Positive emotions broaden our behaviours

It is week 2 of my 6 week Positive Psychology course that I am doing on-line.

This week’s learning has left me thinking a lot about those kids in my class and even my own kids at home who find it hard to experience the positive emotions.  The positive emotions are often fleeting, but they are nutrients for growth.  When people are taught positive emotions a domino effect happens.

Photo Credit: stockfresh.com

Photo Credit: stockfresh.com

A subtle increase in positive emotion leads to an increase in positive resources in a person’s life. For example, the ability to be more mindful or feelings of greater connectedness, which then leads to an increase in positive psychological resources: fewer aches and pains, increased satisfaction in life and reduced depressive symptoms.

Photo Credit: coachingforclergy.com

Photo Credit: coachingforclergy.com

As part of the course there was a reading that asked the question “How can we increase positivity?”

For me, this is where the rubber hits the road, these are the things I want to be helping kids to learn, as positive emotions are closely connected with resilience. Resilience is a resource that can grow. Resilient people are less worried about the ‘perhaps’ negativity in life. Resilience is a fantastic life skill to have.

Photo Credit: theschooloflife.com

Photo Credit: theschooloflife.com

We can help increase positivity by:
*Being aware of the present moment.  Most moments are positive. When we miss the moment, we miss opportunities to experience positive emotions by thinking too much about the past or worrying about the future, rather than being open to what is.

*Pay attention to human kindness. Gratitude is unlocked when we see things done for us by others. But also, we can make someone’s day!

*Go outside in good weather. Research shows that just 30 minutes outside increases positive emotions.

*Rearrange life around your strengths. This is an involved step, but includes looking at your strengths and using them in daily life.

Photo Credit: generationext.com.au

Photo Credit: generationext.com.au

 

I am thinking that as parents we can help our kids do this in so many little ways as we practice it.
Yesterday we needed to visit the Doctor to get an asthma plan for one of my tribe going on camp. The Boy and I reflected afterwards how thankful we were to not have to wait long, how nice it is to have a GP who has a personal relationship with us as a family and what a blessing Bulk Billing can be. At the time I did not realise it, but together we were building positive emotions!

 

What mindset are you?

I have just finished reading Chapter 1 of “Mindset” by Dr Carol S. Dweck. Dweck is a psychologist who researched what kids did when they failed! She would give them a series of puzzles to solve and watched and probed their thinking and feelings as the puzzles got progressively harder.

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Photo Credit: Sharonball.wordpress.com

What do you do when presented with a difficult problem?

Dweck found that there were some kids who said things like “I love a challenge”.
“What’s wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure….I was determined to understand the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a gift….What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing – getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.  They thought they were learning.”

“I on the other hand thought human qualities were carved in stone.  You were smart or you weren’t and failure meant you weren’t.”(page 4)

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Photo Credit: newtraderu.com

From 20 years of research Dweck then put forward 2 different mindsets.
*The fixed mindset believes your qualities are carved in stone.

*The growth mindset is based on the belief that your qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.

Which mindset you dominately use effects greatly your attitude towards challenging situations and in many ways the way you live your life.

As a example of how the mindset effects us, Dweck used the situation of a student getting a poor result for an exam followed by walking out to find a parking ticket on the car, followed by calling a friend to have a whinge and the friend is quite distance.
A person with a fixed mindset blames themselves and life is unfair and I’m no good and my friend now hates me.
Whereas a person with a growth mindset decides they could have worked harder in class and yes it was a bad place to park the car and something must be up with my friend.

People with a growth mindset, when things are difficult are able to take risks, confront the challenges and keep working at them. (page 9)

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Photo Credit: thoughtfullearning.com

 

As a sit typing this and thinking about the first chapter I have read, and keenly waiting for the time to keep reading the book, I realise that I am perhaps a fixed mindset person. There have been different ideas I have for a parenting workshop, using the information I have researched and used on this blog and yet it all seems too hard and doors have not easily opened and anyway the blog isn’t growing like I thought etc etc. To turn this thinking into a growth mindset, it all looks different. I need to give it a go. What changes can I make? Am I afraid of taking a risk and ‘just doing it’?

But, this is not all about me. What does a fixed or growth mindset mean for kids. What about the kids I saw in class this morning? Surely a growth mindset for a kid and a belief in a growth mindset from a teacher can make a huge difference?
As my own kids return home today I can see some interesting conversations – a lot of food for thought and I’m sure there will be a lot more as I continue on in the book.

