Having a Positive Mindset

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand that the way they see things isn’t necessary the “truth” about the way they are. The youth will experience the impact a positive mindset can have, practice noticing subtle differences and cultivating an optimistic perspective.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

There is a lot of pressure these days on young people, teachers and others to “do and be their best.” Yet many of the things we do to try to accomplish this or help others accomplish it actually work against us. Mindset, the way we see things, plays a huge role in this.

People who thrive, rather than just survive, tend to have positive mindsets. They see the learning in difficult situations, they see the benefit that comes from hardship, and they see themselves and others as having what’s needed to be their best.

We can actually learn to think this way even if it doesn’t feel totally natural right now.

Consider this: Why is it that two people can see the same movie and describe it totally differently? Or what about when we watch the same movie more than once: Why do we notice different things each time? The truth is that our minds shape our experiences, our memories, and we can learn to influence our minds to see things differently.


Show the Mental Remix video from  ChangeToChill.org by Allina Health.

Explain to the youth that our “success” in life, however we define it, depends a lot on our attitude and how we see things.

Ask: Why is it that two people can see the same movie and describe it totally differently? Or what about when we watch the same movie more than once: Why do we notice different things each time?

Give time for discussion of the questions. Then explain that our minds shape our experiences, our memories, and we can learn to influence our minds to see things differently.

Activity: What’s Changed?

Let the youth know that you are going to do an activity that highlights the idea that how we see things is shaped by what we’re looking for and what we focus on. Don’t tell them more than that. Then give them the following instructions:

Round one (there are three total)

  1. Pair young people each with a partner.
  2. First, tell them to stand facing their partner and simply observe.
  3. Then ask pairs to stand back-to-back a couple feet away from each other. They are not to look at their partners.
  4. Ask each young person to change three things about their physical appearance, without their partner knowing what the changes are. If they need a little help with ideas suggest removing items of jewelry and/or clothing such as a shoe, rolling up a sleeve, changing something about their hair, and so on.
  5. After everyone has made the changes, ask the young people to face their partner again and each take a turn at trying to identify the things that have changed. Some will be able to identify the three changes in their partner’s appearance; some will not, that’s OK.
  6. Ask, “Who found all three?” “Who found two of the three?” etc.

Round two

Without changing the first three things back to the way they were, repeat round one. It may be harder this time for them to think of things to change. Encourage them to be creative.

Round three

Repeat the exercise again a third time and then talk about these questions:

  • What was it like doing this activity? How did you feel? What were you thinking about?
  • Was it easy or hard to think of things to change? Why?
  • Was it easy or hard to figure out what changes your partner made? Why?
  • Did you start looking at your partner differently after I told you to make changes? Why do you think that was?
  • (Young people may say things like that they looked more closely at details; they noticed different things, they tried to remember what the person “looked” like before and couldn’t).

Make the point that how we see something changes based on what we’re looking for, where are minds our focused, what our goal or task is. This is true for life as well as in the exercise.

Activity: Changing Perspective

  1. Ask the young people if they have examples of situations they could look at differently simply by changing their perspective or changing what they are looking for. Examples could include doing poorly on a test, something that happened in a sporting event, or a situation with a friend.
  2. Encourage young people to share examples and give a least two different perspectives, such as looking at a bad test score as having messed up or as a great lesson in needing to study more.
  3. After the conversation ask them to each write about a time when they saw something as negative but looking back on it could have been seen as more positive.


Remind young people that our minds shape our memories and that knowing that can help us be more resilient and thrive. Present this challenge: Next time you are confronted with a potentially negative situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the situation really as bad as I think?
  • Is there another way to look at the situation?
  • What can I learn from this experience that I can use in the future?

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can practice seeing situations from different perspectives at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Change To Chill by Allina Health

What We Can Do to Stress Less

Lesson Introduction & Overview

This short lesson is aimed at getting youth to think about their responses to stressful or challenging situations, and to respond positively rather than by adding to the difficulty.


