Saturday, November 24, 2018

Food for Thought: Wiring our brains to be positive

The last few Food for Thoughts have asked big questions about our future and relationship with AI. I will certainly return to that topic again. However, this blog is going to focus on positive thinking as we prepare for our PD sessions on 6th January. Many people think that being positive is something that you are either born with or not, you are either an optimist or a pessimist and this can't be changed. Well, neuroscience and psychology today says this is incorrect thinking. You can train your brain because of its plasticity to become more positive. In the past it was natural for our brains to focus on negative events because if we survived it was important that we learned from them. This is why we tend to have more negative thoughts than positive. But as we learned from studying positive emotions, with Barbara Fredrickson, we need to work towards a ratio of at least 4 positive thoughts to every one negative if we are to have a positive outlook on life. It is clear from her work that developing positive emotions transforms us as this short video explains.

This article from Mindshift  How to Get Past Negativity Bias in Order to Hardwire Positive Experiences introduces us to the work of Rick Hanson. His simple TED talk that follows lays down a very simple technique that will enable us to transform our mind to be more positive. It is a technique that is accessible for all of us and one that you can talk to your students about to empower them to be positive in their lives. This transformation will not only develop positive thinking but also help grow resilience in ourselves and our students.

Hanson encourages us to focus on good things that have happened to us for at least 12 seconds this embedding them in our minds. By doing this it can lead a transformation of how your mind thinks. It is based around the way the brain works and as Hanson says, " neurons that fire together wire together and a passing mental state becomes a lasting neural trait." He has developed a simple way of remembering the steps.

Have a positive experience
Enrich it
Absorb it
Link positive and negative material (optional) 
"Hanson calls this process “self-directed neuroplasticity.” To grow inner strength, people have to turn experiences (short-term memories) into activated states that are installed traits (long-term and implicit memories). The idea is to turn fleeting moments of happiness into implicit knowledge of well-being and strength.
Helping children develop self-directed neuroplasticity could be extremely helpful for students with trouble sitting still or who have learning challenges, but it could also be explicitly tied to academic outcomes. Hanson’s strategies could help students develop motivation and a sense of themselves as active learners. It’s a way of helping students to see life as an opportunity and for noting the positive in themselves and others. And, at a fundamental level, it’s a way of taking the time to hardwire and register curricular learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment