Have questions or comments about any of these domains? We’d love to hear them. Comment below or ask us on social media.
Have questions or comments about any of these domains? We’d love to hear them. Comment below or ask us on social media.
For many years scientists believed that the brain stopped developing new neural pathways after the first few years of life. This meant that critical periods of development were from birth to 5 years of age and brains would only be plastic during youth. The new science of neuroplasticity has identified the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This phenomenon explains to the brain’s ability to adjust and cope. F We’ve all heard the stories of the miraculous recovery of speech after a stroke where the speech center of the brain was entirely damaged- this is an example of neuroplasticity at work. Sometimes symptoms of disease and impairment can be entirely mitigated by the brains ability to reorganize using brain workouts or brain retraining. This is also true for anxiety. depression, and unhelpful stress. Where happiness is concerned the question of nature and nurture left us asking “how much of my happiness is up to me”? The latest positive psychology research is showing that as much as 40% of our experience of positive or negative is entirely up to our mental habits. What you focus on increases. If you are looking for negative, you will likely find it. So retraining your brain to see the positive makes sense!
Many people have limitations about themselves that they believe. Having a history of depression or mental illness in the family might previously have meant you were genetically predisposed for problems. The new research is showing that just isn’t true. If you’ve ever said or thought “I’m just not that smart” by adding the word YET and doing a little work you can maximize your brain’s capacity to learn and change and adapt. Do you need an app or screen to change your mindset or the amount of positive emotions you experience? Of course not! But at a time when technology is getting a tom of negative attention in the media, I love reminding people that technology is a tool. Like all things it can be used to help you feel worse or better. These apps all promote healthy mental growth by strengthening your mental muscle! Check out these brain changing apps:
This memory app focuses on paying attention, problem solving, and flexibility of thinking. The constantly changing games are timed and competitive. Learn more about Luminosity
The Jiyo app connects to the Apple Health App to track your habits and suggest articles, videos and information designed to promote your greatest well-being. Ranging from meditation, finance, relationships and finding meaning and purpose the content helps identify and foster your unique strengths. Learn more about Jiyo
Happify translates the science of happiness into online activities that can be completed right from your phone or computer. With the advice of a variety of happiness experts, Happify has created a platform to engage in writing activities and games designed to increase happiness. Learn more about Happify
Designed by neuroscientists this app begins by testing memory and concentration followed by games designed specifically to boost ultimate brain function. Learn more about CogniFit
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has developed a platform called Greater Good in Action to help people engage in science-based practices for a meaningful life. Based on the latest positive psychology research participants use simple activities to that enhance skills like that increase mental well-being like compassion and gratitude. Learn more about GGIA
Super Better has gamified brain training for happiness. Complete quests using activities designed to build happiness-boosting skills. Designed to hook you with quick wins to ignite your curiosity and keep you on the path to greater well-being. Learn more about Super Better
In her parenting book The Strength Switch, Lea Waters looks at parenting through the lens of strengths. Strengths-based parenting is a technique that encourages you to see what’s “right” about your children. Discovering and fostering their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses and fixing their areas of detriment is a somewhat novel approach. But are we doing children a disservice by turning a blind-eye to some aspects while embracing others?
It’s important to be clear on what Professor Waters defines as a strength. Strengths need three elements:
Based on this definition, being good at something alone doesn’t mean it’s a strength.
When I was a child I was a gifted dancer and a competitive gymnast. Dance was something I did on the beach, in the grocery store, and in the kitchen. Even after three hours of ballet I would still want more. Gymnastics on the other hand was something I was talented at. I was naturally strong and flexible, and I learned knew tricks and routines with ease. It took me quite few years of actively pursuing both dance and gymnastics to choose dance. One day I recognized that I really never enjoyed gymnastics despite my skill. Looking through Professor Waters’ criterion, dance was a strength for me and gymnastics was not.
Different strengths present at different times child development.
In the early years Waters recommends parents let children develop passions by providing low-pressure opportunities of discovery- let them play!
In the middle years, starting at pre- adolescence the role of the parent changes. During these years providing opportunities and resources to support the development of areas of identified strength is what helps children learn how to use their strength. This is the busiest time for most parents where children prepare for the demands of adulthood but don’t have adequately formed brains to make good decisions and make plans for their future. We also see some strengths pruned in this phase which can be hard on a parent who has enjoyed the relationships with other parents at a specific activity. As a parent your instinct might be to encourage your child to keep going at a tennis or soccer but the important thing to do in these situations is to help your child decide and then support their decision.
In late adolescence the brain development allows teens to use their strengths more consistently and appropriately. This is the beginning of high performance becoming part of your child’s unique identity. These years are where kids reap the rewards of their areas of strength.
As parents we want to help our children, but often. in the age of the helicopter-parent, helping turns into doing it for them. You know you are off track in your parenting if you’ve become more of a coach/agent/manager than a mom or dad. If you see yourself falling into this trap, using your desire to help in a better way will help you to avoid a major parenting pitfall. Helping your child stay focused without becoming a taskmaster means teaching them to:
Parenting through strengths becomes essential when you have a child who has an area of challenge. I have four children, one with severe autism and one with dyslexia. If I spend all my parenting time focusing on the things my daughter with autism and son with dyslexia need help with I might think I am helping them to overcome their greatest challenges. But what am I missing? My son is fabulously creative in design and art, he has a brilliant memory and a gift for spotting details that most people don’t notice. My daughter has a keen sense of smell, a memory for music, and she enjoys nature. When I spend regular time encouraging them to use their strengths they can see themselves as successful, vital, individuals. This positivity provides a foundation that protects them from the epidemic of anxiety and depression that is challenging our youth. Knowing their strengths fosters resilience, optimism and a sense of achievement.
Parenting can be both more difficult than you ever imagined and more rewarding. If you are struggling, reach out. Form a parenting book club and maybe spend a little time thinking about YOUR strengths too!
1. Notice the feelings
2. Ask yourself how you can help. This doesn’t mean changing everything. What small step could you take to make the situation better?
3. Take action while staying in touch with your emotional barometer. If you are too emotionally overwhelmed start with a loving kindness meditation. This type of meditation is proven to increase well-being while decreasing empathetic fatigue.
If you’ve moved from empathy to compassion, I’d love to hear how you did it and what the results were. By sharing your story you inspire others to make positive change.
Imagine what can happen when you bring together 1200 stakeholders in the positive education field including academics, educators, students, parents, lawyers, policy-makers, and psychologists all with the common purpose of making a quantum leap in the ways positive education impacts academics and well-being globally.
The World Positive Education Accelerator is an IPEN event that just might change the world! With so many mike-drops it was difficult to choose but here are my top 10 aha moments from this four day appreciative inquiry summit.
1. “We are expecting our children to change the world and we aren’t giving them the skills to do it.” Champlain University President Don Laackman discussed how a radically pragmatic approach is needed in rethinking how we educate. To make our world a place, where children and learners of all ages can thrive, he suggested that connecting professional success with life’s purpose was one of the keys.
2. “We need to change our deficit oriented way of looking at the mental health of students.” In her keynote Lea Waters suggested parents and educators need help to see and build strengths in children. When this happens it protects children against depression and anxiety, it increases self-confidence and life satisfaction, it buffers stress and anxiety, and it enhances self-efficacy. She included a reminder that it is our responsibility to educate not just children but also their parents about the strength-based approach.
3. “!t’s happiness stupid!” was Sir Anthony Seldon‘s reminder to us to distinguish happiness from pleasure. Selden discussed the fourth education revolution pointing out that under the factory model of school we are not interested in who children are. that we are stronger together when we embrace the unknown, when we say goodbye to our binary ways of thinking, and when we get out of our own ways,
4. “Well-being is skill-based and learnable” according to Alejandro Adler. Investing in teacher well-being creates classrooms with a system of well-being which translates to advanced academic well-being, more pro-social behavior, and better health. His reminder that this begins with the educator was a key point.
