Are you a glass half-empty or half-full kind of person?
Many of us are familiar with negative thoughts that come creeping into our heads each day. At times it can feel like the world is full of doom and gloom.
Social media bombards us with posts reminding us to think positively about ourselves (whilst doing little to protect people from all the negativity that some people enjoy spreading).
And yet, despite this... Positive Thinking Day was on the 13th September.
(Yes - it is a real thing, I checked!)
We all need to spend more of our time thinking positively, rather than focusing on all the negatives around us.
So what can we do to help children growing up in this world develop a habit of thinking more positively about themselves?
Here are 5 top tips to getting your pupils to think positively.
1. Make sure your pupils can make positive affirmations.
Get them to repeat affirmations such as ‘I am kind' and ‘I am strong’. This will form a habit of talking about themselves in a positive way. Display them in your classroom, along the corridors, in the dining room. No more ‘I can’t!’.
It's easy to dismiss the effectiveness of such simple strategies - but multiple studies have shown that exposing people to messages like these in the workplace increases their performance AND doubles their willingness to persevere.
2. Teach the children to be kind to themselves.
Children (and adults) often find it easy to be kind to other people - but much harder to be as kind to themselves.
So encourage your students to speak kindly to themselves as they would speak to a friend or family member.
Model this. If a child says ‘I’m stupid,’ show them how they can think differently e.g. ‘I know you are finding this maths hard today but you should be so proud of yourself for not giving up’.
Or ask them: 'If a friend felt like this, what would you say to them?'
3. Memorise lists of positive words.
Did you know that you may be able to increase a child’s positivity just by teaching them to memorise lists of positive words?
When a child forces their brain to use positive words all of the time, they make these words and their meanings more accessible and more easily activated in your brain.
Positive words are more likely to ‘pop up’ when a child goes to retrieve a word or idea from their memory... which is amazing!
So combine this with Strategy 1 by placing displaying single positive words on pieces of paper around the classroom (PERSEVERE, KINDNESS, HAPPINESS).
4. Smash that glass ceiling!
Encourage pupils to follow their dreams.
Teach them to believe that they can achieve great things. Have high aspirations for all of your pupils and talk about how amazing they can be.
Being more solution focused, rather than dwelling on problems, can help pupils alter their mindset. Instead of thinking about what they can’t do, teach them how to find ways of achieving what they want to achieve.
(If you haven’t watched Rita Pierson’s TED talk about pupils believing in themselves, you can watch it here.)
5. Teach your pupils to be comfortable with all the emotions they may feel.
Your students need to know it's okay to feel sad or angry or jealous.
They need to know it's okay not to feel happy all of the time.
Help them realise that emotions aren't 'good' or 'bad' - and that we can't help feeling happy or anxious, any more than we can help feeling hungry or thirsty. It's what we do with those emotions that matters.
(One approach to managing emotions successfully is mindfulness - here's our article on the effectiveness of mindfulness, according to science.)
By talking about emotions and how to deal with them, pupils will learn to think more positively about themselves and know that what they feel is ‘normal’.
We can teach ourselves and our pupils to think positively. It's about developing and reinforcing good habits, and asking the right questions.
So remember these top five tips:
- Help your pupils to regularly make positive affirmations.
- Teach the children to be kind to themselves.
- Memorise lists of positive words.
- Smash that glass ceiling!
- Teach your pupils to be comfortable with all the emotions they may feel.