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Positive Thinking for You and Your Pupils

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder it can be easy to fall into negative thought patterns. This is as true of our pupils as it is of ourselves.

In this blog post, we’re going to look at the ways in which we can support our pupils to develop a positive mentality, helping them to tackle school subjects they find difficult and improve their outlook on life.

What is positive thinking?

Positive thinking is a way of training our brains to expect good results and not get discouraged when things do not go as we expect. It helps us to create an attitude that focusses on the positive of a situation and not on the negative.

Positive thinking does not necessarily mean avoiding or ignoring bad things that happen to us, instead it helps us to make the most of potentially bad situations, try to see the best in other people and view ourselves and our abilities in a positive light.

Research has found that there are many very real health benefits of positive thinking and having an optimistic attitude:

  • Longer life span
  • Less stress
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Increased physical wellbeing
  • Better psychological health

A good place to start talking to your pupils about positive thinking is to find out what they already understand about it. Can they think of some simple ways in which we can show positive thinking? A few statements to get you started would be:

  1. A smile and a happy face
  2. Being helpful and kind
  3. Getting up and trying again when falling down, and not giving up
  4. Being happy, even if you only have a little
  5. Maintaining a positive attitude and hope, despite obstacles and difficulties

Starting to Change the Way We Think

Did you know that we can increase our positivity simply by memorizing lists of positive words? If we force our brains to use positive words more frequently, they can become more easily activated when we need them. Psychologists have measured thousands of words to determine how positive or negative they are, you can read about this here.

It may be good to start talking to your pupils about negative words and also about negative self-talk. Introduce them to alternative ways to think about the challenges they face. For example, instead of thinking ‘I’m not good at this’, encourage them to think ‘What am I missing?’

Image on Positive Thinking blog page saying "What can I say to myself?"

Growth Mindset

The image above gives great ways for your pupils to begin to develop a growth mindset, a way of training your brain that works well alongside positive thinking. Growth mindset has been successfully introduced in many UK schools (see the PTS Growth Mindset Guide for help to introduce it in your school).

A pupil with a growth mindset sees intelligence as something that they can develop through hard work and resilience. In contrast, a pupil with a ‘fixed’ mindset will think that intelligence is present from birth, that they are good at some things, but that they cannot develop other skills if they do not come naturally to them.

Positive Thinking Blog Advert "Shop Growth Mindset Products"

There are many benefits for pupils in developing a growth mindset including:

  • The ability to welcome constructive feedback
  • Increased willingness to try difficult tasks
  • Being able to persevere at difficult tasks for much longer
  • Experiencing less stress and improved wellbeing
  • Improved self-esteem

The image below gives a quick overview of fixed vs. growth mindset.

Positive Thinking Blog Image "Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset"

This image is a reworking of an original design by globaldigitalcitizen.org

Combatting Negative Thinking

The saying ‘no one can make you feel bad without your permission‘ applies just as much to ourselves as what others say to us.

Our lives are shaped by what we think and what we feel, and these are our own personal choices to make. We can choose how we react to certain situations and analyse our thoughts and feelings to see whether they serve us or hurt us. When they are not serving a positive purpose, this is when we need to change the way we are thinking.

What happens to your pupils’ thought patterns when they are having difficulties with learning? Do they panic and seek help, or does their resolve strengthen? Do they shut down or do they try to find a resolution to their problem? This is where you can have the most impact with positive thinking.

Some pupils’ inner critics will be louder than others, and these pupils may need a little extra support in developing a positive mindset. The infographic below can help you to support these pupils to think about classroom issues in a more positive way.

Positive Thinking Blog Image "Mind Viruses and How to Fix Them"

This image is a reworking of an original design by globaldigitalcitizen.org

This is just a quick introduction to how you can support your pupils to develop a positive mindset, there are lots of other resources available online if you would like to investigate this further. Many of you may already work on positive thinking with your pupils, please let us know about your successes in the comments section below.

Read More…

Earlier this year, we published the PTS Growth Mindset Guide, written by mindset expert Ross McWilliam. You can read part one ‘How to Implement Growth Mindset in Primary Schools’ here.

The PTS Mindfulness Guide has been hugely popular with primary teachers. Read part one ‘Energy, Emotion and Activity: Creating an Optimal Learning Environment’ here.

With such dramatic changes to the world outside, autumn is the best time of year for encouraging your pupils to engage with nature. We’ve gathered our favourite autumn activities here.

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