One of the most salient lectures whilst studying for my teaching qualification was a lecture on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement was not something I had ever really thought about until that lecture, but it is the most useful and successful behavior management tool I have used, day in, day out of my teaching career. Positive reinforcement is the concept of ‘catching’ children being good, so, instead of telling a child to “stop talking”, I would, instead, recognize all the other students who are silent. I typically do this by thanking individual children or phrasing the expected behavior as a question, e.g. ‘I wonder who can stand quietly, exactly like Lucy?’ It sounds ridiculous, but suggesting or thanking, good behavior works timelessly, whether the child is 5 or 11 years old. Everyone likes to be thanked, praised or recognized and this extends to adulthood too. A genuine thank you resonates far more than any monetary gift. In fact, it was teacher appreciation week which made me really appreciate the value in positivity and thank yous and it also got me thinking…could positive reinforcement be practiced in all aspects of our lives to enable us to be happier and healthier?
Change is always scary, it, by definition, means we are going to have to step out of our routine and into the unknown. Sometimes change chooses us and sometimes we choose change. If it is the latter option, we often enter into change feeling positive, but if change chooses us, we can definitely be left feeling overwhelmed. How about if we purely focus on what the change can ‘add’ to our lives rather than what ‘subtractions’ the change is going to result in? After all, we are not in control of the outcome, but we are in control of the process. For example, you have realized it is time to embark on a healthy lifestyle. Instead of eliminating sweets, chips etc. focus on what you are going to add in instead. So, are you going to add a vegetable to every meal? Are you going to start drinking a cup of green tea? Are you going to add in a run on a Sunday? How about if you are relocating to a new place for work or otherwise? Instead of focusing on the people, or things, you think you are going to miss, why not see it as an opportunity to add a new tourist or local experience to your ‘to-do’ list? Why not Yelp the best local coffee house or attraction in the area and suggesting meeting there with new neighbours or co-workers?
There are many aspects of our lives that are beyond our control, our mood and outlook on life is one of the few aspects we can dictate. Life can be daunting, so let’s not add to it with focusing on what we are without, or our subtractions, but, instead, let’s ease the daily struggles and embrace change with additives. And not the E-numbers kind.