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Monthly Archives: November 2019

Be thankful: Science says Gratitude is Good for your Health

An article from TODAY by Lauren Dunn

If you need one more reason to be thankful, here it is. More and more researchers are finding that gratitude doesn’t just make you feel like a better person, it’s actually good for your health.


“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”


One recent study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful actually had better heart health, specifically less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms.

“When I am more grateful, I feel more connected with myself and with my environment."


“They showed a better well-being, a less depressed mood, less fatigue and they slept better,” said the study’s author, Paul J. Mills. “When I am more grateful, I feel more connected with myself and with my environment. That’s the opposite of what stress does.”


Another study found that gratitude can boost your immune system. Researchers at the universities of Utah and Kentucky observed that stressed-out law students who characterized themselves as optimistic actually had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.


But Emmons said there’s even more evidence.


People who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. And having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging to the brain.


Being thankful has such a profound effect because of the feelings that go along with it, Emmons said.

Stress hormones like cortisol are 23%  lower in grateful people.

“Gratitude works because, as a way of perceiving and interpreting life, it recruits other positive emotions that have direct physical benefits, most likely through the immune system or endocrine system.”


Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.


But if you’re still not feeling the love, experts say gratitude is something you can learn.


“Some people may not be grateful by nature but it is a habit you can get accustomed to,” said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and author of “Winter Blues.”


“One very good way is being aware of comparing up. It’s a formula for unhappiness because you can always find a person who is more advantaged than you are.”

Mills says all you have to do is think about being grateful and you’ll become more grateful.


A good way to do that is by journaling.


“Some people say they don’t have anything to be grateful for,” Mills said. “If you take such a person to find one little thing to be grateful for and focus on that, you find over time that the feeling of gratitude can transform the way they see their lives.”

Full Article:


Be thankful: Science says Gratitude is Good for your Health


 BY Lauren Dunn


Dunn, Lauren. “Gratitude Is Good for You! Science Finds Being Grateful Has Positive Health Benefits.” TODAY.com, TODAY, 12 May 2017, www.today.com/health/be-thankful-science-says-gratitude-good-your-health-t58256.

Account Associate

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[LauRel]

I like this article because it provides accessible resources to increase gratefulness. This type of thing is very useful because our thoughts have such a significant impact on our health and general well-being.

The Future of Education: A Student’s Perspective

17-year-old, Anna Nixon co-founded STEM4Girls, a non-profit organization that works to get more girls involved in STEM activities and shares the importance of education for youth and what adults can do to help.

17 year old Anna Nixon is currently a senior in high school. She has grown up with an avid interest in STEM because her parents used to bring home the latest gadgets for her and her siblings to play with. The first time she worked with robots was in elementary school and she has been competing in robotics competitions since she was 7 years old. Nixon’s passion for science and technology led her to co-found STEM4Girls, a non-profit organization that works to get more girls involved in STEM activities. She is also currently working at Autodesk on the Synthesis team to create a simulator so that robotics teams can test their code and their designs in a virtual environment. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Nixon, Anna. “The Future of Education: A Student's Perspective | Anna Nixon | TEDxSalem.” YouTube, TEDxSalem, 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U3WN3f52x8.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because as a feminist and education advocate, I realize that STEM is a huge part of education, even since I graduated just a decade ago. Technology is advancing and changing the world faster than we realize, and the importance of our youth's understanding is imperative to how we view the world. It is inspiring to see such power and passion in a young woman, and if we want to learn more about the modern student, the best thing to do is listen to them. 

Mindful Wakeup: Start with a Purpose

An excerpt from 5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life

How often have you rushed out the door and into your day without even thinking about how you’d like things to go? Before you know it, something or someone has rubbed you the wrong way, and you’ve reacted automatically with frustration, impatience, or rage—in other words, you’ve found yourself acting in a way you never intended.


You don’t have to be stuck in these patterns. Pausing to practice mindfulness for just a few minutes at different times during the day can help your days be better, more in line with how you’d like them to be.


Explore these five daily practices for bringing more mindfulness into your life:

Marta Locklear/Stocksy

Mindful Wakeup: Start with a Purpose

Intention refers to the underlying motivation for everything we think, say, or do. From the brain’s perspective, when we act in unintended ways, there’s a disconnect between the faster, unconscious impulses of the lower brain centers and the slower, conscious, wiser abilities of the higher centers like the pre-frontal cortex.


Given that the unconscious brain is in charge of most of our decision-making and behaviors, this practice can help you align your conscious thinking with a primal emotional drive that the lower centers care about. Beyond safety, these include motivations like reward, connection, purpose, self-identity and core values.


Setting an intention—keeping those primal motivations in mind—helps strengthen this connection between the lower and higher centers. Doing so can change your day, making it more likely that your words, actions and responses— especially during moments of difficulty—will be more mindful and compassionate.

This practice is best done first thing in the morning, before checking phones or email.

1.

On waking, sit in your bed or a chair in a relaxed posture.

