Monday, March 13, 2023

Positive thoughts, words and deeds

Perhaps we've all found ourselves floating in clouds of negativity.

"Did you hear what she did now?"

"Jim is so unreliable. What did you expect?"

"Only three days to Friday."

Oh my gosh, identifying negativity in the workplace — and especially in our schools — is so easy. It often feels like a perpetual drumbeat.

"You wrote your name in the wrong spot. Minus two points!"

After identifying how negative and punitive our schools are, then what? Well, that question led me to Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life (2009) by Barbara Frederickson. The book helped me with setting specific positive intentions and following through with actions that match.

I used to think positivity was a mere mindset. While that is true to an extent, a positive, healthy lifestyle takes positive actions and intention. It makes me think of the Zoroastrian mantra "good thoughts, good words, good deeds."

To me, positivity involves thoughts, words and deeds. It's hard to have one without the others.

One huge point from Positivity is how we humans are wired for survival, and its modern-day offshoot is negativity. Back in primitive times, our brains used to shoot out cortisol when we were threatened by a tiger in the jungle or faced a tribe attacking us. In modern living, our brains may release cortisol when we're slighted or cut off in traffic or when something we don't like happens that is far from life-threatening.

We must recognize this unnecessary release of cortisol and strive for positivity. But how?

Frederickson explains that we can shoot for three positive thoughts to one negative, meaning that eliminating negativity isn't possible but we don't have to remain stuck in it. She also has identified 10 positive emotions worth striving for, and those are joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, inspiration, love, amusement, awe, interest and pride.

I'm wondering if I need more of an action plan toward consistently obtaining Frederickson's 10 positive emotions. Plus, 10 emotions seem like a lot.

Maybe I should pluck out three I really find important, such as gratitude, serenity and love, and focus on those because I bet it's much harder to experience those through happenstance. I guess I'm just brainstorming, but, eh, maybe I got to be more deliberate about this positivity.

I put this book in the teaching category because I've found some classrooms void of emotion, and quite honestly, I just don't know how those can work. Then, if classrooms do have emotion, sometimes they are rooms of accidental negativity, and that's even worse.

Plato once said, "All learning has an emotional base."

We educators need to make sure that emotional base is positive and not fear-based. I'm hoping that educators take their jobs seriously and fight to make their students' experiences better than theirs.

We learn our best when we experience awe, amusement and interest, not when we're in fear of a bad grade or disappointing our parents or when we're swirling in negativity. Let's get unnecessary cortisol out of our lives and schools. Let's tap into serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins.

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