Saturday, 10 March 2012

Relentless Optimism

Recently I was asked  if, what with all that's happening in BC's public education system,  I can be happy in my work.  To be honest I hadn't really thought about it. I like to think I'm generally pretty positive, and the current labor situation, while somewhat wearing and tiresome, hasn't really changed my outlook that much.

Happiness is defined as a mental state of well being, characterized by positive or pleasant emotions. Happiness is generally considered a desirable state by most people. It can be both a goal and a choice.  Research indicates that people who live their lives celebrating positive emotions increase their resilience against challenges. Psych Central recently reported upon a study illustrating that if happiness is something a person wants out of life, then focusing daily on small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go.

Building up a daily dose of positive emotions does not mean ignoring negative ones. To be happy, people need not adopt a “Pollyanna-ish” approach or deny upsetting aspects of life. Persons with average and stable levels of positive emotions still show growth in resilience even when their days included negative emotions. Its focusing on the “micro-moments” that can help unlock positive emotions found in day to day living.

Study author Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences. states “A lot of times people get so wrapped up in thinking about the pressures of future and the past that they are blind to the goodness they already have, whether it’s the beauty outside the window or the kind things that others do for them. A better approach is to be open and flexible, to be appreciative of whatever good you can find in daily circumstances, rather than focus on bigger or negative issues.

The Happiness Institute develops this idea further, suggesting people use positive psychology to get through tough times. Observing that people can't always control what happens to them, but can control how they respond, the Institute advocates for healthy living and a cognitive model that consciously selects positive feelings and constructive behaviors, as ways of better dealing with life's challenges. The metaphor of stomping out ANTS (negative thoughts and behaviors) and building upon one's strengths is emphasized. Importantly, this strategy recognizes a need to reach out and stay connected. People are reminded to ask for and to give help, to remain consciously and relentlessly optimistic, and to communicate with others honestly and effectively.

Happiness can be a choice. Even though daily lives may be filled with challenge and adversity, individuals do have a say in how they react. Hamlet said " There is nothing either good or bad except thinking makes it so".  Haim Ginott's poem My Impact as a Teacher translates this idea to the education context:
I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

While it may be true that in every life some rain must fall, a sunnier disposition is still the better option!

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