In this humorous TED Talk, Shawn Acher talks about developments in the field of positive psychology and the impact it can have on how we perform as students and professionals.  Positive psychology is linked to social emotional learning because if emotional intelligence looks at how we can understand the effect our emotions have on our actions, positive psychology looks at how our perception of reality affects our emotions. As Acher puts it:

“…its not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. If we can change the lens we can not only change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time (TED Talk).”



Reflection Question: What is one thing you can or already do on a daily basis that will help you view the world in a more positive way? Would you or do you encourage or facilitate this practice with learners in an educational setting?

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24 thoughts on “4.4

  1. One thing that I do on a daily basis is pray and give God thanks for everything that he has provided to sustain me and others. This helps me to keep a positive attitude in my life. I enjoy saying “Good morning to those who I may come across every morning, at home, on my way to work or just running an errand. In this culture, we do not talk to each other as we should. We got a liitle bit into greeting others just after the 9/11 fiasco, but now we are slowly moving back into our selfish mode.
    At one point I had a “Gratitude Journal” that I wrote at least one thing that I am grateful for at the end of each day. Even though I was not very consistent in recording my gratitude daily, it created a venue for me to be more evaluative and reflective about my encounter with my family members, students, colleagues, and strangers. I really need to start this up again.
    Even though I cannot institiute prayer in my classroom, I pray for my students. I will encourage them to have a “Gratitude Journal” as this may help them to embrace their experiences in a positive light.

  2. I have always been an active person and regularly incorporate exercise into my week. Exercise always makes me feel better about myself and my life because I am able to release frustration and ponder thoughts and actions. When I am finished exercising, I have a more positive attitude and outlook on the world. While I personally value exercise and participate in Girls on the Run, I do not encourage exercise among my classroom students. I do share my experiences with students and they see how excited I am, but I guess I’ve assumed that it is the gym teacher’s responsibility to encourage students to be active.

    This week’s gratitude letters and last week’s goal of making someone smile, are other ways of helping me develop a more positive view of the world. By trying to focus on making others smile, I ended up smiling more and feeling happier, which made me think more positively. I also love and have fully embraced the gratitude letters. By writing the letters, I am reminded of why I am grateful to whom I’m writing and the positive experiences that we have shared. This, in turn, makes me happy and more positive.

    I like the gratitude letters so much that I want to incorporate them into my classroom community. I want to have students write at least one gratitude letter every day or week to a person they are grateful to. Students will need to reflect on the day’s/week’s events to choose a person and remember why they are grateful to that person. The writer will have a more positive view of the world because he/she will be happy after “reliving” a positive experience and the receiver of the letter will be more positive because he/she will feel good about him/herself after reading the gratitude letter.

  3. I’m stealing an idea from the video, making goals more achievable. By creating small victories in life on an every day basis, I feel more positive, because I feel that I have accomplished something. One thing that I feel can’t be overlooked is the importance of the company that you surround yourself with. In other words, if you are around positive people, they will help you feel more positive. If you are constantly surrounded with negativity, you are more likely to start to reflect and take on that outlook. Looking to my future classroom, I will try to create a positive, open and supportive learning environment where students can feel relaxed, have fun and feel comfortable participating. I think this will help students (even those in a bad mood or who are struggling) feel more positive, and perhaps perform better.

  4. What is one thing you can or already do on a daily basis that will help you view the world in a more positive way? Would you or do you encourage or facilitate this practice with learners in an educational setting?

    I actually saw this video earlier in the school year — in the winter — when I really needed it! Shawn Acher is entertaining and the concept of rewiring the human brain to be more positive with great results is SO INSPIRED. It actually led me to do a challenge through the website: http://www.hapyr.com/ I did the activities for 21 days, and from then on, whenever I felt I needed a fresh perspective. A spin on our thank-you notes peace action, which I do sometimes, not daily, is reaching out to a friend or loved one that I haven’t seen in awhile via text message, facebook post, or email, sending them a cheery hello or a funny picture, to remind them I’m thinking about them and hopefully, brighten their day. That’s my take on the ripples of positivity.