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5 things emotionally intelligent children do differently

Sometimes I notice those kids who let the other kid bat first, who don’t kick back when they’ve just been kicked for no reason, who empathize with the kid who has no friends and lets them join in and I think ‘wow’.

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Photo Credit: thesoulmovement.ca

These kids are displaying ’emotional intelligence’, they have ‘the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups’. (Wikipedia)

More and more research is finding that if kids can manage the emotional side of life then their academic areas are boosted. If kids have good coping skills then when the bumps in daily life come they get over them more easily. Emotional intelligence leads to resilience which then leads to flourishing.

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Photo Credit: biggsuccess.com

I listened recently to an on-line conference with Renee Jain. “5 things emotionally intelligent children do differently”.
The key is that these things can be learnt.
She has a website www.gozen.com and has done a lot of work in Positive Psychology, developing a program to help kids with resilience and emotional intelligence. Below are a few notes I made that I hope you will find both informative and practical.

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Photo Credit: lakewoodpress.com

1. Highly emotionally intelligent children can label emotions. They have the vocabulary to describe how they and others are feeling. Sad is different to frustrated or embarrassed. Words like hopeful, enthusiastic and zestful may be used. Parents and teachers can encourage kids to label their emotions. One idea is to make flash cards with different emotions on them or to have an emotion list on the fridge. (Google ’emotions’ and then click ‘images’ for lots of ideas.)

2. Highly emotionally intelligent children have more impulse control (self-control). They are able to have a gap before they respond to a situation. This can be taught from a young age. For example, when a plate of food is placed in front of a child, take a mindful moment to see what is on the plate and to be thankful for it. (These teaching moments happen in a time when the child is not upset.)

3. Highly emotionally intelligent children keep things real. They are able to notice the good things. When negative things happen they see the negative but can collect other evidence to think accurately. eg. When they do poorly in a maths test they may think, “I did poorly on that topic, but there are other areas I do better at.” Parents and teachers can be the role model in these areas.

4. Highly emotionally intelligent children are more empathetic. They experience their own feelings and then can feel how others are feeling. With kids both at home and school, one can role play ‘stepping into your shoes.’ This is good to do with the child role playing the parent or teacher!

5. Highly emotionally intelligent children have parents who have high emotional intelligence and coach them.  Kids pick things up, so we need to be careful around them. We need to pause!

After listing these points, one thing I loved about the conference was that Renee then went on to empathise with parents. We are so busy and we can’t do everything. She used the analogy of ‘putting on your own oxygen mask first’ – making sure we are OK so we have the ability to effectively help others. She suggests picking one thing and have a mini goal. Eg have my child label 1 emotion this week.

Our society seems to live with a myth that we don’t fix things unless they are broken, but that is a reactionary model. We need to be taking opportunities to give our kids the skills for understanding their emotions even if they seem to be going well.

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Photo Credit: dreamcoach.com.au

 

 

 

 

Thought for the weekend – you need 4 minutes 30 seconds.

I came across this 4 minute 30 second video and loved it.  There seems a lots of gloom and doom about our environment and where it is at. But, this is different, this is so hopeful, encouraging and incredible. Our world actually does have a plan and there is balance.  I can’t wait to sit down and look at it with my kids!

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So, grab a cuppa, gather the family, relax and enjoy an inspiring, educational start to the weekend. I wonder if any interesting conversations will be started?

( I think it would be great to show to a class at school – a different way to start the day.)

Click on this link here

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4904

 

The difficulties of focusing!

One of my boy’s is in the middle of telling me how difficult it is to be in charge of the lunch time cricket game and my phone beeps, letting me know a text has come in. Do I look or not? That is the question.

My daughter is telling me about her maths test when the phone tone rings. Do I look and answer? That is the question.

Another of my boys is dragging his feet getting ready for school as he had missed the early morning cuddle in bed and ‘please can I sit on your lap for awhile?’ But the clock is ticking, there are school times to be met and I haven’t checked my emails. Do I just check quickly? That is the question.

Arghhhh! What to do and I have only been out of bed for 1 hour!

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Photo Credit: mylifefitness.com

“Attentional skills are fundamentally under siege today. Never before in human history have there been so many seductive distractions in a person’s day, in a given hour, or in 10 minutes.” Daniel Goleman

It seems, that to focus on the person or task in front of us is getting harder and harder.  Research and science is finding that there is the need to actually make the effort  to ‘cultivate more strength to detach our attention from that thing that is so tempting over there and bring it back to the person in front of us.’