5. “Optimism is the belief that our actions matter” according to Amy Blankson who spoke on the intersection of education and technology. Blankson implored us to become balanced technology users learning to love technology and live with it not to escape from it. Recognizing that the average smartphone user checks 150 times a day is the first step, the is second putting the phone away. She shared that the mere presence of a phone is a happiness zapper. The power of a potential dopamine hit keeps us addicted and distracted while our brain is partially focused on the task at hand and partially waiting for additional content that is released every time we see notifications on our phone. This reward system is highly addictive we need to delete the temptations minimize notifications .
She reminded us with a great visual but our concerns are not new they are just different her for rules embrace a growth mindset about technology minimize distracting technology teach self-awareness set healthy boundaries to gather invisible boundaries until kids can self regulate
6. ” I believe wealth is not meant to create more wealth. Wealth is meant to create well-being.” Martin Seligman asked us to think about what are we going to do with human prosperity? Together Seligman and David Cooperrider envisioned new opportunities and possibilities for accelerating positive education.
7. “The best person in the class to up the connection of curiosity is the student” according to Angela Duckworth who has launched a character lab at UPenn designed to help use psychological sciences to help people thrive. She uses the heart, mind, will. method of seeing strengths.
Her lab hopes to answer the question is character born or earned? Using the science of goal-setting to help increase your results, Duckworth suggests her WOOP model in creating a path to a goal:
8. “Progress not perfection” says David Cooperrider who compared planning to a jazz improvisation. Cooperrider said the world of leadership design is about legacy; it’s not just crazy creative it’s also detailed execution. To avoid constraints or see opportunities and to get more creative using the core question “how might we…?” to begin a conversation designed to creatively solve the problems of the world. He also sees a need to remove the barriers that keep students from moving forward and staying curious and joyful.
9. “The heliotropic principle reminds us that we move towards things that give us life” we need to activate the motivation of our children said Jacklyn Wong. Speaking from her personal experience of using positive education to transform Singapore as a city. “It’s the essence not the architecture that’s the difference between a house and a home. ” Wong is one of the keys to changing the way an organization uses positive psychology to give leaders, teams and individuals the tools-the house, but they need to make it a home themselves.
10. “To prepare young people for a changing world, we need to support them in their self-discovery and awareness and increase their empathy.” President of Universidad Tecmilenio, Hector Escamilla spoke passionately about 29 campuses across Mexico who redesigned their process to start from purpose. When education is connected to what matters to a student they go farther faster.
The 2018 World Positive Education Accelerator combined the science of positive education & David Cooperrider‘s appreciative inquiry methods with a goal of making a quantum leap in the ways positive education impacts academics and well-being around the world.
Positive Education uses individual strengths and personal motivation to promote learning.
There’s a ton of research on what it takes to live a happy and meaningful life. There was a strong agreement from all the experts in attendance including Martin Seligman, Lea Waters and Angela Duckworth that we can do more to promote wellness.
The AI model is a method of design that looks like this:
Through this process, 1200 stakeholders including academics, educators, students, and parents participated in a highly creative process dreaming of a new future.
What positive psychology experts agree on is that when we take away all mental illness and all mental distress we still don’t have mental wellness.
We are not flourishing or thriving.
The Equation2thrive movement was one of many actions born from this process.
Our goal was bringing awareness to every individual’s personal ability to recognize and actualize their individual equation to thrive.
My personal belief is in an overarching equation that can be used every single day by every single person. It looks something like this:
The social media movement encourages individuals to reflect on their equation. It can be different every day. Sometimes you need relaxation + refection while at other times you need conversation + activity. The great thing is that there is no wrong answer.
In summary, I will leave you with the statement our team designed as well as a simple call to action.
Equation2thrive is a global movement leveraging the multiplier of positive education, spotlighting an individual’s unique potential to live a connected and meaningful life. From influencers to classrooms, carpool conversations and boardrooms all the way to the United Nations, we want everyone to know your equation matters We leave you with a simple question #what’s your equation
Please reflect, make a short video like the one below and post it on your social feeds #equation2thrive #whatsyourequation