May 28th, 2017

Start the new year with a positive mindset

By Submitted Article on January 11, 2017.

We live in incredible times, thanks in no small part to rapidly advancing technology that grows our knowledge of space, our planet and ourselves, and enables us to rapidly disseminate information around the globe.

Much has been in the media lately about the quality of that disseminated information. Is it true or is it fake? How can we tell the difference?

In this climate of information overload, I’m struck by a comment by Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shadows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” He notes we are exposed to more stimuli in one week than our ancestors were in their entire lives. As a result, “using the Internet pushes us to a skimming and scanning form of thinking. A lot of our deepest thoughts only emerge when we’re able to pay attention to one thing.”

Since we are inundated by, and perhaps even addicted to, so much stimuli each day, we might not take the time to reflect upon what it is we’re seeing or experiencing. Not only does this cause difficulties in determining what is real and what is not, it creates anxiety because the experience can be unsettling.

We see signs of this anxiety all around us in our workplaces, our homes, and, certainly, in our schools.

In response, there is a growing body of research into the importance of wellness in our workplaces. Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work,” suggests we need to reprogram our brains to become more positive, and that positivity will, in turn, breed success. It’s the reverse of traditional thinking – that if we find the perfect job, if we make money, if we lose a few pounds, we will feel happier. We need to feel happier first.

It’s a challenge for us to create that positive culture for the benefit of our staff, our students and their families. For teachers and support staff, accustomed to putting the needs of others ahead of themselves, it can feel selfish to focus on our individual wellness. However, it’s essential. In order to serve others well, we need to be well ourselves.

I’ll rip a page from airline safety spiels. There’s a good reason why adults are always reminded to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, before trying to help put it on any children they’re travelling with.

Food for thought as we enter a new year. Instead of adopting resolutions to “fix” what we don’t like about ourselves, let’s focus on all the positives we already have.

Happy New Year!

Garry Andrews is the acting superintendent of Palliser Regional Schools.

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