feel grateful to Officer Wilson, who presided over the housing unit during my time in pretrial detention. After a jury convicted me of every count, I faced a life sentence. Since I was only 23, I didn’t know how to process that possibility. 

Officer Wilson stood outside my cell and he spoke with me. He offered a book that he thought would help my spirits. The book was about Nelson Mandela.

I did not know Nelson Mandela. But when I began reading his story, I learned that he was an active anti-apartheid activist who been in rison for decades. In his writing, Nelson Mandela emphasized the importance of gratitude in various aspects of life. A quote from his work:

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” 

The quote reflected Mr. Mandela’s ability to find gratitude even in challenging circumstances. It conveys his belief in acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life, no matter how small they may seem. 

Mandela’s remarkable life and ability to maintain resilience and optimism even during his 27-year imprisonment serve as a testament to his embodiment of gratitude in practice. It helped me climb through the 26 years I lived as number 16377-004. 

Nelson Mandela taught me that gratitude is a powerful practice that can transform our perspective and contribute to personal development, even in challenging circumstances like imprisonment. It involves recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of life, fostering a sense of contentment, and cultivating a mindset of abundance. By embracing gratitude, we can enhance our well-being, resilience, and overall outlook on life.

Understanding the concept of gratitude is essential for personal growth:

  1. Appreciation:
    Gratitude begins with appreciating our blessings and positive experiences, no matter how small they may seem. It involves recognizing the goodness in oneself, others, and the world around us. By acknowledging and valuing these aspects, we cultivate a sense of gratitude.
  2. Mindfulness:
    Gratitude requires being present and mindful of the present moment. It involves paying attention to the beauty, kindness, and opportunities in everyday life. Practicing mindfulness makes us more attuned to the positive aspects that often go unnoticed.
  3. Perspective Shift:
    Gratitude involves shifting our perspective from focusing on what we lack to acknowledging what we have. It requires reframing challenges as opportunities for growth and finding silver linings in difficult situations. By adopting a grateful perspective, we cultivate resilience and optimism.
  4. Gratitude Practices:
    We can cultivate gratitude through various techniques. These include keeping a gratitude journal, expressing appreciation to others, reflecting on positive moments, and practicing acts of kindness. By engaging in these practices, we reinforce our gratitude mindset and strengthen our sense of appreciation.
  5. Ripple Effect:
    Gratitude has a ripple effect on our relationships and overall well-being. When we express gratitude, we enhance our happiness while simultaneously uplifting and strengthening our connections with others. 

When we spread gratitude, we contribute to a positive and supportive environment.

Questions and Activities: Answer as you deem appropriate

  • How do you understand the concept of gratitude?
  • Why is cultivating gratitude important for personal development, particularly during imprisonment?
  • Share an example of a situation in prison where practicing gratitude helped you maintain a positive mindset and enhance your personal growth.
  • How can embracing gratitude help you prepare for a successful life after release?
  • What strategies can you employ to cultivate gratitude during your time in prison?


  • Take a few moments to reflect on three things you are grateful for today. Write them down in your journal and briefly explain why you appreciate them. Challenge yourself to identify both big and small aspects of your life to cultivate a broad perspective of gratitude.
  • Think about someone in your life who has made a positive impact on you, whether it’s a friend, family member, or staff member. Write a letter expressing your gratitude and appreciation for their presence in your life. If possible, consider sharing this letter with them or keeping it as a reminder of gratitude.
  • Remember, gratitude is a practice that can transform your mindset and enhance your personal growth. By cultivating a grateful perspective, acknowledging the positive aspects of life, and expressing appreciation, you can find strength and resilience even in challenging circumstances. Embrace the power of gratitude during your time in prison and beyond.

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