I seem to go through phases in which I devour documentaries. I’m currently in one of those phases. This past weekend I rewatched “The Elephant in the Living Room”. If you like animals and have ever wondered what it’d be like to own an exotic animal as a pet, this documentary is a good one. Just have a box of tissues nearby. Second time around and I still cried like a baby. I also watched “Bully”, a documentary I had heard about through work. It was also recommended to me by my best friend. Working in schools, I see on a daily basis how children are treated. I also know that more often than not, the students I work with are those who tend to be picked on the most or end up being the easiest targets. It’s a good documentary for those who work in the field of education, people who are parents or anyone who may want to see what it’s like for children who are bullied in school.
This weekend I was also introduced and finally watched my first TEDTalk. (I realize and will be the first to admit that I am way behind the curve. I know that I am most likely one of the last people to jump on this bandwagon). I can’t get enough. I watched two episodes of LifeHack TEDTalks on Netflix.
This blog post aims to share what I learned from the second one which was titled: Positive Psychology – The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor. Not only is this guy extremely witty, he also gave such good information which I have been trying to implement into my life.
Here are a few of the gems from his short, 12-minute talk.
“If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.”
“[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”
“When I turn on the news it seems that the majority of the news is not positive, in fact it’s negative. Most of it is about murder, corruption, diseases, natural disasters and very quickly my brain begins to think that’s the natural ratio of negatives to positives in the world.”
Our external world is not predictive of our internal happiness. In reality, if someone knows all of your external world they can only predict 10% of your long term happiness.
90% of internal happiness is predicted by the way your brain processes the world.
25% of job success is predicted by IQ
75% of job success is predicted by optimism levels, ability to see stress as a challenge
The absence of disease is not health.
We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society
If we can raise level of positivity in the present, our brain performs significantly better when at a positive level than at negative, neutral or stressed
Dopamine (which is released when positive) – makes you happier and turns on all learning centers in your brain, making you better able to adapt to world in different ways
In a two minute span of time, done 21 days in a row, you can retrain your brain to work more optimistically and successful
5 Ways to create lasting positive change
1) Write down 3 new things you are grateful for
brain begins to scan world for things that are positive, rather than negative
2) Journaling about one positive experience that occurred during the day
this lets your brain relive that positive moment
teaches your brain that your behavior matters
Lets your brain get over the cultural ADHD that we have created by constantly multi-tasking
5) Random acts of kindness or conscious acts of kindness
Gave the example of opening your inbox and writing one positive email to someone in your social circle
Today I decided that I wanted to start implementing these five steps into my life. I should start by saying that I think of myself as a pretty positive person. That being said, I wanted to try it out and see if I can tell a difference after making these five steps a part of my regular routine.
Today after work I stopped by the local running store and bought myself a brand new pair of sneakers. I had purchased new shoes last September and am pretty sure I ran them into the ground. These things have no padding or cushion left which is probably why my right knee has been bothering me and not letting me go more than a mile before it would start to throb and force me to walk.
Since I bought the shoes and was anxious to try them out, I decided I’d drive to my new hiking/walking/jogging spot. This past weekend I found a new reservoir trail which is less than five miles from my house. You wouldn’t know it’s off a fairly busy road. Once you park your car and begin walking, you’re immediately faced with a large reservoir which looks like a natural lake. There’s a long path through the woods as well as a paved road which leads into a dirt pathway which follows along the water. There’s also tons of wildlife. I tend to see something new each time I go – a fawn, rabbits, geese, ducks and today I spotted a crane.
My new shoes are great. I ended up running (exercise) to the end of the trail and back (3 miles!) without stopping (except to take a couple pictures). It was beautiful. It was quiet. I passed only two people the whole time I was there. When I got back to my car, I realized that my knee wasn’t throbbing. I also realized that I had committed to starting my 5 steps towards becoming positive. Remembering that I had passed a bench on my run, I turned around and jogged back. Despite being quite warm, covered up in 85 degree weather and tired from the run I knew I wanted to turn back and take advantage of the quiet spot to sit and think.
As I was running back, I glanced up towards the sky. This is what I saw.
I had felt a few raindrops. I had noticed the clouds moving away from the sun. I wasn’t expecting to see something so beautiful.
I spent the next 15 minutes walking back and forth trying to capture the beauty with my phone. I think sat down on the bench and began reflecting on three things that I am grateful for.
As I was sitting on the bench, under the rainbow I noticed the group of geese in front of me. I saw this same group last Saturday when I first discovered the reservoir. It lead to start thinking about my own group. The people, friends and family, that surround me on a regular basis. Alhamdulillah, I have an amazing family. I have wonderful friends. My colleagues and students feel like extensions of my family. I couldn’t ask for a better circle.
The second thing I felt grateful for is my location. I really love Connecticut. I’ve lived 27 out of my 28 years here, yet I am just now exploring and finding it for myself. My apartment is in a great part of the state. It’s close to my family and friends. I’m close to work and close to my Muslim community and masjid. I also keep finding these gems where I can be outside and be active. I find that I feel most connected to God is when I’m in nature. And these are the places I keep stumbling upon.
I’m grateful for my job. There’s a very common saying- if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I do love my job. I love children. They are so funny and so honest. Tomorrow is the last day of school. While I am looking forward to summer, I know that I’ll miss the individuals I work with on a daily basis. I’ll also miss my kids. I’ve made arrangements with their parents to email back and forth in order to share our summer stories. It’s an amazing feeling to see the change in children and know that you were a part of that.
I think stopped to think about one part of my day which was most meaningful. Today was the 4th grade Moving Up ceremony. I watched with pride as one of my students walked across stage, took his certificate, read his 4th grade accomplishment and sat through an hour long ceremony. Two years ago he and I spent his entire year working on how to be a student. Words can’t express how much he has changed. He no longer tears my room apart (no exaggeration). He no longer gets upset when there is a book on the table or when he’s asked to complete a math problem. He consistently uses polite language and will sweetly greet me in the morning with, “Excuse me Miss Minor. I just wanted to say hi.” During the ceremony today, he kept looking over and giving me a thumbs up. It was just great. (journaling)
I don’t plan to spend additional time meditating. When I think of our prayers, I think we are training ourselves to quiet our minds and to focus on our conversation with God. I have heard and consistently remind myself that when I am making dua, especially in sujood, I need to be asking with a conscious heart. There are times when I am more successful than not, but alhamdulillah I have (at minimum) five times a day to practice this skill.
We’re told that it is better to do good deeds in secret, so as not to mix intentions of wanting praise from others. That being said, a coworker shared a story today which shows the impact a random act of kindness can have. After sharing the gems from the TEDTalk with my colleague, she stopped and told me how she had a really rough morning. She wasn’t feeling well. She knew that she had a 12 hour work day. She had been arguing with her husband and had given up hope that the rest of her day would go in a different direction. Then she went to get her coffee from Dunkin Donuts. She was told by the cashier that the person in front of her had paid for her order. She drove away with tears streaming down her face. That one small act turned her day around. She called her husband and apologized. She saw the positive, rather than the negative.
InshAllah I hope this post brings about something good. Something positive. I encourage you to watch the TEDTalk (and the other documentaries). Let me know if you try out some of the 5 ways to create lasting positive change.