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Photo Credit: ascrewsloose.com

As time goes on and technology is becoming even more a part of our lives it seems that our connection with others is being damaged to some extent , threatened by the fact that ‘we’re together but we’re not together. We’re alone together.’

Daniel Goleman is actually ‘worried about us as a species, particularly the young as they have never had to summon up the effort it takes to focus.’

‘Focus: the hidden driver or excellence’ is his new book and from an interview I followed, it is certainly thought provoking. The link for the interview is here.

indexThis lack of focus has many implications. Focus it seems is the key to a fulfilling life. It attunes us to the goodness that we experience every day, so that those experiences can contribute to a deeper sense of fulfillment or happiness.

Focus or the term ‘cognitive control’ is the ability to keep your mind on one thing and ignore distractions. Cognitive control in childhood has been shown to predict life success, life earnings and savings, home ownership and even elements of health.

This ‘muscle of attention’ ie. focus actually speeds up the ability to develop all other emotional skills, it is that important.

So, if focus is so important Goleman asks the question, ‘Why are we not teaching it explicitly in schools?’ I then add to that, as a parent ‘what am I doing to teach my children to focus?’
Focus is something we can control. We need to be helping our children to focus on feelings and focus on the task at hand. It was found that just counting our breathing can make a difference. It was found in a year 2 class that when they did this daily, they became better learners and were more alert and calm.

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Photo Credit: spookmag.com

As adults we need to be helping to remove distractions so kids can focus. But then, we need to not just remove them, but help kids to learn how to have the control to ignore,  because many of these distractions are not going to go away.  It is a daily challenge for adults and children to ‘resist the pull of electronics and stay with the human world.’

I have found this information challenging. As a parent and teacher how can I help kids to learn this cognitive control/focus? The concerning aspect is that lack of  focus seems to have many negative implications. But the encouraging aspect is that it can be taught.
How do you go resisting the pull for yourself and your kids? I would love to hear from you.

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Photo Credit: thebuddhistcentre.com

What takes your attention?

As a parent, as an educator and a general member of society I find I am constantly being bombarded with decision making on how to spend time, how to spend money and what to involve the kids in. The kids come home with so many different opportunities as to how they can spend their time. It can be exhausting working out what to say yes and no to. It is easy to get caught up in what we think we should be doing instead of what we need to be doing.

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Photo credit: sodahead.com

Jonathan Harris has had many opportunities in life. ( See the full article in ‘Daily Good‘) He has traveled the world, including visiting Richard Branson’s island as a guest. Jonathan was on the cusp of launching a company when he realised that that was not where he wanted to put his attention. The way he expressed how he felt is worth sharing.

“We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need.  Don’t let the media convince you to covet lives of celebrities.  Own your attention – it’s all you really have.”

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Photo Credit: freehdw.com

 

whole heartedness

It has been a different week for me. Time away as a family on a term time weekend, my boys first sports day in a ‘real stadium with a real running track’, losing direction and encouragement in what ever it is I am meant to be doing, topped off by the mixed emotions brought to surface after meeting with high school friends some of whom have not be seen for 10 or so years!

I sat down today to write an overdue blog – that is after fighting the thoughts of ‘why am I doing this any way?’ and found myself encouraged after reading an interesting introduction to a book by researcher Brene Brown “The gifts of imperfection: letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are”.

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Photo Credit: oprah.com

Whole heartedness is what she is working through. Whole heartedness meaning ‘people living and loving with their whole heart’. Brene considered what people who live this way do, and don’t do. What does it take to cultivate and what gets in the way.

She came up with a list of what wholehearted people seem to do and what they don’t.

Do: worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, creativity

Don’t: perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, scarcity

I found this list challenging, confronting and worth pondering. How do these ideas fit in our society? How do we teach and model these concepts to our kids and classes? How do I personally live these values?

Brene then follows this up with an interesting sentence
“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”

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As I look at myself today, I realise that is a key to so much. It comes back to love again.
It comes back to the idea that education is important but it is much harder if kids don’t have self-respect and love.

See if you can find time today to look at yourself, look at your class, look at your kids can you help them with an aspect of the ‘do’ list and are you able to help them love themselves in some small way?