02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: Feed Your Happy Wolf 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Feed Your Happy Wolf

My psychologist license for private practice requires renewal every three years, and with that comes a ton of courses I have to take to keep current. Of course, the theory is you do a little over three years, but of course I consistently have executive functioning fail and am scrambling to find a live seminar at the last minute. To my credit, the timing of this renewal has been right when I’ve given birth. Twice.

The first time it came due, Toddler B was 5 months old and I had to go to downtown Oakland for an all day seminar. No prob, except as a first time mom, I was panicked about how I was going to pump milk for nursing while I was away. I called ahead to the hotel where the conference was and I was assured a private space could be found. At the lunch break, what ensued was a super awkward convo with a teenage boy at the main desk.

Me: I was told there would be a space for me to pump.
Boy: Pump?
Me: Yes, pump milk.
Boy (dying): Um, like pumping your…
Me: Don’t make me say it.
Boy (frantic): Let me call my supervisor. (To Supervisor on phone: Um, there’s this lady here who has a question. And it’s not a weird question, I just need…CAN YOU COME HERE RIGHT AWAY?)

And then I pumped in a conference room that looked out onto the hotel pool. Hello everyone, these are my breasts. Good times.

My renewal came up this year as my second baby turned 6 months. Luckily, I figured out that “live” webinars count as “live” seminars so I could finish up in the comfort of my home and spare some boy the mortifying task of having to say “pump” and “breasts” in the same sentence.

There is a point to this story that is actually related to school psychology, if you can believe it.

SO. I ended up taking this course on the “Science of Happiness” online and unlike most courses I take, this one actually had some practical application! Pet peeve #247 is when a course is titled, “Practical Strategies for ADHD!” and it’s one hour of outline what ADHD is and then 5 minutes of strategies like "sit the child at the front of the class."

So with that, I recommend having a look at this course if you’re at all interested in the latest research on positive psychology (and, it’s FREE)*! I want to share one practical thing that came out of this happiness course. It’s fairly common knowledge that happy people have happier thoughts. Optimists live longer, are healthier, and all that jazz. But can you train yourself to be an optimist? The short answer is yes…to a degree. There are genetic factors that predispose one to a certain baseline level of happy, and situational factors matter, but since nothing is purely genetic, habits of the mind can also boost your happiness.

With each week, there is a “happiness activity” to try and the first week’s one was something called “Three Good Things.”  It’s exactly as it sounds. At the end of every day, you write down three good things that happened. But there’s a bit more work. You have to do the following along with it:

·  Give the event a title (e.g., “a co-worker complimented my work on a project”)
·  Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
·  Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
·  Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.

So the first week I tried it, I found myself searching for happy moments and filing them away for later. For me, happiness was discovered in unexpectedly tiny moments—the way my girls laugh in each others' faces for no apparent reason, the way the baby holds my hand, when my husband made dinner, chatting with a neighbor, an appreciative email from a parent. The happiness exercise made me more mindful of the good things in my life. And you know from previous posts, I’m a super late adopter of mindfulness practices.

For fun, I started having my students in counseling try it out. I bought them each a little notebook and cool pen (any excuse to go to Target, right? That bullseye keeps hypnotizing me to go back and spend a ton of cash).  I did a modified version for their “homework” in which they have to write three good things that happened in relation to school. So many of my students either don't give themselves credit for their role in their successes or they laser focus on their weaknesses and forget their strengths.

To introduce the idea, I start my students off with telling a parable that was shared in one of the articles in the course—it’s a Native American story of a grandfather teaching his grandson about emotions. He  tells the boy that inside everyone, there are two wolves that fight each other: one wolf is full of positive emotions—happiness, gratitude, thoughtfulness, joy, excitement—and the other is full of negative emotions—fear, sadness, anger, and jealousy. The young boy asks which wolf wins the fight inside people, and the grandfather says, “The one you feed.”

So with that, folks, I recommend you and your students feed your happy wolves and see how it goes. I printed up this beauty meme as a reminder. I never lose an opportunity to use a meme generator. It makes me…happy. ;)

*There’s always an asterisk after “Free”, right? It’s free to take, but if you want CEU credits, there’s a fee.


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