Spread Positivity

Positivity doesn’t just change the contents of your mind…It widens the span of possibilities that you see. ~Barbara Fredrickson

8705332490One of my favorite shows is Friends. I watched it when it first aired and continue to watch it in reruns each day. It makes me laugh and I love to laugh. I also try on a daily basis to be optimistic and find the positive events of the day, even when it is gray and gloomy and rainy like it was yesterday until 4:25. I had been dreading taking my dog J out to walk because he does not like to walk with purpose in the rain and I tend to have to half drag, half carry him. We left for our walk in a very light drizzle and while we were out there the skies began to clear and the sun came out. It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. It amazes me how a hint of sun can turn things around.

Fast forward to later that evening when my daughter was watching Friends. She regularly tells me that I remind her of Alec Baldwin’s character, “Enthusiastic Parker” and coincidentally that was the episode she happened to be watching. Here is a short clip to give you a sense of this character. You can skip to 1:31 to truly get a sense of this guy or take the 3 minutes to enjoy a laugh.

 

While Enthusiastic Parker may take his positivity to the nth degree, being optimistic and noticing the positive around you does make a difference in your well-being and in the people around you.

This week I am sharing two articles that speak to the effects of positive leadership and how to teach your students positivity.

The first article, “The Effects of a Positive Mindset on School Culture” talks about practical optimism as “characterized by a belief—in yourself and others—that success is possible, which in turn fuels determination to accomplish what you have set out to do.”

Making a conscious effort to model practical optimism and support a positive school culture can be transformational for you, your colleagues, and students. Adopting practical optimism as your modus operandi and taking advantage of opportunities to build rapport with colleagues and encourage them to continually hone their professional practice in positive ways will further enhance your well-being, as well as the culture of your school. You will improve relationship-building and communication skills that support empathetic, productive interactions with all educational stakeholders involved.

The article offers four strategies for nurturing and enhancing your optimism: doing for others, expressing gratitude, getting exercise, and deliberately focusing on the positive.

Focusing on the positive might take some effort. You can read about Positivity Ratios here , watch a short video about Positive Emotions here, and take Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity Ratio test over the next several days to see what kinds of things you notice as you go through your day.

The next article, “Teaching Happiness at School: 3 Activities to Cultivate Well-Being in Schools” is about teaching well-being to your students. It introduces the concept of the benefits of positive emotions as developed by Barbara Fredrickson,

… positive emotional experiences have long-lasting effects on our personal growth and development. Specifically, positive emotions broaden our attention and thinking, enhance resilience, and build durable personal resources, which fuel more positive emotions in the future.

The article suggest three easy ways to incorporate positivity in your classroom, my favorite being the “What Went Well Wall” where students write three things that went well for them during the lesson, school day, or week. I like this activity because it is an easy way to help your students reflect on each day and grow their ability to see the positive around them, plus, it is a visual reminder of all that is going well in their lives.

 

 

Noteables from UNC’s Positive Psychology Course

33287341235_8080bc4a28I recently completed and earned a certificate from the Positive Psychology Course offered by the University of North Carolina through Coursera. I took it as a follow-up and to enhance my understanding of the Positive Education pilot I participated in along with a group of colleagues this past January. Since psychology was my first love, taking this course was a natural next step for me.

As these are notes (often quotes) from the online lecture videos (and I tried to capture what was said), all are attributed to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. Here are some highlights:

Emotions and Responses:

  1. Responses are a big part of emotions. You can’t have an emotion without having a response to that emotion, and how we interpret a situation is the place that turns an emotion into despair or hope.
  2. Negative emotions scream or jump out at us whereas positive ones are more subtle. We need to train ourselves to recognize and be intentional about seeing the neutral things in our lives as positive events.
  3. Feeling good can transform people for the better. They become more optimistic, resilient, and socially connected.

Resilience:

  1. Resilience is a resource that can grow, a muscle you can build.
  2. Positive emotions both build and enable resilience.
  3. The more resilient you are the better able you are to find positive emotions and then the more your resilience builds from there- it spirals.

Prioritizing Positivity:

  1. People who want to be happy prioritize parts of their day where they might be able to experience positive emotions.
  2. We need to put enjoyment on our “To-Do” lists and prioritize positivity, making it part of our daily routine.
  3. Those who prioritize positivity reap many benefits:
    1. they are better able to express appreciation,
    2. they build better relationships,
    3. are more resilient,
    4. report higher life satisfaction,
    5. have reduced depressive symptoms.

Positivity Resonance:

  1. Moments of connection between two people who are co-experiencing a positive emotion, “what I’m feeling is a little bit of what you’re feeling.”
  2.  People need to feel safe and experience real-time, sensory connection for positivity resonance to emerge. This is hard to do through texting.
  3. Emotions are contagious. Smiles are ways to draw out positive emotions of others, not just to express the feeling of the person who is smiling.
  4. Smiles are ways of making people feel they are on the same page and could serve as a way to create a moment of shared positivity.

Health Benefits:

  1. Experiences of connection affect the heart and it’s functioning.
  2. When vagus nerve is functioning well, it slows your heart and gives a healthy rhythm to it:
    1. better able to regulate attention, emotions, navigate social situations so can connect with people better
    2. day to day experiences with positivity resonance improves your vagal tone (cyclical, spirals)
    3. the more day to day positive emotions, the more connected and attune people felt;the more connected, better vagal tones
    4. when negative emotions become prolonged or a way of life, they are related to changes in the way the heart functions and body systems function (but take caution not to correlate negativity and your bad health!)
  3. Positive emotions and positive social connections are health behaviors as they increase cardiac vagal tones.

Ripple Effect:

  1. Whatever emotions we are putting out there, are the ones we are inviting others to feel.
  2. Emotions belong to everyone who is in the room.
  3. The way leaders express their emotions affects the team.
  4. Micro moments of connection are not just about our own health, but about giving health to others, radiating health towards others.
  5. If your eye is tuned towards making these moments of connection, you can make more of these moments come alive rather than skip over them.
  6. Rituals of expressing something we are appreciative of or looking forward to- helps warm up the room when people are getting together to work, have a meeting. Takes no time and it makes an impact on the day.

To learn more, I encourage you to check out this course on Coursera; it will be well-worth your time and effort!

photo credit: publicdomainphotography Slow Motion Water Droplet via photopin (license)