Think positively! How often have you heard that when facing a potential problem in your life? Certainly thinking positively is good advice in that an upbeat attitude has been linked to better results in problem solving and learning.
As Marcus and I describe in our book, Thinking for Results: Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement By As Much as 30 Percent, people think more creatively and find novel solutions to difficult problems when they are in a positive mood. Approaching an important task with optimism gives you the motivation you need to continue when the going gets tough.
Conversely, when people are in a negative mood, they can find it more difficult to think creatively and may also be more pessimistic about their chances of success. They may not be as motivated to think through complex problems, and this can lower their ability to achieve. Thus, the pessimism is borne out without the person ever realizing that a positive attitude might have led to different results.
In Thinking for Results, we cite research indicating that people have a set point of happiness. However, people don't have to stay at that set point for life. By working on cognitive strategies that allow them to develop their strengths, they can come to experience more joy. This will not only allow them to live a richer, more rewarding life but, as many studies show, a healthier one as well.
In the classroom, research shows that happy students—those who are more likely to exhibit positive emotions rather than negative ones—are more likely to be persistent, productive, and engaged in the learning experience. They are also more likely to behave appropriately, participate more in class, earn higher grades, and have better relationships with their teachers and fellow students.
Teachers can help facilitate positive attitudes by promoting a positive atmosphere in the classroom. Do what you can to support optimism and positive interaction among your students. If you have a classroom of students that can regularly share a laugh and sometimes even act a little silly, don't think of it a disruption. Instead think of it as this: They are learning.
Huebner, S. (2010, October). Students and their schooling: Does happiness matter? NASP Communiqué, 39(2). Retrieved from the link.
Lykken, D.T. (2000). Happiness: The nature and nurture of joy and contentment. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.