1. Show the What Pizza Wears Gloves video and The Two Arrows Explainer video.

2. Talk briefly about what they noticed and what they thought about these two videos. Ask if anyone has any questions about them.

3. Then ask about stress:

  • Do you ever feel stressed out? Have you ever felt like the Pizza or the person who dropped the lunch tray? What does stress feel like in your body and in your thoughts?
  • What causes stress in your life?
  • Do your family members or friends ever get stressed? How can you tell? How do they act?
  • What do you think causes stress for other people?

4. Then talk about how the videos mention “mindfulness” and “Change to Chill.” Ask youth if they’ve ever heard those terms before and what they think they mean. Talk about their ideas and share your own.

5. Show the youth the pens, sticky notes and wall space. Explain that as a group you are going to write as many ideas as you can about how to stress less or deal with stress when it comes up. Give some examples like, “go for a run,” “listen to music,” or “make slime with your friends.”

6. Give youth a chance to post their own ideas and read through others. Talk briefly about:

  • What’s your favorite way to de-stress?
  • Did you get any new ideas today?
  • What’s one thing you might like to try next time you feel stressed out?


Keep the wall of notes up for as long as seems helpful. Consider also sharing the ideas through social media or school resources.

Additional Resources:

Additional videos:

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can stress less at home.

Stress! No Body Needs It

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the causes and effects of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will identify physical symptoms of stress and list some situations that may bring them on. They will learn some skills for managing stress and make their very own stress ball.


Introduce the young people to the topic of stress. Let them know that we’ve all had times when our bodies react to stress and we can feel it. It’s the sensation also known as “flight or fight.” Our bodies’ natural way of coping with being frightened or challenged is to release certain chemicals into our bloodstream that provide extra short-term energy and alertness. Our instincts take over and “tell” us that we are facing danger and we either need to defend ourselves (fight) or get away (flight).

Sometimes when this happens we do things we didn’t think we could, such as run very fast or lift something heavy. We may also notice that our hearts beating harder and faster, our hands getting sweaty and cold, or our faces feeling flushed and hot.

Chances are everyone will have had many experiences of this. Ask for a few descriptions of what that looks and feels like. Young people might also describe feeling “butterflies” in their stomachs or having dry mouths.

Then explain that when this happens the options for what a person can do to respond become very limited because instinct takes over and we lose our ability to fully use the part of our brains that makes rational decisions.

Fortunately, by understanding what triggers our “fight or flight” reaction and learning skills to deal with it, we can learn to prevent some stress responses and calm ourselves down from those that do happen.

Activity: How Do You Know if it’s Stress?

Distribute the handout: Your Body Under Stress

Ask young people to each draw or write images on their “body” of where they feel stress and how they know they are having a stress response.

Don’t give examples right away, but if they need a little help you can offer these ideas:

  • heart pounds harder and faster
  • hands feel sweaty and cold
  • face flushes (gets hot and red)
  • “butterflies” in your stomach
  • dry mouth.

After young people finish the handout ask them the following questions:

  1. How easy or hard was it to think of ways your body reacts to stress?
  2. What are some of the ways you thought of that your body reacts to stress?
  3. Does everyone respond the same way?
  4. Are there good kinds of stress? What are some examples? (Examples of positive stress might be a performance of some sort, a physical challenge, speaking in front of a group about something important to you, and so on. Positive stress creates feelings of excitement, anticipation, like right before going over a big hill on a roller coaster.)

Activity: What brings stress on?

Complete the Stress: What Brings it On? worksheet.

There doesn’t need to be a lot of discussion about this worksheet as long as you process it at the end of the session as described in the conclusion. Do point out, however, that one way of both avoiding stress and getting better at dealing with it is to become more aware of what brings it on for you personally. This worksheet helps people think about and identify their own personal stress triggers.

Activity:  Make a stress ball

Introduce the stress ball as a way to help deal with stress. These objects are popular because squeezing the ball in your hand helps reduce tension throughout your body. It may be even more effective if you pay attention to your breath as you squeeze: breathe in as you squeeze the ball, breathe out as you relax your hand.

