Time has flown as we approach the holidays and the shortest day of the year! We have covered a variety of topics during guidance classroom lessons, keeping focused on the MindUp Program. One of the key components of the programs is optimism as research has shown that the level of optimism we as humans hold about our future determines how happy, healthy and resilient we are. We spent November learning how to switch the pessimistic channel and develop some optimism. Even though some experts say we each have a happiness 'set-point' that is determined in our early years and is difficult to change, the latest findings show that not to be true. Negative, angry thoughts activate the amygdala which can keep our bodies in stress mode. By developing optimistic attitudes we can decrease our stress and live more happily. In December we will further experiment with changing negativity and anger and begin to savor and focus on happiness.
Increasingly it is becoming clear that the primary trait that can determine happiness and our ability to navigate this challenging world is resiliency. Many of the activities I do with students are based on resilience research as well as the MindUp Program. The complexity of our culture can be overwhelming and it is important to me that students learn how to deal with perceived failure and be able to identify resources that will be helpful in difficult times. One of the ways I do that is to introduce students to inspiration people, young and old, who have overcome tremendous odds and explain how they were able to do that. December and January will be Peaceful Heroes month(s) during which they will learn about the unsung, not-so-famous heroes.
I continue to work proactively with both boys and girls in small groups on healthy relationships and conflict resolution. We may do group projects in which the students need to cooperate and collaborate with peers they may not normally be with. The goal is not only to learn social skills but also to develop appreciation for each other's strengths and compassion for imperfection.
I wanted to share a few titles that I have found well written and very helpful for parents and teaching professionals alike
The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman
Reclaiming Childhood: Let Children Be Children in our Achievement-Oriented Society by William Crain
Play: How It Shapes the Brain by Stuart Brown
Your Defiant Child: Eight Steps to Better Behavior by Russell Barclay