Classroom Therapy Dogs Help Students De-stress

Hello my friends!

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In March, vice-chancellor of The University of Buckingham, Sir Anthony Seldon, spoke out about the benefits of therapy dogs in schools during The University of Buckingham’s Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference.
Speaking about the addition of therapy dogs in schools, Sir Anthony said, “The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children, is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country”. The first known therapy dog accompanied Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. From pictures and journals, Freud would often have his dog Jofi in his office during psychotherapy sessions. While the dog was originally only in the room as a comfort to Freud, who claimed he felt more relaxed when the dog was nearby, he soon began to notice that the dog also seemed to help comfort other patients during their therapy sessions (Sharon Paul).

Given the impact therapy dogs can have on student well-being, schools and universities are increasingly adopting therapy dog programs as an inexpensive way of providing social and emotional support for students. The role of therapy dogs is to react and respond to people and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owner. For example, an individual might be encouraged to gently pat or talk to a dog to teach sensitive touch and help them be calm. Therapy dogs can also be used as part of animal assisted therapy. This aims to improve a person’s social, cognitive and emotional functioning (The Conversation).

Just with the presence of a therapy dog within the classroom, medical science has shown that a therapy dog can reduce blood pressure, promote physical healing, reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression, as well as provide emotional support. In research published in Stress and Health, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later. The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.
“The results were remarkable,” said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session” (University of British Columbia).

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Patricia Pendry, from Washington State University, said her study showed “soothing” sessions with dogs could lessen the negative impact of stress. The study of more than 300 undergraduates had found weekly hour-long sessions with dogs brought to the university by professional handlers had made stressed students at “high risk of academic failure” or dropping out “feel relaxed and accepted”, helping them to concentrate, learn and remember information, she said. “Students most at risk, such as those with mental health issues, showed the most benefit,” said Dr Pendry (BBC News). It is therefore perhaps not surprising to discover that dogs are now being used in universities across the UK at examination times as a means of supporting students by reportedly relieving stress (Barker et al., 2016).

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” – M.K. Clinton

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

Mandala Dots For Pleasant Thoughts

Hello my friends!

Welcome to my colourful world of mandala art!

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My hope is that my new website is uplifting – a place you can come to and feel relaxed, calm and enlightened.
The Mandala Dots For Pleasant Thoughts website (like MyGreatTeacher) is about you and your emotional wellbeing – a place for peace and happiness. All my mandala stones, wooden pebbles and bookmarks are stress relieving because they can be used as a focus for meditation. They always have a circular nature and offer balancing symmetrical elements and images symbolizing harmony and completion. These mandala stones, pebbles and bookmarks will help promote mindfulness, focus attention and emotional wellbeing.
The Blue Eye symbol is part of the Greek culture. We use this symbol to wish symbolically good fortune, love, health, strength, happiness, prosperity and spiritual balance.
For my dot technique I use high quality acrylic paint, bright and vivid colours. They are  sealed with two coats of gloss varnish to protect from dust. I use a magnifying glass to see even the smallest details. When you run your hand across the mandala stone, pebble or bookmark you can feel the multiple layers of paint used to create each circle. The stones are from the Aegean Sea, Greece. Sizes range from 7 cm to 20 cm in diameter. The mandala stones and pebbles were carefully crafted with much love and joy. Please, handle with care and keep them away from water and direct sunlight. If you have a specific colour design request, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Select a mandala stone, a mandala wooden pebble or a mandala wooden disc that appeal to you. Focus on the mandala and let it absorb all of your attention and RELAX. Take a few moments to breath deeply. Meditate on the circle and connect with your inner self.Enjoy your stone!

http://www.mandaladotsforpleasantthoughts.com

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

 

Teacher Character Strengths: Which are the nine characteristics of a great teacher?

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Hello my friends!

