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

Rick Snyder’s Hope Theory and The Role Of Positive Psychology In Academic Achievement

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Hello my friends!

In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways. The common conception of hope is based on Snyder’s hope theory (1994, 2002) which describes hope as a positive motivated state and a cognitive process with three distinct, yet related elements (Snyder & Lopez, 2007):

1. goal-directed thinking – valuable but uncertain goals providing direction and end-point.

2. pathways thinking – the perceived capacity to find routes to desired goals.

3. agency thinking – the requisite motivations to use those routes.

According to hope theory, conceptualized by Snyder and colleagues, hope is a goal directed cognitive process. It is characterized as a human strength that involves a person capacity to (a) clearly conceptualize goals (goals thinking), (b) create ways or strategies to achieve those goals (pathways thinking), and (c) initiate and sustain motivation for using those strategies (agency thinking) to effectively obtain what a person is looking for. Any deficit in this cognitive theory (goals, agency, pathways) reflects low hope. Indeed, neither agency nor pathway thinking alone is sufficient to sustain hope. The  person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. When high-hope people encounter obstacles in pursuit of a goal, they do not despair. Having identified multiple routes to reach objectives, they simply choose another route and go around the barrier. Low-hope people, in contrast, may give up when encountering barriers to goals because they cannot think of other pathways to surmount the obstacles. This often results in frustration, a loss of confidence, and lowered self-esteem. In order to sustain movement toward one’s goals, both a sense of agency and a sense of pathways must be operative (Snyder, 2000).

Hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there. Psychological well being in society is improved if people are allowed to pursue goal directed activity and achieve rewards. A considerable body of research suggests high-hope individuals are more resilient, experience lower levels of anxiety and depression and experience better outcomes in the workplace and at home (Lopez et al. 2004; Snyder & Lopez, 2007). They are less like to abandon their goals and more likely to stay the course in pursuing their aims. The experience of hope has a positive influence on individual health and well-being (Gallagher & Lopez, 2009; Shorey, Little, Snyder, Kluck, & Robitschek, 2007; Snyder et al., 1996). Optimism as a trait is also studied in positive psychology, and appears as the VIA Strength of Hope and Optimism. Hope and optimism are both part of cognitive, emotional, and motivational stances toward the future, indicating a belief that future good events will outweigh bad events (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Individuals with high hope experience better overall physical, psychological, and social well-being. Hopeful people have also been found to be less reactive to stressful situations (Chang & DeSimone, 2001; Snyder, 2002). Scheier and Carver (1985) emphasize generalized outcome expectancies in their theory and assume that optimism is a goal-based approach that occurs when an outcome has substantial value. In this optimism model, people perceive themselves as being able to move toward desirable goals and away from undesirable goals (antigoals; Carver & Scheier, 2000a). Although pathways-like thoughts and agency-involved thoughts are implicit in their model, the outcome expectancies (similar to agency) are seen as the prime elicitors of goal-directed behaviors (Scheier & Carver, 1985, 1987). High-hope people embrace self-talk agentic phrases as “I can do this” and “I am not going to be stopped” (Snyder et al., 1998).

The acquisition of goal-directed hopeful thought is absolutely crucial for the child’s survival and thriving. Children with higher levels of hope are more creative, have better academic results, better social skills, higher self-esteem, self-realization, better perceptions of being able to solve problems and face obstacles ( Snyder et al., 1997). These children are guided by successful experiences rather than frustrations and are more apt to set challenging (and achievable) goals and develop more satisfactory life goals ( Snyder et al., 2003). On the other hand, children with lower levels of hope are more prone to frustration, anxiety, depression, and aggression ( Snyder et al., 2003). Teachers who perceive the plight of low-hope students in the classroom, however, should resist the impulse to “give them a break” and not demand as much from them as from other students in the classroom. Rather, a caring adult who has high expectations and who demands high levels of performance can instill hope in a young person  (McDermott & Snyder, 2000). It is important to emphasize that in order to give hope to others, you must first have hope yourself (Snyder et al., 1997).