Let each young person make a homemade stress ball. Instructions:

    1. Take two or three balloons and cut the tops off just above the rounded area, so that all is left is the round part of the balloon. You will also need one uncut balloon.
    2. Take the uncut balloon and stretch the opening over the narrow end of the funnel. Have young people work in pairs so one can hold the funnel while the other fills it the balloon.
    3. Slowly and carefully pour about half a cup of millet seed into the funnel. The amount with vary depending on the size of balloon you use. Make sure it all goes into the balloon. Add more if necessary.
    4. Once the balloon is full to the top of the rounded part, without stretching the balloon, stop filling.
    5. Remove the funnel and tie a tight knot just above the round part of the balloon. Do not cut off the end of the balloon.
    6. Take one of the cut balloons and stretch it over the tied millet-filled balloon. Make sure the tied end is covered first.
    7. Continue adding more cut balloons, always covering the open end of the previous balloon first until you have several layers. This way if one layer breaks the seed will not spill out.


    • The number of balloons you will need will depend on how strong and thick the balloons are. If you use good quality, thick balloons, you should only need three in addition to the filled balloon. If you use weaker balloons, you may need to use four or more.
    • With use, your stress ball will become dirty, so you can either clean carefully with very mild soap and water, or remove the outer balloon and add a new one.


Talk about how young people can learn to make choices that help them avoid negative stress, the kind that makes it so they have a hard time making decisions, the kind that feels uncomfortable and maybe even a little bit scary. Ask the youth what kind of activities will help them deal with de-stress. Some examples include:

  • taking a walk
  • talking to a friend
  • listening to music
  • meditation.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing stress and healthy ways to deal with it at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Stress Busters

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the symptoms of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will practice relaxation techniques that focus on calming the body in order to relax the mind.


Explain to the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on your body. Here are some ways that stress can affect you physically:

  • upset stomach
  • headache
  • trouble breathing
  • dizziness
  • chest pains
  • heartburn
  • muscle pain, aches, cramps
  • change in sleep habits
  • change in appetite
  • change in weight.

Ask the youth if they can think of others that they’ve either experienced or heard of.

The good news is that because our bodies and our minds are so connected we can also do things with our bodies that help our minds, and our whole body, relax.

Activity: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Read the instructions for this relaxation activity aloud to the youth and ask them to follow along.

  1. Get into a comfortable position. You can sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes, if you feel comfortable doing so. Focus on relaxing your entire body as much as possible.
  3. Start by tensing your toes; curl them up into your feet and hold them tight for 3 to 5 seconds. Release them. Take a deep breath and repeat for another 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Next, tighten all your muscles from your feet up to your waist. Do a quick mental scan and make sure you have them all: your calves, your things, your bottom. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds Release and repeat.
  5. Now do the same thing with your stomach. Tighten it as much as you can. Hold it. Then release and repeat.
  6. Then do the same thing with your chest. Tighten, hold, release. Two times.
  7. Now your whole torso, including your shoulders, which will probably lift slightly off the ground or away from your chair when you tense them.
  8. Now move to your hands. Tighten them into fists, hold for a count of five and release. Repeat this two times.
  9. Then tighten your entire arms, bending your fists back at the wrist. Hold for five seconds and release. Then repeat.
  10. Tighten your neck by turning your head as far to the right as you can without feeling any discomfort and holding it for 3 to 5 seconds. Then release. Repeat this one more time.
  11. Do the same thing on the left.
  12. Now scrunch and tighten your whole face and hold it for five seconds. Do this one more time and then you are done.
  13. Now that you’ve tensed and released every part of your body, do a quick scan. How do you feel? Are there are places you’d like to tense and release again for a little more relaxation? Go ahead and do that.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes and begin to slowly move around. Enjoy the calm feeling this activity is sure to bring!

Activity: Whip Share

Do a “whip share” reflection about the above activity. A whip share is where everyone stands in a circle and one at time quickly makes one short statement. In this case ask them to share one thing that they do to help themselves de-stress such as go for a walk, talk to a friend, or listen to music.