Positive psychology is said to be an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions, positive character traits, and enabling institutions (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). It can be described as the study of what people do right, and how they do it, and involves aiming towards helping people to develop those qualities that will help them lead more fulfilling lives. Within the field of positive psychology the terms subjective well-being and life satisfaction is often used interchangeably with happiness, which are more scientifically solid terms for what people usually associate with happiness (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). A premise of positive psychology is that it is possible to improve mental health, and make development and growth feasible, by focusing on and elaborate on strengths of character and positive personality traits. To be able to put a name to what one does well, to gain knowledge about and cultivate ones strengths is thought to promote well-being. Happiness is in theory and research often substituted with the term wellbeing, in particular referring to individual, or subjective, well-being (SWB). It can be defined in terms of the individual’s cognitive and affective evaluations of his or her life as a whole (Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2009). As such, these judgements will consist of both cognitive evaluations of life satisfaction, as well as emotional responses to events.
Thus, subjective well-being is an individual experience that implies high levels of pleasant moods and emotions (not just the absence of negative ones) and high life satisfaction, resulting from a global judgement of all aspects of a person’s life.

This blog post provides the basics for what has become known as the six core virtues of psychological strength; courage meaning emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to reach goals in the face of difficulties, justice, denoting civic strengths that underlie healthy community life, humanity, which implies interpersonal strengths that enhance meaningful social relationships, temperance, implying strengths which protect against excess, wisdom, denoting cognitive strengths that imply the gaining and using of knowledge, and finally, transcendence, which means strengths that are thought to lie at the basis for being able to connect to the larger universe and provide meaning (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Character strengths are defined as the subset of personality traits, on which we place moral value and are psychological processes or mechanisms that constitute positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004). For instance, introversion or extroversion might be seen as neutral concepts, but gratitude and fairness have a moral value, and can as such be called character strengths. Virtue and character are thus different from personality and temperament in that they have moral relevance. But like other personality traits, they presumably exist in degrees rather than either-or categories (Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2005a).

Virtues and Character Strengths

1.Wisdom and knowledge
– creativity: thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things
– curiosity: taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake, exploring and discovering
– judgment: being open-minded and thinking things through and examining them from all sides
– love of learning: mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, to add systematically to what one knows
– perspective: being able to provide wise counsel to others

2. Courage
– honesty: speaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way, being sincere and without pretense
– bravery: not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain, speaking up for what is right and act on conviction in the face of opposition
– persistence: finishing what one starts, persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles
– zest: approaching life with excitement and energy, feeling alive and activated.

3. Humanity
– kindness: doing favors and good deeds for others, helping and taking care of others
– love: valuing close relations with others, sharing, caring and being close to other people
– social intelligence: being aware of the motives and feelings of oneself and others, knowing how to fit into different social situations.

4. Justice
– fairness: treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice, giving everyone a fair chance
– leadership: organizing group activities and seeing that they happen and at the same time maintain good relations within the group
– teamwork: working well as a member of a group or team, being loyal to the group and doing one’s share.

5. Temperance
– forgiveness: forgiving those that have done wrong, giving people a second chance and accept their shortcomings
– modesty: letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves, avoiding the spotlight
– prudence: being careful about one’s choices; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
– self-regulation: regulating what one feels and does, appetites and emotions, being disciplined.

6. Transcendence
– appreciation of beauty and excellence: noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life
– gratitude: being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen, also expressing them
– hope: believing in a good future, expecting the best and working to achieve it
– humor: seeing the light side, liking to laugh and joke; bringing smiles to other people
– religiousness: having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life, also beliefs that shape conduct and provide comfort.

Studies that examine happiness, life satisfaction, and related concepts of well-being are some of the more popular areas of inquiry in positive psychology. Since the onset of positive psychology, researchers have been interested in those character strengths that correlate highest with happiness. Zest, hope, gratitude, love, and curiosity frequently emerge with the highest correlations with life satisfaction.

