Positive psychology is a growing trend across interests and disciplines, including education. As we navigate the personal and collective stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are turning to positive psychology techniques to nurture and improve our overall wellbeing and invite more positivity into our lives.
With positive psychology, educators can help improve mental health, engagement, and happiness for themselves as well as their students. Below, we discuss how positive psychology can help you and how you can implement it in your classroom, school, or school district.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that centers on how to help people thrive by focusing on how to create and maintain positive emotions, build character strengths, and make use of constructive institutions or habits. While some branches of psychology focus on traumas, life challenges, or maladaptive behaviors, this type of psychology aims to build on and recognize the mental and emotional assets that are available to us in the present moment.
In addition to positive mental behaviors and thought patterns, positive psychology studies how engaging in certain activities, such as gratitude journaling or mindfulness techniques, can improve cognition, increase healthy behaviors, and promote emotional wellbeing.
Why Teachers and District Administrators Need Positive Psychology
Positive psychology is widely recognized by psychologists around the world as a useful way for people to manage job-related stress, including for teachers and administrators. Within the education sector, studies suggest that positive psychology interventions may lead to improved teacher engagement, increased job satisfaction, and reduced emotional exhaustion.
Educators commonly experience excessive stress and anxiety due to the demanding nature of their work. This long-standing stress can eventually lead to psychological and physical illness if it is not properly managed. Positive psychology can reduce these problems by helping teachers stay connected with positive aspects of their jobs and develop rational, realistic, and positive attitudes toward their daily experiences.
Positive Psychology Techniques for Educators
Many positive psychology techniques are designed to help you move away from rumination and unconscious habitual thought patterns and integrate more positive, nurturing, or uplifting thoughts or aspects of life. Gratitude and mindfulness-based techniques in particular can reduce stress and improve your ability to manage negative emotions — outcomes any educator is likely to appreciate.
One simple way to use positive psychology is to practice mindfulness. In mindfulness, one practices focusing on the thoughts, sensations, and experiences of the present moment in time, rather than what happened in the past or what could happen in the future. Many educators use short guided mindfulness programs like Calm Classroom in between lessons to help themselves and their students center their attention on the present moment and recharge.
Another simple and popular positive psychology technique is gratitude journaling. Here, an educator takes a few minutes of time before school to list 3-5 things they are grateful for or happy about in their life. Some educators use a variation of this exercise to end their day on a positive note by writing down either something that went well, something they enjoyed, or something they are grateful for at the end of every school day.
Positive psychology exercises can improve your mindset and reduce stress. While these techniques cannot get rid of negativity or stress altogether, they can shift the psyche to focus on the positive rather than the negative over time.
How to Apply Positive Psychology in the Classroom
While many teachers practice positive psychology in the comfort of their homes, they can also implement these techniques at school. Practicing positive psychology with your students can benefit everyone in the classroom.
Some teachers have their students practice a brief positive psychology technique every day. You could integrate positive psychology with academics by having students practice writing about what they are grateful for, use guided mindfulness techniques to help students regain their focus between lessons, or start the day with a class check-in where students share something for which they are grateful.
If you are looking for a mindfulness program for your K-12 school community, consider Calm Classroom. We offer simple, sustainable, and impactful mindfulness training to educators all over the world. The Calm Classroom program includes hundreds of different activities, guided meditations, and other mindfulness exercises you can do as a class.
Our mindfulness-based techniques are research-based, trauma-sensitive, engaging, and designed to be as accessible as possible. Check out our other blog posts to find more mental health resources for K-12 teachers and students!