October 26, 2018: The Happiness Advantage

Spotlight on Schools: October 26, 2018
Hello Black River Falls Community! This is Dr. Shelly Severson, Superintendent of the School District of Black River Falls, and I’m here to share this week’s Spotlight on Schools! This week I’d like to share the topic of some new professional development within the District. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Orange Frog? It’s not really a quest into the rainforest, but instead is a an 8 hour training that is based on positive psychology from Harvard University. The book, “The Happiness Advantage”, describes very specific ways we can retrain our brains to default to a more positive outlook and mindset, leaving us more able to tackle the challenges and setbacks that inherently happen.

The training leads to the creation of a 21 day action plan that facilitates the individual transformation. Participants are asked to select one of the following tools for their toolbox to help them on this journey.

The first tool is developing an attitude of gratitude! Write down 3 specific things in your life that you are grateful for and a sentence or two about why it’s important. It’s important to be specific - so that you are scanning your day for individual events to be thankful for and reliving all of those positive moments!

The next is the Doubler! This tool asks you to write down all of the details that you can remember of a good experience in your life. It can be big things or little things, but when you go over the details of the event again, your brain cannot distinguish whether you are actually doing the event right now, or if you are remembering something that happened previously. Either way, you benefit twice from the same experience!

The Fun Fifteen is simply exercise. It can be anything that gets your heart rate up. Regular exercise helps us feel happier and also shows us that our behavior matters!

The next tool is Meditation. Take a few minutes to bring your attention to the sensations of your breathing. When your mind wanders off, which it will, simply bring it back to the sensations of your breathing. Doing this for 2-5 minutes each day is enough to reset your system, strengthening your positive outlook and ability to meet challenges head on!

The final tactic is Conscious Acts of Kindness. While there are many ways to do conscious acts of kindness, the easiest way for busy people is to simply write a two line email or text every day to someone who deserves some recognition, praise or support. The benefits are twofold, first you are scanning the world for good things and secondly you are building a social connection of doing live acts of kindness to others.

We are making this investment in our staff because we know that they need to be personally at their best if they are going to be able to serve our students and families! We know that the people that work with our children are the most critical piece to our students being successful. We are excited to see this work in action and create the positive climate within all of our schools! We know, and research supports, that the happier the adults are, the more positive the learning environment is for our students. If you see orange frogs or hear people talking about having an “Orange Attitude”, know that they are committed to being the happiest they personally can be, so that we can better meet the needs of the students and families that we serve! Both myself and high school counselor Sue Leadholm are certified Orange Frog trainers and thoroughly enjoy these days with staff!

As always, I want to share one tidbit of positive feedback that we received through our parent feedback survey last year. Michelle Wood is an aide at the high school and one parent had this to say: “Michelle Wood does an excellent job keeping me informed about the after school tutoring opportunities at the HS. She is a great asset to the District!”

If you have any questions about this, or anything within the district, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!
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