Back in my 20s, I read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. This book changed me. When I was 19, my dad passed away unexpectedly. I had just started college. I struggled with issues of anger, fear, insecurity, and worry. I never considered how my own thoughts might be affecting me. But I began to pay close attention to that inner dialogue in my head and started taking steps to change it. It’s not that bad feelings and thoughts ever go away, but I learned to manage them and change them. I learned how to think positively.
“Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”– Norman Vincent Peale
Yes, times are rough. Yes, we’re going through some serious turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic. We are seeing sickness, death, and troubles all around us. Life is not the same for you, your family, or your students. It may be difficult to think positively right now. But even during dark times, it’s essential to find the bright spots. Try one of the following ideas to keep those positive thoughts flowing.
Something you can do immediately: Use “positive stickies.” Take a sticky note and post it with something that reminds you to think positively. It could be a quote, affirmation, or a question, such as: What am I grateful for today? Tape this to your bathroom mirror, fridge door, or a place that you will see often. (Hint: You can post more than one!) You can also use the My Positive Pledge Student Activity and post this sheet on your fridge or bedroom door. Complete this activity with your students, and ask if they notice any difference in their outlook!
Negative thoughts – we all get them. It’s normal. It might be negative self-talk, such as “I’m not [fill-in-the-blank] enough.” Or, worries such as “I should have done…” Too many negative thoughts can carry us away into sadness, hopelessness, or worse, depression.
Try this: Every time you have a negative thought, cancel it out with a positive one. This might take some practice. At first, it might feel forced or unnatural – that’s ok! We’re learning. This active form of positive thinking helps you pay attention to when negative thoughts creep in. For example:
Several years ago, I noticed that I would sometimes go to bed worrying about things I needed to do tomorrow. But I realized I’d rather end my day on a positive note, so I started a ritual: I decided to go to bed thinking of three things I’m thankful for. They can be little things or big things, or anything I’m thankful for! You can incorporate this “three things” ritual any time of day, and you could also write it in a journal or say it out loud. A sample gratitude ritual from my day:
Sometimes when terrible and serious things happen, we might feel bad for indulging in a moment of laughter. It’s as if we shouldn’t have permission to laugh during tough times. But we can’t go day in and day out with doom and gloom. If you feel like it, it’s ok to laugh! Watch a funny show or movie, make funny faces at or tickle someone you’re with, or call up that funny friend (you know who they are). Laughing puts our brain into a positive space, allowing for other good thoughts and feelings to follow. It’s also a good de-stressor!
So, if you think you can change your thoughts and think more positively, you’re right! And doing this, even during tough times, will change your outlook and your world.
Kelly Mendoza is Senior Director, Education Programs at Common Sense Education where she oversees education programming and content strategy, including the Digital Citizenship Curriculum, interactive games, and online professional development for schools. She has developed research-based curricula in digital citizenship, media literacy, information literacy, and social-emotional learning (SEL). She develops programs that help students and schools create a positive culture around learning and technology. She has also developed educational resources and curriculum for Lucas Learning, the Media Education Lab, and PBS Frontline. Kelly has a PhD in Media & Communication from Temple University. Follow her on Twitter: @kellymendoza