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

I love Vicki’s Zakrzewski article How to Help Students Develop Hope in Greater Good Magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

1.Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro. Start by having students create a “big picture” list of what’s important to them—such as their academics, friends, family, sports, or career—and then have them reflect on which areas are most important to them and how satisfied they are with each. Keep in mind that the goals must be what the students want, not what their parents or schools want. Otherwise, as studies suggest, they will quickly lose their interest and/or motivation, especially as they come up against obstacles. Finally, students should rank their goals in order of importance.

2. Breakdown the goals—especially long-term ones—into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once, possibly because they haven’t had the parental guidance on how to achieve goals in steps. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will also give students reasons to celebrate their successes along the way—a great way to keep motivation high!

3.Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. Teaching them to visualize different paths to their goals will help them get beyond insurmountable barriers. Perhaps most importantly, teachers need to make sure that students don’t equate those barriers with a lack of talent; instead, they need to be reminded that everyone faces obstacles. Success usually requires creative ways to overcome these obstacles, not avoiding them altogether.

4.Tell stories of success. Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle; however, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital for teachers to read books or share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.

5.Keep it light and positive. Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up for mistakes, are more likely to reach their goals.

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

 

Believe in yourself

Hello my friends!

Here is what happens when you believe in yourself and when others believe in you!!!!

 

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 

and my online course:

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

Thanks for reading!

Best wishes,

Love always,

Vassiliki

 

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The Best Technique To Help You De-Stress

 

Pouli

 

Hello my friends!

Stress is one of the world’s largest health problems, leading to exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, a weak immune system, or even organ damage. Studies show that art therapy, coloring mandalas  and drawing in general, can minimize anxiety and combat negative mood. Art therapy is a form of therapy that encourages creativity and self-expression as vehicles to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, increase awareness and help remedy trauma. Psychologist Carl Jung recommended coloring mandalas (circular designs that can contain intricate patterns or symbols) as a therapeutic intervention to promote psychological health, as he perceived that drawing mandalas had a calming effect on his patients while facilitating their processing of thoughts and emotions.

Today, art therapy is recognized for its many therapeutic effects on aspects of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. As described by art-therapist Myra Levick, these include:

To provide a means to strengthening the ego.

To provide a cathartic experience.

To provide a means to uncover anger.

To offer an avenue to reduce guilt.

To facilitate impulse-control.

To help patients/clients use art as a new outlet during incapacitating illness.

In 1971 a radiation oncologist named Carl Simonton formulated a concept for cancer patients involving among other things the integration of art therapy. Simonton and his wife designed a strategic approach to attack cancer from all sides, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually with a host of progressive and relaxation techniques. In perhaps the most significant plank to bridge the fields of alternative and modern medicine, mental imagery and art therapy were employed as complementary tools to fight cancer cells and help rejuvenate the body.

Try the following theme:

Draw yourself.

Draw a picture of a part of your body you feel needs a special attention. Draw an area that you feel is perhaps a target organ of stress, for example a headache, sore back etc.

On another sheet of paper, draw an image of this same body region fully healed.

Use your imagination to restore this image to health through metaphor.

OR

Draw a peaceful image

OR

Draw how you feel right now. What emotions are you feeling right now? What does your anger look like to you? Try to visualize your emotions  on paper.

Art therapy is a portable form of therapy, and one that can be practiced alone without the support of a therapist.The beauty of art therapy is that it can be practiced for as long or little as you wish, depending on the amount of time you have. Just ten minutes of self-directed art therapy, every day, can make improvements to the quality of your day and to the levels of stress you experience.

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

 

GREAT TEACHING AND THE POWER OF WORDS

 

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Throughout human history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny. Words can not only create emotions, they create actions. And from our actions flow the results of our lives.