    In an education setting I think there is ample opportunity to exercise this: have students write down affirmations for one another, I’ve seen teachers facilitate “shout outs” to have students publicly recognized by their peers in a classroom environment, and that kind of recognition yields more optimism about the class content and classmates.

  5. Laughing, smiling, and creating a positive mindset are things that I do daily that make me view the world in a positive way. When I’m stressed, I constantly remind myself that God is not putting anything in front of me that I can’t handle. I focus on how I could be in someone else shoes that’s not doing well and that keep me level headed. I’m healthy, educated, and blessed. I have all of my necessities and that’s all anyone should want for. I encourage people to smile and I smile often. You could potentially brighten up someone’s day with a smile. Laughing and smiling makes you feel good. I remind my students to laugh, smile and enjoy life.

  6. Over the years, I’ve developed a daily habit of happy reflection. I like to reflect upon those I’ve met with great character, zeal and a thirst for living; on good times had with friends, students, family, etc.; on lively debates and practical jokes played. I like to reflect on how delicious the crabs were from last night’s dinner, the beauty of watching my child watch a moonflower bloom or how the praying mantas held our car hostage for 20 minutes because no one wanted to hurt it but no one wanted to ride in the car with it. I also reflect on positive affirmations/ quotes found everywhere from books to greeting cards to fortune cookies, from music lyrics to random comments overheard among students. This practice definitely helps me view the world in a more positive light. There is no ritual as to where or when or what. I just do it.

    In the workplace, I definitely encourage this practice. Sometimes, as a warm-up exercise, I will ask our poets to share a happy thought or memory or use that thought as a writing prompt. Sometimes when working with small study groups or individuals, I may interject a happy/funny reflection of someone or something that relates to their research to move the research forward or lighten a frustrating moment. And I include posters and painting of positive affirmations on or above the bookcases throughout the library/media center for the students’ reflection as well as my own. One of my catch phrases to them is,” Make it memorable. If it’s not worth remembering, it’s not worth doing.”


    (In 1980, I read in a Kingston Jamaica newspaper that repeating the word zoom three times out loud with emphasis would lift your spirits and give you a boost of energy. Well, I tried it and the author was right. Go ahead, try it. Loud and proud, zoom, zoom, zoom…
    Sometimes the sheer ridiculousness of shouting zoom to the cosmos moves me to laughter, sometimes zooming just gives me that little motivation to get up and move forward. I have shared this with students when I notice a few starting to nod off during a presentation (step into the restroom) or with an individual when I sense a need. And while it is not a daily practice, I thought it worth sharing.)

  7. Although I live in a close-in suburb, I try to connect with nature every day. I have some trees outside my apartment and I watch the birds in them. Usually it’s just woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays, but sometimes I see a hawk or oriole or something more rare. I take a silent retreat once a year in a place that has a lot of wildlife. I roam the fields. Right now I’m house sitting in Virginia by a mountain range and have been taking hikes up along the ridge. I saw some wonderful birds.

    Most days, I’m just connecting with nature by seeing trees. But it all helps me to feel more calm to recognize the greenery around me. When there’s a bright moon, I pay attention to it.

    When I get a chance I talk with my students about appreciating nature. Sometimes I show them photos from the Internet of birds I’ve seen recently.

  8. It was so funny that our school just had us watched the same video on our training two months ago! We actually had to give a title of it. We came up with so many titles, such as Positivity leads to success; Positivity is the key of success; Positivity, success, which is the first? ; etc.

    For both kids and adults, we all need positive reinforcement. I started taking key board and guitar class this year. I was so motivated when the teacher told me how talented I am. Same as kids. When I give my students thumb up and tell them how fantastic they are, they turn to make themselves even better. It is a mindset that all depend on how we view the success, and happiness. As a PreK teacher, giving positive energy is must-be thing we do every day, and it is always the start of the day. I exaggerate students’ achievement. They are so happy to hear that, making them want to be better. For the sensitive or the kids who have emotion issue, it works as well. By giving them trust, encouragement and positive attitude, they are more willing to try.