Teacher character is referring to the teacher’s personal distinctive qualities, which are significant of his/her, complex mental and ethical traits. Orlando (2013) listed nine characteristics of a great teacher:

A. A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.
B. A great teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. In this small community, there are rules to follow and jobs to be done and each student is aware that he or she is an important, integral part of the group. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her but also on the entire class.
C. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone at school or on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.
D. A great teacher sets high expectations for all students. This teacher realizes that the expectations she has for her students greatly affect their achievement; she knows that students generally give to teachers as much or as little as is expected of them.
E. A great teacher has his own love of learning and inspires students with his passion for education and for the course material. He constantly renews himself as a professional on his quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what he has learned with colleagues.
F. A great teacher is a skilled leader. Different from administrative leaders, effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork, as well as on community building. This great teacher conveys this sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles.
G. A great teacher can “shift-gears” and is flexible when a lesson is not working. This teacher assesses his teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts.
H. A great teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis. Rather than thinking of herself as weak because she asks for suggestions or help, this teacher views collaboration as a way to learn from a fellow professional. A great teacher uses constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an educator.
I. A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas—from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Her communication skills are exemplary, whether she is speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

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For You From Me: 60% Off Coupon Code HAPPY1234

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

The Theory of Wellbeing and Perma: Martin Seligman

 

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Hello my friends!

The literature offers several reasons for adopting a positive education approach. Positive education provides an antidote to youth depression, serves as a pathway to increased life satisfaction, promotes learning and creativity, enhances social cohesion, and promotes civic citizenship (Seligman et al., 2009; Waters, 2011). Positive education introduces and normalizes self-inquiry and self-management of one’s mental health from a young age, which may lead to long-term benefits as youth move into adulthood with greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence (Waters, 2014). On the theoretical side, well-being is an abstract construct that includes both feeling good and functioning well (Huppert, 2014). “Teachers and researchers in positive psychology are natural allies. At its core, education is about nurturing strengths, about growth and learning. Furthermore, psychological and social well-being are key concerns for teachers and other educators and for people working in the field of positive psychology” (Shankland & Rosset, 2017). Seligman and other positive psychologists are also not alone in the belief that schools should aim for student well-being. Teachers themselves believe that teaching is “inevitably linked” with the emotional health and well-being of the students being taught (Kidger et al., 2010).

Being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences.  Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness (Baumeister, Vohs, Aaker & Garbinsky, 2013).

Authentic Happiness Theory
Seligman’s beginning theory discussed authentic happiness. He described that people can feel happiness from different types of experiences.
The pleasant life: This refers to feeling positive emotions in the most intuitive way, of feeling pleasant sensations. Gaining happiness at this level necessitates relatively little effort.
The engaged life: Engagement is characterized by flow. Flow refers to the experience of completely loosing oneself in an activity. Individuals become totally absorbed in what they are doing and lose track of time. They are not thinking, but in essence unified with what they are doing.
In order for flow to occur, the person has to be using their signature character strengths, and usually there has to be some sort of challenge, but not too big of a challenge. Usually, activities with clear goals and feedback will cause more flow. Flow causes an inner motivation and intrinsic reward. As opposed to the pleasant life, this form of happiness necessitates more effort. Being in flow invigorates the person, filling one with positive energy.
The meaningful life: However engaging flow activities may be, they can be utterly meaningless and fill a person with a void after some time. In order to feel meaning, people have to be engaged in something that serves a goal beyond themselves, such as in religion, politics, or family.

Seligman contends that the five PERMA domains fall on the positive side of the mental health spectrum; well-being is not simply the lack of negative psychological states, but is something more (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Seligman (2011) hypothesized that PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) are the elements of well-being.

Here is a brief definition of each of the five building blocks:

1. Positive Emotion (P)
For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now, just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place.
2. Engagement (E)
When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow : time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.
This feels really good! The more we experience this type of engagement, the more likely we are to experience well-being.
3. Positive Relationships (R)
As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time and again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter.

4. Meaning (M)
Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. Whether this is a specific deity or religion, or a cause that helps humanity in some way, we all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being.
5. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)
Many of us strive to better ourselves in some way, whether we’re seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. As such, accomplishment is another important thing that contributes to our ability to flourish.

I wish all of you a very happy life ahead in which you do not need to worry about anything.

If you enjoyed my blog post, please share it with a friend who you think might find it helpful too! I really appreciate your support. You can also follow the posts I publish on Medium:

https://medium.com/@plomvasso 

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www.udemy.com/teacher-emotional-wellbeing/?src=sac&kw=57%20helpful%20ways

Thanks for reading!

Best wishes,

Love always,

Vassiliki

 

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