Optional Activity: Breathe In, Bubbles Out!

Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs full of air! Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds. Put the bubble wand up by your mouth and blow! Repeat 3 to 5 times, trying to blow more bubbles each time. After the exercise, ask the youth where in their bodies do they feel the stress or anxiety being released.


Remind the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on us, but that when we relax our bodies, we can also relax our minds. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is one activity we can do any time we’re feeling stressed.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing stress and healthy ways to deal with it at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Self-Esteem and Body Image Activities for Kids

Self-Esteem Lesson Plan Overview

This lesson helps young people reflect on the messages they get and give (including to themselves) about personal worth and value. They learn steps they can take to feel confident and good about themselves.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson plan, you may want to review the following information about self-esteem. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. These feelings can change as things in your life change, such as going to a new school or becoming a brother or sister.
  • Self-esteem can be positive (you love, respect, and trust yourself) or negative (you feel insecure and helpless).
  • Body image is part of self-esteem. It is how you feel about how you look. Body image also includes how you think others see you.
  • Having a positive body image means that you:
    • feel comfortable in your body and with the way you look
    • feel good about the things your body can do
    • feel empowered to take good care of your physical health.
  • It is common to struggle with body image, no matter who you are, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel good.


Ask young people to brainstorm a list of ways people are different from each other. Include physical differences (such as eye color) and non-physical (such as favorite kinds of music). Make a list on a whiteboard or flipchart. Things on the list might include:

  • likes/dislikes
  • abilities (some people are good at math, some at writing, some at art, some at sports, some at music, etc.)
  • interests
  • height
  • weight
  • body build (slender, muscular, etc.)
  • complexion
  • hair colors/type (straight, curly, etc.)
  • eye color
  • preferences

Point out that some things we can change through effort (by studying, practicing, learning), some things are out of our power to change (height, race, who our parents are), and some will change over time (our natural hair color, our joints and muscles, our experiences).

Body Image Activity for Kids

  1. Ask your students to list on a piece of paper or in a journal, three things they like about themselves and three things they are good at. These can be the same things. Ask for volunteers to share examples of what they wrote. Write down these things on a whiteboard or flipchart. Point out that everyone has strengths and that these strengths are part of what make us unique and special. The fact that we are all different is also part of what makes the world interesting.
  2. Ask if anyone has ever been teased or picked on for something that makes them unique or picked on someone else for being unique. How did that feel? How did you deal with the situation? How might you deal differently with the situation today? Allow this to be a sharing time without a lot of processing or attempted problem-solving. Don’t let it turn into a time to make fun of or further tease participants. Thank young people who are willing to share these reflections. Acknowledge that being made to feel different or weird can hurt a lot. Reinforce positive actions or thoughts that are shared. If young people share things that are currently happening and are of concern, follow-up privately with them afterward to learn if they need additional support or intervention.
  3. Ask the class to make a list of things they can each do to have a positive self-esteem and body image. Encourage them to be creative; they may come up with surprising and fun suggestions. The list might include:
    • Spend time with people who treat you well and help you feel good about yourself.
    • Use positive self-talk, such as “I am strong, self-confident, and capable.”
    • Keep a journal to help you see what areas in your life need attention.
    • Celebrate what you like about yourself and work on changing things that you don’t like as much.
    • Remind yourself that you are unique, special, valued and important.
    • Get out and participate in activities with your family and friends.
    • Eat foods that are good for you and make you feel great, such as lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as from nuts, avocados and olive oil.
    • Be active at least 60 minutes each day.
    • Talk with a trusted family member or friend if you are feeling low.
    • Treat others with the kindness and respect that all unique individuals deserve.