  9. Ok first I must say this dude is so funny. I was drinking something and all of a sudden I sprayed my son who was in front of me. Ok on a serious note, one thing I do in my class is to greet the students as they walk in my class. This way so get a little one on one with them and to feel how the mood is or could be in your class that day. This way you can adjust if needed. Most students like for their teacher to greet them at the door with a smile, hug, hand shake or whatever you all have created. This is creating that positive psychology before class even starts. So when you walk in the room you feel the positive Ora circulating.
    Just recently I have learned to balance my work and home life. My work would consume me at home which would take away from my son and his father and that is not fair to them. Once I leave work, I leave everything at work. It was hard at first, but establishing that routine for me and continuously doing it, it is habit now.

  10. One thing that I practice on a daily basis is expect the great . So when I wake up I say this phrase to myself and then write it down. I even talk about it in the classroom with my students, you must expect that the great to eliminate the negativity, you have the power to achieve what you want in life, and reasons for not succeeding. The research with my students were I noticed students took ownership of believing that something great or good would happen to them if they focused on being optimistic, they were focused on what great thing could happen, and did not focus on what wouldn’t happen. I noticed that saying this phrase allowed my mental brain to only believe that something great was going to happen to me. So in return, saying it to others it would allow them to hear it and expect the great. It was an affirmation of positive energy releasing from my mind to my mouth and from my soul to the earth.

  11. I like many educators have made it a practice to begin each day with a morning meetig and I truly believe that this and or the closing debrief would be an wxcellwnt forum in which ro infuse exercises that allow me ro facillitate a shift in student thinking. One things of note for students in upper elemwntary school is the profound effect peer interactions have on self concept. To that end I see random acts of kindness via making positive statements about either oneself or others would help each student to see the best in one another. I might have students finish am ex the statement “today I succeeded at or in…” or “________ made our community better when or by….”
    This like our gratitude letters this week, help to cultivate an alternate view of the world by refocusing our attention and this giving us the positive perception needed to enhance our lives and experiwnces

  12. The thing I notice I do pretty much daily, usually more than once a day, is the “random acts of kindness”.  For me this manifests in just saying hello and asking people how their day is.  This includes everyone, but I try to especially do it with people who are normaly ignored like the cleaning people, the facilities guy who empties the trash cans around campus, etc.  I notice when I do this, they act suprised because they are so used to being overlooked.  Knowing that I acknowledge them and that they don’t feel invisible for a moment really brings me happiness and I think it brings them satisfaction too.  I think this concept of asking and showing an interest in those around us can easily be brought into the classroom, both for the students to engage with each other but also for the teacher to engage with the students.  Reminding people they aren’t invisible and that they are apppreciated can go a long way in bringing up everyone’s spirits.

  13. One activity I use to do on a daily basis was fill out a gratitude entry. I think starting this habit up again will be both beneficial in seeing learning opportunities and the blessings of life in daily moments. It would be even more awesome to have a class complete this or have each student have a journal where they write down something they are thankful. This could be a life changing and mindset altering activity.

  14. This is sort of a weird answer, but something that makes me very happy is being around kids. For my first 2 years of college, I made money by waiting tables. After two years of accumulating bitterness towards humanity, I decided to quit and do something more fun. I started working at an elementary school, and started babysitting regularly. Sometimes kids are exhausting, but for the most part, they remind me on a daily basis to not take myself so seriously and to use my imagination. I’m pretty lucky to get paid to hang out with some pretty fun and imaginative kids. This is a big reason that I chose a career focused on young people.

  15. One thing that I do on a daily basis is not take the small things in life too seriously. I’ve found that if I can successfully pull this off at work, the rest becomes a lot easier. I think that what Sarah said is very important – and often very difficult – for educators to do. My first year teaching, I really struggled with being able to leave school at school. I felt as though I was constantly doing work or thinking about work or literally sitting at work until it was time to sleep and do it again the next day.

    I’ve learned to find a balance between work and the rest of my life – although that will be a new challenge in a couple of months when we will be adding our baby boy to the mix! – and I’ve learned that although it seems like my middle schoolers stayed up late plotting how to best get on my nerves some days, I give them the benefit of the doubt and say that’s not true.

