Our Brains at Positive

by Julie Schlossinger, Lower School Head
During this year’s faculty in-service days at Renbrook, I presented the lower school teachers with a TED Talk titled, “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by psychologist, Shawn Achor.  Shawn is a quick-witted, passionate storyteller with an overall helpful message to anyone who is looking to become more productive in their work.  
Our Brains At Positive

During this year’s faculty in-service days at Renbrook, I presented the lower school teachers with a TED Talk titled, “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by psychologist, Shawn Achor.  Shawn is a quick-witted, passionate storyteller with an overall helpful message to anyone who is looking to become more productive in their work.  

I chose that specific TED Talk to share with teachers not because I was trying to make them more productive-- it’s been my experience that most teachers need to be reminded to create a work/life balance rather than prompted to be more productive. What I was more interested in was sharing with teachers the concept of Positive Psychology and the science behind happiness and positivity. This topic can not only help teachers themselves, but also their students.

If you watch the TED talk, Achor will make you laugh out loud. He also will make you stop and think with the data he references. For instance, did you know only 10% of our long-term happiness can be predicted by our external world. The truth is 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted by how our brain processes the world around us. Ultimately, Achor points out that 75% of one’s job success is predicted by optimism levels, social supports, and one’s ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a threat.

In his research, Achor found that, “Most people think the formula for success is if one works harder, they’ll be more successful, and if they’re more successful then they’ll be happier.” That’s not how it works though. The research demonstrates, “If one raises their level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences something called a happiness advantage-- which is the brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed.” He goes on to share that, “A brain at positive is 31% more productive and can work harder, faster, and more intelligently. As one’s intelligence rises, their creativity rises, and their energy levels rise.”

Finally, the last point Achor shares in his talk is this, “Dopamine, which flows into your system when you are positive, has two functions. It not only make you happier, it turns on the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.”

This is information can not only benefit teachers in their important work in the classroom, but also help our students in their work as learners. So how can we become more positive? Achor asserts if we spend two minutes a day, for 21 days in a row, we can rewire our brains. The two minutes can be spent doing one of the following: write down three new things you are grateful for,  journal about one positive experience had over the past 24 hours, exercise, meditate, or participate in conscious acts of kindness (write one email each day praising or thanking someone). He contends that if one completes the exercises for 21 consecutive days, their brains will retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive first rather than the negative.

After the faculty viewed the TED Talk, I encouraged the lower school teachers to try these exercises. I even typed up a small key to remember the list of two minute daily activities. Mine is hanging by my desk.

I can report that while I haven’t hit the 21 day mark yet, I am getting close, and each day I look forward to reflecting on things I’m grateful for, sending a thank you email, or journaling about a positive experience. These exercises have made me more positive and have also helping me during moments of stress.

What I’ve ultimately learned is while my busy life and day-to-day experiences can be stressful, and at times, cause me to be negative, I do have the power to change my thoughts and reactions to be positive. Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Scanning the world for the positive has made a big difference in my world and I know once the 21 days are up I will continue to reflect and share my daily thank you’s and grateful thoughts.

Go ahead and start right now-- what are your grateful for?

About Renbrook School:
Founded in 1935, Renbrook School is a Preschool-Grade 8 co-educational independent day school located in West Hartford, CT. The school enrolls students from more than 30 cities and towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Renbrook experience is defined by a high degree of academic rigor, personalized attention as a result of small class sizes, a nurturing environment, and an emphasis on values and respect among members of a tight-knit community. Learn about our visit opportunities by going to: www.renbrook.org/visit
 
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  • Dave Blodgett
    Thanks for posting this, Julie. It is so true that while there are so many things we cannot control in this world, our outlook on it is one that we can. Thanks for the positive reminder and the great TED talk.

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