POSITIVE EDUCATION AT HOME

Tara Clark

Taking a photo of the sunset

We hope that the concepts taught in Positive Education will travel with our students – and teachers – long after they leave the classroom. By applying just a few key elements of Positive Education at home, we can help make our lives and the lives of our family, friends and other members of our community, happier and more meaningful.

1. Savour the moment

Savouring is the capacity to attend to, appreciate and enhance the positive experiences in one’s life. (Hefferon and Boniwell, 2011). Take a walk with nature, enjoy a meal with friends or sleep in late on a cold Sunday morning. The important point is to be present in the moment, grateful for the experience and to use all of your senses to develop a heightened awareness of how that moment makes you feel. In-the-moment present mindedness allows us to take a more detailed mental photograph that we can relive or share with others at a later time. At Geelong Grammar School, we had a colleague who began and ended her beginning-of-term presentations at whole-staff meetings with pictures of sunrises and sunsets she had taken over the break. It is admirable to take a moment in time, savour it, be grateful and then try to replicate those feelings through sharing with colleagues or friends.

Research tells us that people reporting higher levels of gratitude levels experience lower levels of envy and depression, improved social integration, increased life satisfaction, and increased academic performance (Froh, et al., 2010). Allowing yourself these little moments of happiness can have a big impact on your wellbeing.

2.Express gratitude

On weekends or during holidays, you might find that you have a little more time on your hands to reflect on the people that enrich your life. Try writing a letter or a card to a significant person in your life, detailing why it is that you feel such gratefulness towards them. If you are feeling brave, tell that person face-to-face for a greater impact. Not only will you make that special person feel valued, research tells us that there are many benefits for you too.

Gratitude gives us a sense of abundance. We turn our attention to what we already have rather than striving for more, or comparing ourselves with others, or wishing things were otherwise. In a reciprocal way, the joy that the present moment gives us when we are in a state of gratitude has generative power to enable us to want to be in the present more often (Howells, 2016). When we focus on what we receive from others, our gratitude towards them not only gives us a greater sense of interconnectedness, but it can also make us less self-absorbed and less consumed by our own worries (Howells, 2016). The ‘amplification theory of gratitude’ claims that gratitude potentially amplifies our awareness of beneficial events and good in others, as well as amplifying the good we experience in positive events (Watkins & McCurrach, 2016). In short, the more we practice gratitude, the more we will benefit from it.

3. Use a growth mindset to try something new

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck (2006) has found that people tend to maintain one of two mindsets. A fixed mindset corresponds with the belief that intelligences and talents are set in stone and that people are born with a set amount of intelligence. In contrast to this belief is the growth mindset; the belief that our basic qualities, such as intelligence, can be grown and developed via effort and practice. Those with a fixed mindset tend to invest much more time and energy in trying to prove themselves instead of being open to new challenges and experience.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to try a boxing class, cook the delicious-looking dish in the latest glossy food magazine, finally try your hand at sewing or join your local community garden, just give it a go. A growth mindset allows people to value what they're doing regardless of the outcome (Dweck, 2006). Daily, we encourage our kids to try new things, to embrace failure as a necessary part of learning rather than fearing it and to take on worthwhile and meaningful risks and challenges. To be a good example, we should be modelling these behaviours and attitudes. Be optimistic and open-minded - you never know where it might take you.

4. Highlight WWW (What Went Well)

Maybe you are high-fiving yourself for that great purchase whilst online shopping or investing time in immersing yourself in an engaging book or film. These seemingly little acts of self-care generate positive emotions which are important for your wellbeing. Things that have gone well do not necessarily have to be great achievements. Rather it is the practice of identifying these things, sharing them or writing them down that generates positivity.

‘Panning for specks of gold’ or recording positive events in a gratitude journal is something that children can engage in from a very young age. These rituals can help to balance out our inherent negativity bias; that is the tendency for people to focus on and remember negative experiences in our lives. As these rituals become habit, we become more proficient in “taking in the good” as Hansen (2011) calls it and consequently, more positive emotions will be experienced. Research has found that experiencing positive emotions has benefits for mental and physical health, social relationships, and academic outcomes (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). The sharing of WWW also connects people in a powerful way.

Implementing Positive Education practices at home can be easy and fun. Focus on what makes you happy, savour it, be grateful for it and share it, and you will be nourishing your wellbeing as well as helping to create a happier home.

Tara ClarkTara Clark 

Following eight years at Geelong Grammar School a teacher, Curriculum Coordinator and Assistant Head of House, Tara Clark is currently employed as a Curriculum Writer at the Institute of Positive Education. She lives on King Island, Tasmania with her young family on their beef cattle farm.