  16. I practice active forgiveness in my life, often on a daily basis. I forgive myself, my close friends and family, and I try to apply the same forgiving mindset to other frustrations that aren’t necessarily people. This started pretty recently, not by any explicit decision on my part, and maybe because I’m already a terribly forgetful person and can’t hold a grudge anyways!

    But as a result of me deciding to “forgive and forget” (within reason…), I am much more positive about the potential for lots of situations. I find myself navigating relationships more comfortably, and spending less time worrying about the actions of others or my own conflicting emotions. I can encourage others to do this too, including students I may have in a classroom someday. What seems like flippancy to some is actually a healthy way of moving through life, in my opinion. As a foil to this, I try to make my actions intentional, so that my own mistakes are limited and so that I have less to forgive in the first place.

  17. One movie that I had to watch for a former job is called “Fish!” It is about the fish mongers at Pikes Place Market in Seattle. It’s the story of how they maintain their positivity in a difficult customer service environment. It is a really valuable resource and a fun movie, I recommend everyone watch it. One thing it taught/encouraged me to do is to wake up thinking positive. While it is important to remain positive throughout the entire day, when possible, I learned that for me I have a much better chance of staying positive if am positive at the start of my day or at the start of an activity.

    One activity I like to do with my learners is called Brick and Balloons. Each person shares a brick (something that weighs them down, is a challenge, or a negative part of their day) and a balloon (something that lifts them up, is a positive, or something to look forward to). To promote positive thinking, I like to use this exercise but alter it a bit. I like to use Bricks and Balloons at the beginning of a class or a day and either eliminate the bricks as a component or tell participants that they have to share two balloons for every brick.

  18. When I catch myself being caught up in the day, running from place to place, and going through my check-list of assignments and tasks, I try to stop myself, take a deep breath, and make an observation. By observation I mean I stop what I am doing to look around (usually at the natural world) and soak up for 5 seconds just how amazing this earth really is. Sometimes I watch an ant carrying a crumb and I am fascinated, or I look closely at a flower to discover the color pattern on the petals. The other day while on a run through my neighborhood I smelled the most delicious barbeque, and decided to take a second out of my run to stop and breath in the aroma. I find that it is these small things that help me view the world more positively and see that all the hustle and bustle is pointless. What is a success if I don’t even remember how I got there? Taking time to enjoy the ride, and realizing the journey is just as fun as the destination are small steps I take to view the world more positively.

  19. Maria–From July to December of last year I lived in Costa Rica with a host family studying at a local university there, volunteering adn traveling throughout the country. The motto of the country is PURA VIDA, meaning pure life. As silly and stereotypical as this sounds I took a lot away from my time living there. Stress is not a problem like it is here in the U.S. (as I’m sure the majority of you have experienced in other countries throughout the world as well), and people don’t sweat the small stuff. At the end of my stay abroad, I did a lot of reflection and thinking about how I was going to bring Costa Rica back to school with me, and not get tied up with schools, classes, activities, work.

    Everyday I sit by the big window in my living room and have my coffee, I don’t talk to anyone and mostly just let my mind be for 10 minutes or so. This reminds me that stressing out does NOTHING, and that in the long run everything will work out–PURE VIDA. I would definitely encourage this in an educational setting. One way to do this is to take note/measure the feeling of the class. How are people doing with assignments? Projects? Comprehending? Are they challenged, too-challenged, or overwhelmed. As a teacher, I would try to stay on track with plans, but also realize that well-being of students is more important and should take priority over a due-date or trying to squeeze in another activity, lesson etc.

  20. The routine that helps me view the world in a positive way includes several conscious acts. First, Even if I feel lousy or preoccupied with some negative activity, I greet my spouse with affection and make the breakfast experience a positive one. I use this time to reflect on the joys of my children and their families, especially my granddaughter. I read the newspaper and listen to the news, but try to filter out the “bad news” – Fox and the world is about to end approach. I always think of a humorous story – like the one my wife told me yesterday. A father asked his six year who was President Obama. The child said confidently “oh he’s the guy who approves this message”.

    Humor helps me. In a classroom or other educational setting, I try to get a little humor – joke, fun happening, or some other light moment into the mix right at the beginning of the session.

  21. Daniel Knoll – I am very much a “glass half full” kind of person, so when I saw that this module was on Positive Psychology I was excited to learn about something I already feel very comfortable with. I enjoyed the TED talk because his idea of rewriting success connects with how I approach things in my daily life already.

    While on vacation with my family in high school, every night at dinner we would go around and share our high and low moment of the day (some call this Roses (the highlight) and thorns (the low point). This gave us a chance to reflect on our experiences from the day, which was especially necessary after tons of sight seeing. I began to look forward to those conversation every night, and was sad that they stopped when we got home (and back to our busy lives away from the family). When I got to college, I started having these same conversations with my friends and roommate each night. But instead of talking about a low point, I amended the activity so everyone had to share their highlight of the day, and one thing they learned (I strongly believe everyone should learn one new thing a day). To this day I still use this activity with friends at brunch, or as an evening activity with my bunk at camp. When Shawn talked about ways to “retrain” your brain to think positively, I was happy to see that my highlight and lesson activity was very similar to some activities on his list.

  22. I am well aware that my initial attitude towards the day greatly affects how it is. I go through phases in which I make conscious decisions to wake up with a smile and ‘convince’ myself that it is going to be a good day. Just the simple act of telling myself it is going to be a good or (as is the case of right now as I’m extremely busy with school and work) productive day makes it much more likely that it will be. Sometimes I forget and get into a slump and then have to remind myself again. A silly example is that when I was in high school my best friend and I read an article about how five hugs a day can change your attitude. We decided to test it out, and it really worked.

    My friend had a 3-H leaving ‘policy’ in her classroom years ago in which the students have to give her a high five, handshake or a hug on the way out. I think that the physical contact and acknowledgement to every student (in a way that they feel comfortable) is a great way to make students feel noticed and appreciated. I’ve also seen weekly ‘gratitude’s’ employed in classrooms with younger students in which they sat in a circle and talked positively about things they were thankful of from the week or positive experiences they had. It would be great to start the day out using some of the techniques in the powerpoint slide including journaling, gratitudes, meditation or random acts of kindness.

  23. I am a very routine oriented individual. Every morning, I drink a cup of coffee and take a little time to read – mostly some sort of scripture or devotional. Occasionally, I have to read something for a class or my mind will wander to the sports page, but this time is essential to having a good day for me. Though not formal, this is the moment of the day where I gather myself and get ready to tackle all that the day has to offer. This is my time for meditation and ensuring I am mentally and spiritually prepared to face the day. It helps me center my thoughts on identifying what I can control and what I cannot.

    I have tried to encourage casual reading and “down time” for my students by having materials available, such as books on their reading levels and the latest newspapers. The biggest struggle I feel is having students do such activities deliberately. It is easy to get them to write an answer or discuss a topic. It is hard to get them to focus on the positive in the present and think about why they do what it is they do.

    Random acts of kindness are something that might work with my students, but a major struggle is their awareness. I feel many of them so rarely hear positive words or see constructive actions that they either don’t recognize them or mistake them for weakness.

  24. Currently, I’m struggling – like *struggling* – with striking a balance in my life. I love my job and want to be there, but it is taking over my entire being. It’s not acceptable. To make matters worse, I am having a hard time figuring out any other way to do this job. And the negativity and frustration and resentment fester as a result.

    I am determined not to become that person. So I am – on a daily basis – going to draw the line. I am going to work hard and then hang it up. I am going to remind myself that although I didn’t fix everything, I also didn’t make it worse. I am going to take off my educator lens and put on my relationship lens each day, to remember to connect with my people and allow them to fuel me.

    I work at a school that will take everything you offer. There is always more need and what you do is never enough. This creates tremendous teacher churn which emaciates the positive effects of individuals. So I am going to encourage my colleagues to do their best but maintain their balance and perspective. If you let the school absorb every ounce of your energy, you will not remain. And I’ll do my best to follow my own advice.

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