OPTIMISM: Looking on the Bright Side

March is National Optimism Month defines Optimism as:

1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

2. the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.

3. the belief that goodness pervades reality.

4. the doctrine that the existing world is the best of all possible worlds.

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Optimism: A Learned Skill for Success

Some people may tend to be more naturally optimistic than others, but actually optimism is a learned trait more than a genetic one. Thanks to neuroplasticity, we can train our brains to have a more optimistic perspective. When practiced, it can become our natural way of thinking. Kindergarteners this year are learning about their brains and ways to be more mindful. This month they were offered a lesson on optimism and taught about how positive thinking relaxes our amygdala, creates chemical balance in our brains, and allows our prefrontal cortex to take charge. With our higher level thinking working at full function, we can make better choices. As part of this lesson, Kindergarten students were asked if they prefer indoor or outdoor recess. They were then encouraged to think about something positive about their less preferred option. For example, "I like outdoor recess better, but it is fun to watch movies," or "I like indoor recess better, but getting some fresh air is always good." Optimism also helps us with our social skills because it encourages us to look at viewpoints different from our own and increases our perspective taking skills. In addition, practicing optimism also makes it easier to learn. Optimism gets the brain ready to focus and makes room for more information. Positive self-talk is a great way of increasing optimism. The student who thinks, "I can learn this if I try," is going to understand the math lesson much easier than the student who thinks, "I'll never understand this!" Overall, people who are optimistic expect success which then allows them to put forth the effort necessary for success.

(Adapted from, The MindUp Curriculum, Grades Pre-K-2. (2011). Scholastic, Inc.)

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Optimism Leads to Better Physical Health

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? This may be more important than you think. Studies have shown that optimistic people have better physical and mental health and actually live longer than their pessimistic peers. Optimism has been shown to increase the immune system, play a role in the recovery from illness and disease as well as protect against the development of chronic diseases, heart attacks, and strokes. If that's not motivation to be more optimistic, I'm not sure what is?

Book of the Month

In March, Mrs. Patron and Mrs. Aldorasi introduced It's Tough to Lose your Balloon, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, for our school-wide Book of the Month. All of the Jackson students listened to this wonderful story that teaches optimism, champions resilience, and encourages the reader to always find the silver lining in any situation. Students were then encouraged to take different negative situations and look at the bright side.

Some examples included:

It's tough to be home sick, but your mom might make you chicken soup.

It's disappointing when it rains, but you can play fun games indoors.

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Tips for having a more optimistic mindset:

  • Act as if. Think positively about your life and tell yourself encouraging messages such as "I can do this," or "I will get through this."

  • Think positive thoughts about others. Try to find at least one positive quality in someone that you don't get along with very well.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others in a competitive way. Each person has their own unique and special talents.

  • Try to find the good in every situation, even at difficult moments.

  • When facing a challenge, focus on achieving a successful outcome, rather than expecting failure.

  • Reframe your frustrations. Instead of just complaining about something that went wrong, think about what you can learn from the situation.

  • Make social connections. Social ties help us be less lonely and give more meaning to life. Also, when feeling defeated by a problem, a friend may be able to give you a different, more optimistic, point of view.

  • Be more mindful of and savor positive moments. Train your brain to observe more good things, whether it be a pretty flower or your smiling child

  • Strive to improve your physical health through exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleeping habits and hygiene. The better you feel, the brighter your outlook will be.

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