Self-esteem can’t be taught, but it can be strengthened. This self-esteem lesson plan could spark difficult feelings for young people who are highly insecure, depressed or otherwise struggling. During these body image activities, encourage young people to talk to a trusted friend or adult if they find themselves feeling down about themselves on a regular basis or over a long period of time. Health Powered Kids offers wellness resources for parents that can help them talk to kids about positive body images, and teach important lessons on self-esteem and healthy living.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing positive self-esteem and body image with their kids at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources:

Noticing Walk and Reflection

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Young people take a walk and then reflect on what they saw, heard, thought about and felt during the walk. Three year olds are going to have a very different experience of this activity than eight year olds, so adjust your instructions and expectations accordingly.


  1. Prepare young people for the walk with the following explanation:
    1. Today we are going to go on a Noticing Walk. What do you think I might mean when I say, “Noticing Walk?” Let young people respond with what they saw, heard, thought about and felt during the walk.
    2. Describe the area in which you will walk. Ask them what they think they might notice in that place or space.
    3. Encourage young people to pay attention to (notice) their experiences, including what they see, hear, think about and feel during the walk. It’s okay for them to talk to each other about their experiences when walking, but they might be able to notice better if they are mostly quiet.
    4. Tell them that at the halfway point, you are going to ask for one minute of silence. During this time, you’ll keep walking but no one should be talking.
  2. Go on a short walk (ranging from 10-20 minutes), preferably outside, but inside is okay too.
  3. Every so often, remind them that the point of the walk is to be paying attention to sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings.
  4. Return to your classroom or home base and handout blank sheets of paper and crayons or markers. Ask young people to draw or write about something they noticed on the walk.
  5. After young people are done with coloring, ask them to share what they drew or wrote with the rest of the group.


A nice practice in mindfulness is gratitude. At the end of your activity, thank young people for participating and express your appreciation for some aspect of what happened.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can go on a noticing walk at home.

Learning to Calm Fear

Lesson Overview

Some things in the world are scary. It would be nice if you could just make those scary things and scary feelings go away, but sometimes you can’t. Some stuff is beyond your control. What you can control, however, is your response to fear and the ways you take care of yourself during these scary times.

This lesson focuses on what fear feels like, different ways people respond to it, and steps anyone can take to help manage fear and learn to live with scary things.

What is fear? Fear is a response to things that scare you. It can be helpful because it can alert you to danger. It can be harmful if you over react.

What does fear feel like? Fear feels different to each person, but there are some things that are pretty common:

  • Feeling fear in your body You may have a racing heart, dizziness, fast breathing, sweating or getting very cold (or both), tingling or weakness in arms or legs, upset stomach, pounding head or headache, blurry vision, or a rushing sound in your ears.
  • Feeling fear in your mind You may worry, have scary images or ideas, want to sleep or not be able to sleep, or lose your appetite.

What does fear make you do? Each person responds differently to different fears, but typically reactions fall into one of three categories: FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE.

  • FIGHT—Sometimes fear makes you want to fight back against the thing that you’re afraid of.
  • FLIGHT—Sometimes you just want to run away.
  • FREEZE—Other times your body freezes up and you feel like you can’t or don’t want to move.


Fight, Flight, Freeze or Forget It

  1. Start with an introduction of what fear is, what it feels like, and the different ways people respond.
  2. Introduce the fight/flight/freeze response, talk about how sometimes you have a fear response that:
    • Helps you (For example: If you’re in a scary situation and you instinctively know to run away.)
    • Doesn’t actually fit with what’s happening (For example: You might feel like you need to run away when you’re at the doctor’s office to get a flu shot. A flu shot is something that is good for you, but a lot of people are afraid of shots.)
  3. Explain that you’re going to do an activity that helps young people learn how they respond to different situations that might be scary. You’re going to describe some different situations and for each one young people should make a face or gesture that goes with how they think they would respond—fight, flight, freeze, or forget it (meaning it isn’t something that would scare them.)
  4. Ask young people to practice each of these faces or gestures, one at a time in order:
    • Fight
    • Flight
    • Freeze
    • Forget it
  5. Start playing music while young people mill around the room. When you turn the music off, describe a potentially scary situation (nothing too scary for this activity as it is simply designed to get young people thinking, not to cause anxiety). After each song, talk a little bit with the young people about why they responded the way that they did, especially if there are differences among the group. Be very clear that there are no right or wrong responses, just differences and that this is an activity for learning about yourself, not for comparison or judging anyone else. Do the activity using the following scenarios:
    • A surprise test in school
    • A visit to the dentist
    • Having to give a speech
    • Singing a song in front of an audience
    • Being chased by a tiger
    • Being chased by a chipmunk
    • Getting a shot at the doctor’s office
    • An older student says something mean to you at school
    • You’re in a store and an alarm goes off; you don’t know what it means
    • You’re on a hike and you see a snake in front of you in the path
    • You hear on the radio that a big storm is headed your way
  6. Finally, facilitate a conversation about the activity as a whole. Suggested discussion questions:
    • What did you learn from this activity (about yourself, about how different people respond to fears)?
    • What surprised you?
    • When you feel scared and you respond—fight, flight, or freeze—what are things you do to help yourself feel better? (Talk about as many examples as young people are willing to share. Then transition to the next activity.)