Anthony Robbins

Hello my friends!

Words can hurt and shock, or they can heal and lift spirits. Words can change lives, for better or for worse. Words are not only powerful, but they can have a last impact.

Be aware of students’ feelings when receiving assessed work back because they can be particularly sensitive to any comments you have written on their work. Giving students face-to-face feedback can be very powerful and productive. Good feedback promotes involvement and shows that the teacher is taking an active interest in the learner. The Great teacher speaks genuinely and listen openly. Spending time with a student means a great deal. Whenever it is feasible turn to them for help. Say thanks. Be on the lookout for even little things the student does that are meaningful to you. Be specific as to what you appreciate. Ask a question. The Great teacher is open to their suggestions. When the student does something positive, acknowledge it. Recognize the positive result.

Bob Greene writes: “A few words though they mean little at the time to the people who say them, can have enormous power. We need to be more aware of the effect that our words might have on someone else. We also need to understand that words we often utter carelessly or while in an emotional state can have a lasting impact. Greene points out that positive words can also have a major influence and can last a lifetime. His story is about a professional writer who was shy and lacked confidence in his childhood. But something happened in his high school English class that changed his life. It was a routine occurrence-his teacher returned a writing assignment to him. He doesn’t even remember what the grade on that paper was, but he does remember the four words she had written on it: “This is good writing.” This was a young man who liked to write and often dreamed of composing short stories, but he lacked the confidence until that day. His teacher’s little note got him to think differently about his abilities, and it was the beginning of  a successful career in writing. To this day he believes that it would never have happened without those four words written in the margin of his paper. Greene concluded his article this way: “So few words. They can change everything.”

Great teachers use words of encouragement. And words of encouragement create an atmosphere in which students can thrive!

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx

 

 

 

Feeling Down and Overwhelmed by Life’s Challenges? 19 Steps to End Worrying.

 

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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” —Albert Einstein.

Hello my friends!

Worry is a form of thinking.  How we worry can either be constructive or destructive. Worrying is feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem. With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on “what might happen.” Sometimes, a little worry or anxiety is helpful. It can help you get ready for an upcoming situation. But excessive worry or ongoing fear or anxiety is harmful when it becomes so irrational that you can’t focus on reality or think clearly.

Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems. The fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can cause physical reactions such as:
Difficulty swallowing
Dizziness
Dry mouth
Fast heartbeat
Fatigue
Headaches
Inability to concentrate
Irritability
Muscle aches
Muscle tension
Nausea
Shortness of breath.

There are 19 steps you can do to stop the pattern of excess worry and live a happier life.

1.Identify your stress situations and what you’re worried about.

2. Make time for Faith. “ The simplicity of our life of contemplation makes us see the face of God in everything, everyone, and everywhere, all the time”. Mother Teresa.

3. Challenge Your Beliefs About Worry.

What is the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

4. Practice Realistic Thinking.

5. Write down your worries.

6. Setting aside a certain amount of time (10-15 minutes) each day to consider worries and avoiding thinking about them at other times in the day.

7. Make your worries boring. If there is a specific worry that bothers you often, you can try to make it boring, so your brain will return to it less often. Do this by repeating it in your head again and again for several minutes.

8. Interrupt negative thought loops and replace them with positive ones.

9. Think of how to solve the problem. Knowing what to do if a dreaded event does occur can help reduce the anxiety that develops from an imagined scenario.

10. Think about social influences. Emotions can be contagious. If you spend a lot of time with other worriers, or people who make you anxious, you may want to reconsider how much time you are spending with those people.

11. Accept the Things You Cannot Change.

12. Embrace uncertainty.

13. Try not to isolate yourself. Develop deep relations.

14. Get moving.

15. Take a yoga or tai chi class.

16. Try deep breathing.

17. Meditate.

18. Stay focused on the present.

19. Practice progressive muscle relaxation.

And always remember:

“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” —Walter Hagen.

Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx