Scientific research has shown that gratitude interventions may have positive effects on mental health. In a society where the well-being of adolescents is under considerable pressure, they can use a mental boost. Dr. Lysanne te Brinke and Fabienne van Rossenberg, therefore wanted to know: "how can we make gratitude interventions attractive for adolescents?". To answer this question, they teamed up with researchers from the University of Amsterdam and social partners Public Cinema, JIM Foundation, Thrive Mentally Healthy Amsterdam and ID&T, and organized co-creation sessions with adolescents. This resulted in the 'We Spark the World' collective which develops gratitude challenges for young people (16-25), both online and in the classroom.
Researchers worked closely together with adolescents during the development of We Spark The World. Dr. Lysanne te Brinke: "Research has shown that campaigns that are designed in collaboration with adolescents have a better chance of success. That is why we used our youth participation platform YoungXperts to organize co-creation sessions. We wanted to know: how to prevent gratitude from coming across as something dusty, old or religious? And what motivates young people to experience gratitude?" The sessions resulted in the development of a Gratitude Toolkit and a gratitude booth at festivals across the Netherlands.
The Toolkit consists of four gratitude challenges that young people can complete. Each challenge is accompanied by a science video in which te Brinke or van Rossenberg explain the scientific evidence of the challenge. Teachers and youth workers can download the gratitude toolkit. Subsequently, they can challenge adolescents to get started with the challenges and to make gratitude a conversation subject. Teachers and young people are enthusiastic about the challenges. Teacher Hidde, a rapper and social influencer of Lumion College in Amsterdam West, even made a gratitude rap that went viral on TikTok.
In collaboration with ID&T group, gratitude booths are placed at nine Dutch summer festivals, including Defqon, Welcome to the Future, Awakenings and Mystery land. In these gratitude booths, adolescents can express their gratitude in a video message that is shared via social media. The idea of the video message is the modern version of the gratitude letter that is frequently used in gratitude interventions. For this project, the initiators of We Spark the World also recently received a Science Communication Grant from the National Science Agenda.
Introducing young people to the benefits of positive psychology
Neuroscientist Fabienne van Rossenberg hopes that the We Spark the World initiatives will contribute to greater awareness of the positive effects of feeling gratitude for the brain. "Scientists have long known that gratitude can improve your mental health. With the gratitude challenges, we want to explain to young people the positive effects of feeling gratitude. We explain how it works in the brain, how to train gratitude and the different effects of feeling and sharing gratitude. We Spark The World is an excellent example of making science of value to society."