Three Ways to Feel Better

Tell young people that you are going to learn about and practice three things they can do when they are feeling fear. These three actions can help them feel better even if they can’t make the scary thing go away. Describe each of them, one at a time, and practice as you go.

  1. Breathing exercises—Breathing comes so naturally that you can sometimes forget how important and powerful it is. Try this: Begin breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Breathe in twice as long as you breathe out (try counting to two as you breathe in and count to four as you breathe out). Keep breathing like this for several minutes. What do you notice about how this changes the way your body feels? The next time you are feeling fearful, try to remember to breathe like this.

  1. MeditationTry this meditation exercise and notice how it changes how your body feels. Meditating regularly can build “muscle memory” that will help you stay calm in the face of fear.
  2. Physical movement that can help you feel braveBeing brave usually doesn’t feel like it looks in movies or shows. Being brave means being willing to face things you’re afraid of. One way to learn bravery or courage—which is a similar word—is to do exercises that actually help you feel it in your body. Both cobras and elephants are great examples of brave animals and these stretches can help you channel them!

Know What Matters to You

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how finding balance between their values and what they do can help them feel healthier and happier. The youth will complete a Values Circle Chart and compare the most important things to them with how they spend their time.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

What are values? Why are they important? Why is it important for us to be clear about our own values?

A lot of people talk about “finding balance” in life. For adults, it’s usually work-life balance. For kids, it usually means having a good mix of school, activities, time with friends and family, and time to just relax.

What sometimes gets missed in this conversation is talking about values. Values are really the foundation for how we can find balance in life. If we know what’s important to us and make decisions about how to spend our time based on that we’ll be more likely to feel at ease, successful, happy, and well.  Most would agree feeling healthy or positive is better than feeling unhealthy or negative. This is true for people of all ages.

Another way to say this is that life balance does not mean equality, it means knowing what’s most important to you and doing the best you can to reflect that in how you live your life.


Ask the young people if they have ever been caught between two things that felt really important to them. See if there are a few volunteers willing to share examples.

Explain that every day we have to make choices. Sometimes decisions are really clear and we know right away what we want to do. Other times we are conflicted between two or more good things, not a bad thing and a good thing. These are conflicting values. We are dealing with these all of time, often without us even realizing it, such as when we decide between a sweet treat we really love and something that we know would be healthier for us.

On a larger scale if, for example, participating in a sport I really love means I don’t get to do the after-school club that my two best friends are in, how do I make that decision and feel good about it, not make a decision and feel guilt or regret?

The answer for how to make decisions we feel good about all the time is to become more aware of our own values.


Distribute the Values Circle Chart worksheets and explain how they will use them. The instructions are provided on the worksheet.

Offer examples of common important values: family, exercise, health or career. Point out that more often than not people don’t ever show up themselves on the list.

Then explain to them that they should identify how much time they actually spend on these. Debrief using the following questions:

  • What did you notice during this activity?
  • What do you notice about how your values compare with how you spend your time?
  • Are you happy with what you discovered by doing this activity? Why or why not?
  • What’s one thing you’d like to do differently in order to have your life more in balance with your values?


