Message from Head of School: Count Your Blessings

Dear MIS students, families, teachers, and staff,

I suspect that many of you may feel the same way that I do: you're grateful for the chance to take a break this holiday season!

As we all seek ways to renew our energy and recharge for 2024, it is important to find ways to truly rest and to re-ignite our energy for the future. Much research is currently being conducted in the field of happiness and avoiding burnout. This research has given rise to diverse advice on how to recharge our inner batteries. One recurring theme in this advice I've noticed is gratitude.

Reflecting on the things we are grateful for and taking action to acknowledge that gratitude has many positive effects on our health. It conjures positive memories and feelings; it connects us with something positive outside of ourselves; it even positively influences our physical health and well-being in measurable ways (exercising gratitude lowers blood pressure and contributes to the production of happiness hormones).

Here are a few ways that you can practice gratitude during this holiday season (taken from Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Advice):

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person, if possible.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Meditate. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

Personally, I am grateful for more things than I can enumerate. Here are just a few:

I am grateful to be surrounded at MIS by so many inspiring educators who combine both professional expertise with genuine care for students and an indefatigable passion for learning.

I am grateful that MIS is blessed with dedicated and hard-working Hausmeisters, secretaries, accountants, technicians, bus drivers, and all sorts of support staff who come to work smiling, proactively strive to support our students and teachers, and even contribute on evenings and weekends to keep our school beautiful, functioning and welcoming.

I am grateful to work in a school community with volunteer organisations, like the PTV, the SportVerein and the MIS Foundation, who work tirelessly to ensure that we have extraordinary resources and events that make MIS an inspiring place to learn and work.

I am grateful that so many of our students recognise the privileges we enjoy and intentionally engage in service activities in order to increase the happiness, health, and well-being of others. And I am so grateful that their parents support and nurture this ethos of giving.

I know that the stresses of school can weigh upon students. I know that especially Grade 12 can test students’ resilience, fortitude, and perseverance. And I know, therefore, that holidays are important for providing a short reprieve from the pressures and demands of school. Therefore, as you begin your well-deserved holiday, I hope that you are able to count as many blessings in your own life as I have. And I hope that your holiday break is authentically joyful and truly rejuvenating.

With warm wishes,

Timothy J Thomas