Close your eyes and connect with the sensations of your seated body. Make sure your spine is straight, but not rigid

2.

Take three long, deep, nourishing breaths.

Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then let your breath settle into its own rhythm, as you simply follow it in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe.

3.

Ask yourself: “What is my intention for today?”

Use these prompts to help answer that question, as you think about the people and activities you will face. Ask yourself:

How might I show up today to have the best impact?

What quality of mind do I want to strengthen and develop?

What do I need to take better care of myself?

During difficult moments, how might I be more compassionate to others and myself?

How might I feel more connected and fulfilled?

4.

Set your intention for the day. 

For example, “Today, I will be kind to myself; be patient with others; give generously; stay grounded; persevere; have fun; eat well,” or anything else you feel is important.

5.

Throughout the day, check in with yourself.

Pause, take a breath, and revisit your intention. Notice, as you become more and more conscious of your intentions for each day, how the quality of your communications, relationships, and mood shifts.

Full Article:


5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life


BY PARNEET PALCARLEY HAUCKELISHA GOLDSTEINKYRA BOBINET, AND CARA BRADLEY


Kornfield, Jack, et al. “5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life.” Mindful, 13 Dec. 2018, www.mindful.org/take-a-mindful-moment-5-simple-practices-for-daily-life/.

Marketing and design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Emily]

I chose this article because it's easy to lose site of little victories. These may seem like little things, but setting small goals for yourself throughout the day not only leaves you feeling accomplished, but mindful as well. 

Creating a Safe Container for Students with Community Agreements

An article from Mindful Schools by​​ Argos Gonzalez

We all want to create the best learning environments we can for students. We often do this by spending lots of time preparing classrooms, getting curriculum ready, and meeting with colleagues to make sure everything is just right. Creating safer learning environments, however, can only truly happen when our students fully arrive and we develop caring relationships with them.


Sustaining these kinds of relationships takes commitment and some planning. We must show students we care by establishing a classroom environment that values and empowers them, even when they exhibit challenging behavior. In other words, we must help establish a classroom container for students.

Creating and Sustaining a Safe Container

Creating a container means creating the kind of classroom environment that values and supports all of its members. This can mean a number of things, from simply thinking about the way we arrange the physical space in a room to facilitating discussion, to more complex acts like being an embodied teacher and creating community agreements.

Here are tips to create and sustain a class container that supports you and your students:

1. Make an Intention for Connection: While it might come easy to care and want to help students, it isn’t always reflected in the way we teach or relate to them. Make an intention to connect with your students (particularly at the beginning of the school year but also) throughout the year. Take time, even if only for a minute or two, everyday to get to know your students a little bit better.

  • What are they excited and concerned about?
  • What are their likes and dislike?
  • What makes them uniquely them?

Connection also means sharing about your own experience and being vulnerable with your students when appropriate.


2. Mindful and Compassionate Teaching: Commit to being a mindful teacher. This means sustaining your mindfulness practice. It also means that before starting (and during a lesson) you settle yourself by taking a couple of breaths or feeling your feet on the ground. If your nervous system is regulated, then your students will anchor their attention to your presence. If you’re not settled, then students won’t be able to feel safe in class. You are always modeling behavior for your students.


Also imagine yourself in your students’ shoes. If you were a student, how would you behave in your class? How would you feel if you had your students’ schedule, felt their pressure, or struggled in school? How would you want your teacher to treat you?


3. Create Community Agreements: Creating community agreements sustains a container by allowing everyone a chance to share what they need to feel safe in class. Community agreements are different than rules because students participate in creating them and are affirmative rather than telling students what not to do. This supports buy-in, lets students know what each of them can do to support the class, and helps students feel seen and heard.


There are a number of prompts you can ask to help students develop agreements.

  • Ask students to describe a learning experience where they felt comfortable, felt like a valued member, felt they were respected, and felt safe in.
  • Debrief student responses and together create a set of agreements to support that same kind of learning experience in your class.

Below are some classroom agreements that my high school students came up with together.

We’ll speak one at a time so we can hear each other.

We’ll ask and offer help when needed.

We’ll be kind to ourselves and each other.

Community agreements can also address what to do when someone doesn’t behave accordingly. The response should be restorative and not punitive in nature. When your class has created the agreements, write them up and display them for all to see. Lastly, remember that community agreements are fluid and can be added to if there is a need.


Support your students by helping them create a container that values who they are and provides them with the opportunity to be themselves. Helping to create a classroom container that consistently returns to your community agreements will support learning and healthy relationships that foster respectful and caring connections.

Full Article:


Creating a Safe Container for Students with Community Agreements


 BY Argos Gonzalez


Gonzalez, Argos. “Creating a Safe Container for Students with Community Agreements.” Mindful Schools, 30 Aug. 2018, www.mindfulschools.org/inspiration/creating-a-safe-container-student-community-agreements/.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

I love this content as it points to the things within our control to influence how the day may go. My favorite part, “If your nervous system is regulated, then your students will anchor their attention to your presence.”

So many good kernels in this!

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