The broad benefits of positive emotions in our lives are twofold – it can act as both a resource builder, whilst also possessing the capacity to have an undoing effect upon negative emotions.
This dual function ensures that positive emotion is a crucial aspect in the resilience building process in children.
The following are some helpful techniques and strategies to promote happiness and positivity amongst your students and set them on the path towards becoming more adaptable and resilient learners and people as they progress through their life:
1. Gratitude Journal
Requesting that students maintain and regularly update a gratitude journal is one of the most effective techniques for elevating their feelings of hope and optimism, as well as their overall sense of wellbeing. Seligman and colleagues (2005) found that individuals who logged one entry per week in a gratitude journal displayed boosted levels of overall happiness after just six weeks. If journal maintenance proves problematic, adapt the process and encourage that students complete the process on one of many smartphone journaling apps which are now widely available.
2. Gratitude Letter
This strategy involves requesting that students choose an individual in their life whose input to their life greatly appreciated and cherished. The students then write a letter (as short or long as they feel appropriate) detailing their gratitude to this person. This simple process has considerable impact in helping to switch a student's focus away from craving that which they do not have, and towards appreciating the good things they currently have in their life.
3. Gratitude Visits
Following on from the letter, students are encourage to make a visit to an important positive influence or role in their life in order to thank this person for the positive impact they have had, and continue to have upon their life (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). The student could even use this visit as a chance to personally deliver the aforementioned gratitude letter.
4. Hunt The Good Stuff (Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, 2011)
Ideal for a younger cohort, the 'hunt the good stuff' activity asks children to go on a mental treasure hunt to identify the most positive aspects of their lives and report back with the bounty they have uncovered. This activity is perfectly suited as an opening activity for a school day as it sets the tone for an upbeat and positive day ahead.
5. Savour The Good Times
This can be completed in a multitude of ways so let your creativity flow! The fundamental aim of this activity is to create a hub of positive memories and moments within the classroom environment - whether through the display of artwork, photographs, a 'memory lane' collage, a memory treasure chest, digital slideshows or desktop wallpapers and backgrounds. Be sure the hub is always available and in view as a reminder of positive experiences shared by the class.
6. Gratitude Buddies
Try to find a buddy for each student with whom they can share their happy moments and have discussions about what they are grateful for. The gratitude buddy can help to identify sources of happiness in their buddy's life which may have gone unacknowledged or been taken for granted by their buddy. Worksheets can be used for younger students to help to create some structure around this activity.
7. Teach Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be incorporated into your teaching in many ways. One clever technique is to use a 'Mindfulness Mandarin' as an aid. Provide a mandarin orange every Friday and ask the students to peel and eat the fruit in silence. Have them focus completely upon how the orange impacts the five senses as they consume it. Another helpful strategy is to encourage a day stop in which beauty is appreciated (through art, music, nature, writing etc.) As they come to master this process, gradually have students contribute to the identification of beauty all around and take the lead in mindful awareness.
8. What Went Well (WWW) Technique
Allow 5 minutes at the close of each day in which the students identify three aspects of the day which they felt 'went well'. Be sure to promote the inclusion of interpersonal moments and instances where the student displayed resilience, empathy or kindness. This ensures that the students develop a more rounded outlook about the meaning of success. As a final act of the day, students could be asked to identify a 'Golden Moment' for the day to ensure each school day finishes on a bright note.
9. Count Your Blessings
Encourage your students to take a moment to actively appreciate all the positive aspects of their life before they go to sleep at night.
10. Model Positivity Through Your Vocabulary, Advice & Actions
As a teacher, you are a role model for the students within your classroom. By increasing your use of the language of positivity and gratitude ('lucky', 'grateful', 'fortunate' etc.), an atmosphere of positivity and gratitude will be promoted within the classroom environment. When a student achieves success, be sure to encourage the student to take some time to consider all those who assisted them with their accomplishments. Finally, positivity breeds positivity. Students will be more likely to display positive emotion if they have an optimistic, upbeat and smiling role model. Model the actions you want to see in your classroom and be sure to have fun!
Hope you enjoyed this article. If you are really interested in positive psychology and wellbeing, why not check out our Summer Courses in this area HERE.