We can feel happier and healthier if we choose to spend our time in ways that are more in line with our values. Remind the youth to think of the important things they wrote on their charts as they decide how to spend their time over the next few days. Suggest that young people hang their Circle Chart somewhere they can see it each day to remind them of their most important values.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing goal setting based on their values at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Knowing what matters can help you destress

Additional Instructor Resources

ChangeToChill.org by Allina Health

Gratefuls and Grumbles: Helping Kids Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Emerging research shows many powerful benefits of approaching life with an attitude of gratitude. The benefits of being grateful can include mental wellness, school success, generosity, and even physical health. An attitude of gratitude isn’t something that people are born with or not; very young children can begin to learn skills and practices that will help them move through life with an appreciative mindset, even when dealing with challenges. This lesson focuses on teaching young children about the concept of gratitude and some ways they can start to incorporate gratitude practices into their lives.


Gratefuls and Grumbles Circle

Gather young people in circle. Explain that you are going to spend a little time thinking about gratitude. Ask if any of them know that word and what it means. If they don’t, tell them that being grateful or feeling gratitude means being thankful. Ask what they think of when they hear the word thankful or thanks. Give them a few minutes to talk about what it means.

Share with the young people that every day you personally have things in your life that make you feel gratitude, or thankful. Give an example from today.

Then explain that every day you also have things that happen that feel hard, that make you grumble. Ask if they know the word grumble. Talk for a few minutes about some examples of grumbles, ranging from small irritations to bigger worries or troubles. Give a few examples.

Then explain the activity: Each person in the circle is going to have a chance to share with the group one GRATEFUL and one GRUMBLE. You can say something like, “When it’s your turn, say your name. Then say, ‘One thing I am grateful for today is _________, and one thing that makes me grumble today is, ___________.” Give your own example using your name and a grateful and a grumble you shared earlier.

Begin the activity. Younger children may have a hard time with this. Be patient and coach them through it. Remember that you are teaching them a process. It’s okay if they stumble.

At the end, thank everyone for participating. Explain that even when we can’t make the grumbles go away, thinking about things we’re grateful for can help us feel better.

Gratitude Breathing: 

Once everyone has shared, transition into a breathing exercise that focuses on gratitude. You can explain it like this:

Choose a way to sit that’s comfortable for you. You can be on chair, cross-legged, or on your heels. Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then breathe out through your nose for four counts. Keep your lips closed and just let the air move through your nose. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and belly.”

You can use a Hoberman sphere to demonstrate to the young people what their chests and bellies will be doing when they breathe in and out.

Once they have the idea of how to do the breathing, ask them to think of some of the things they said they are grateful for during each inhale and exhale. They may even get a few more ideas as they go through the process.

Continue this deep belly gratitude breathing for a few minutes. Let them know it’s okay to close their eyes if they want to.

Pay It Forward: 

Draw young people’s attention back to you. Ask if anyone thought during their breathing of a person for whom they are grateful.  Explain that it’s important to let other people know when we’re grateful for them or for things they do. It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good, and it makes the world a better place when people show appreciation for one another. Pick one person in your school, organization or community who you want to show gratitude for as a group. You can pre-select this person, or use a group process. On the flip chart or butcher paper, write, “Thank you, _______________, for ___________________.  We are grateful for you! Or choose a message of your own. Then invite each young person to use the paints to leave a handprint on the paper. Once the paint is dry you can deliver the “Gratitude card” to the recipient.



Like physical fitness, gratitude is something that has to be built and maintained. Fortunately, also like fitness, it’s something everyone can work on, no matter where they are starting. Different practices work more or less for different people. The activities in this lesson are just a few examples. The parent newsletter has additional ideas. Consider making gratitude practice a regular part of your classroom or group and see what happens!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English and Spanish so that families can practice an attitude of gratitude at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

An Attitude of Gratitude

Additional Instructor Resources