Gratitude & the Negativity Bias

The past few weeks in Peace Class we have been digging deeper into gratitude. We have also been learning about the brain’s Negativity Bias – the tendency of our brains to focus on and remember bad things and to let good things slide out. Our brains have evolved to do this in order to keep us safe.  If we touch a cactus and hurt ourselves once our brains will remember that and we won’t do it again. That’s great! Unfortunately our brains can’t tell the difference between something that is truly dangerous and something that is simply unpleasant – like being embarrassed. We can help override this Negativity Bias by making a point of noticing all of the big and little good things in our day-to-day lives.

To practice this, we got out cups and marbles and worked with our Kindness Pals.  We labeled one cup “good” and one cup “bad” and we told our Kindness Pal everything we could remember about the day so far. As one person talked,  the other put marbles in the good side or the bad side.  When we were done most of the kids were completely surprised by all of the good things that happened that they had barely noticed: things like waking up in a warm bed, having breakfast, having someone to bring you to school. getting to play with friends before school, reading a great book in library, having Peace Class, learning a new song in Music Class and so on.  This practice can become a habit that can make us much happier and healthier in the long run.  It’s so important not to let our Negativity Bias be in charge and to really stop and notice all of the little good things that make up our lives.  Try it with your kids and see which one of your marble cups is more full!

-Linda & the Peace of Mind team

December’s Monthly Mindful Moment: The Web of Gratitude

During December, our focus on Gratitude continues with a new mindfulness practice called the Web of Gratitude. In Peace Class we’ve been teaching our students to think about people or things they are grateful for.  Gratitude practice has been shown to be a powerful practice for personal happiness, and an important way to balance our tendency to focus on what could be better, instead of what is good in the present moment. So go ahead and give it a try yourself:

You can imagine that the little hearts are like picture frames and we are putting pictures of those for whom we are grateful in the heart frames.

Let’s start out by thinking about someone at home that you are thankful, or grateful for.  Someone who helps you and is kind to you. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks for that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Next let’s think about another kid at school.  A friend or classmate who is kind to you. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now let’s think about a grown up at school.  Someone who is kind to you and helps you. Someone you are grateful to have in your life. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks to that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Maybe there is a special animal in your life.  Maybe a pet or a stuffed animal or an animal in the wild.  Imagine that special animal in your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now let’s think about something in nature that you are grateful for.  Maybe there is a special tree that you love or a flower or the ocean or the moon or snow…  Choose something from nature to put into your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now this time you can think about anyone or anything that you are feeling grateful to have in your life.  Imagine adding that person or thing to your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Take a moment to soak in this feeling of gratitude.  Notice what it feels like in your body to be grateful and to say thank you. Remember that you can do this practice on your own anytime.

-Linda & the Peace of Mind Team