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Simple, Summative Skills: Incorporating Brief Positive Psychology Practice Into Your Day
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As school psychologists, we have long known that there is a positive relationship between increased exposure to social–emotional learning (SEL) and academic outcomes (See NASP, 2020). Time and again, researchers have reported the same outcome for students: Mental health problems negatively impact active learning and long-term academic achievement.
SEL curricula are often designed around pillars of positive psychology (PP) like social connectedness, resilience, positive reappraisal, and positive refocusing (CASEL, 2022). However, many curricula require extensive time and fidelity to integrate into already-full classroom schedules. However, even if time is short, teaching isolated PP skills to students is shown to be beneficial. Recent research indicates learning and practicing brief PP skills (e.g., 3–7 minutes of mindfulness, gratitude, goal setting, resilience, growth mindset) can provide a double buffer effect: an instant mood booster and the building of neural pathways and generalized behavior over time. Brief PP practices demonstrate improvement in feelings of wellness for individuals of all ages, cultures, and geographies as well as across a range of symptom experiences and severity (Agteren et al, 2021; Waters et al., 2021). This means that taking a few minutes out of the day to practice short PP exercises can help students, teachers, and other school staff with instant social–emotional boosters, which over time generalize into other aspects of their days, extracurriculars, social relationships, and academic practice. That is, regardless of an individual’s tier of instruction (i.e., intensity of need for intervention), practicing PP skills can provide students both short-term and long-term benefits.
PP skill practice can be implemented in a myriad of ways. This is where you can get creative based on your personal and professional goals. If you’re a teacher, consider taking just a few minutes at the beginning of the school day, after lunch, or right before going home to practice a PP skill with your classroom. If you’re a school psychologist, is there a small group or individual student you think may benefit from learning a PP skill? Is there a way you can incorporate positive refocusing techniques into the next professional development or administrative meeting? Could you create a challenge for school staff to all create year-long gratitude walls in their classrooms? As a parent, is there a mindful activity you can do as a family that engages connection and conversation?
You don’t have to execute self-care perfectly to teach, model, and practice PP with students, your school staff, or your family. Alternatively, modeling growth mindset and being willing to be seen as silly, or imperfect, or learning along with others can be humanizing to those with whom you work. There are some wonderful resources out there that provide ample ideas for PP skill practice, here are some of our favorites!
Greater Good in Education – Curated by UC Berkeley, Greater Good in Education offers free research-based and informed strategies and practices for the social, emotional, and ethical development of students; for the well-being of the adults who work with them; and for cultivating positive school cultures.
GrowTherapy World - The resources here are all easy to understand as well as being informed by research.
Therapistaid – This site offers many different resources, videos, and worksheets to help with different aspects of skill development in the domains of mental health, positive psychology, cognitive–behavioral therapy, values, and more.
GoNoodle – This website features fantastic, kid-friendly videos across all educational topics. Especially helpful are the videos guiding attention, mindfulness, and emotional regulation. Membership is free with .edu email address.
Ninja Focus – Kid’s Mindfulness
Kids Mindfulness Meditations – MaryAnne Eve
Like You: Mindfulness for Kids
Kids Super Journal Podcast – Elizabeth Heller