Taking Control of Your Thinking Brain
Summer Term 2019
Life is a journey…
From the moment we are born, eighty billion neurons in our brain are firing and wiring, five to fifty times a second, creating memories, beliefs and behaviours that we aren’t necessarily even conscious of having. One may remember a smell, a dream, a painful memory, a harsh remark or even just a movement. But it is because the nerves have fired a template, or many, that one remembers it at all. All this occurs within the Emotional Brain and the more emotion involved in a situation the more we will remember it.
The brain is constantly remodelling itself as one learns from our experiences. When one repeatedly stimulates a memory, behaviour or habit one strengthens it – for better or for worse. In the same way that one works any other muscle in the body.
How we make sense of what we remember, or what we feel, and what action we decide to take, develops in the Thinking Brain, the cortexes. Skills such as empathy, emotional control, morality, need to be learnt and practiced in order for them to strengthen and become a habit and because of this, the cortexes continue to develop until approximately twenty-four years of age.
Mental resources like determination, self-worth and kindness are what makes us Resilient. Resilience is the skill that enables us to cope with adversity and push through challenges that create obstacles in our daily life and future ahead. Resilience is what enables us to grow our brains, to strengthen those positive ‘wired’ behaviours, to get up and to ‘bounce back’ when we face disappointment, failure and anxiety. True resilience fosters well-being, a feeling of calm and inner strength and positive thinking.
During this term we will be exploring, growing and using, mental resources for resilient well-being to overcome every-day situations. We will discuss useful ideas about the brain, challenges, games, art and strategies for building specific strengths to create perseverance and the ability to overcome obstacles in all shapes and sizes!
A WEEK BY WEEK SNEAKY PEEK
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
INNER STRENGTH – COURAGE
NOTHING WE CAN’T DO
Week 1. Responsibility
Aim: You have a choice in every action you take. Taking responsibility for your actions means that you admit to the actions that have good outcomes and also those that have poor outcomes. Taking responsibility for your choices and actions can build your confidence and help you act assertively – When your choices turn out well, you can celebrate. When they don’t, you can learn from your mistakes. In this way we begin to build resilience, persevering over obstacles that we tend to put in our way – “It wasn’t me!” “It’s not my fault!”
We ask the question: – What ways do you think that you are or should be responsible today?
Brain: Thoughts and feelings can pop into our brains unconsciously through our emotional Brain. How we choose to act on those thoughts occur in our Thinking Brain. This is where we make sense of our world, make decisions, problem solve, this is the area that we have control over. We look at how we wire new behaviours.
Strategy: “What would my Owl say?”
Week 2. Emotional Regulation and Control
Aim: Emotional regulation refers to a person’s ability to adequately control his or her emotional responses. Just like walking and talking, this regulation is not present at birth – it must be learned. One of the most important developments in an infant is the ability to express language and communicate. One becomes increasingly more able to label one’s emotions, thoughts and intentions. Emotional Control is not learned overnight. It needs practice. It needs resilience to keep persevering when we find ourselves unable to express how we feel or to control our actions.
We ask the question: – “When did you last control your emotions effectively, what was the situation and how did you feel throughout?”
Brain: We look at the three areas needed to regulate our emotions. Firstly: Our body’s response to the brain’s reactions – heart rate, blood flow. Secondly, our behaviour towards that response – facial expressions, withdrawal, defiance. Lastly, language – labelling “I feel angry.”
Strategy: Mindfulness – Shark fin.
Week 3. Self-Esteem
Aim: At the heart of low-self-esteem lie negative beliefs about oneself. They are the judgements we make and the worth we place on ourselves. Our views are opinions, not facts. Opinions can be mistaken and inaccurate developed from many sources: direct experiences, media, comparing ourselves to others, listening to those around us. Resilience shows us this week how to look for the facts about ourselves and move away from the fiction. Ability to celebrate our strengths and challenge the weaknesses.
We ask the question: – “How would you like others to see you? What would be important factors?”
Brain: We compare what we are feeling within our Emotional and Reptile Brains with what we are thinking in our Thinking Brain and how we have the power to change all three.
Strategy: Affirmations – Coming up with our own personal ones, that work for us!
Week 4. Independent Thinking
Aim: There are moments in life that we all face that are extremely hard to deal with. If we are able to be strong through them, it will make all the difference as we get older. Hard moments are often conflicting times between doing the right thing and doing the easier thing and how we handle them shapes who we become in the future. Some of the hardest moments come when facing peer pressure. Saying “No” when all your friends are saying “Yes” takes courage. Becoming an ‘Independent Thinker’ enables us to step back and act upon what we feel is ‘right’. But that is a difficult choice, and mostly we spend our time and energy trying to find the right social groups that can support our needs and where we feel comfortable and useful. We look at how we can strengthen and reinforce our independent skills.
We ask the question: – “When have you being swayed into doing something that you didn’t want to do, because your friends thought differently.”
Brain: Humans are, by nature, social animals, but there are two things that make us different from other animals: first, we have unusually large and complicated social systems, (Emotional) which can be difficult to negotiate and fit into. Second, our powerful brains give us choices, including the possibility of being different from the people around us if we wish, (Thinking). Here we compare our Thinking Brain with our Emotional Brain.
Strategy: Lemon voice vs Chocolate voice. We find our vocal chords!
Week 5. Learning from Mistakes
Aim: Our failures are events, not reflections of who we are. All events invite us to learn. By reflecting on what lies behind our failures we can convert them into powerful learning experiences. Resilience grows from our ability to learn from the mistakes that we make and being able to ‘bounce back’ and use those experiences to, not make us perfect, but to strive to do our best.
We ask the question: – “When have we had a go at something, failed, tried again, and achieved?”
Brain: Mistakes are brilliant. We try things – they don’t work. We try something else. You think about it, change it and try again, you keep going until it works. This is true resilience.
Strategy: Flip That Flop! We learn how to reverse our thoughts.
Week 6. Inner Strength – Courage
Aim: Courage – noun: 1) The ability to do something that frightens one. 2) To strengthen in the face of pain or grief. We look deeper into what frightens us and how we can begin to bravely overcome those challenges.
We ask the question: – “What do you fear that you need extra courage to face?”
Brain: Values and morals are in the Thinking Brain region. We learn how to use our Thinking brain to assess the situation, make the right decision and have the courage to follow that decision through.
Strategy: Challenge ladder. Taking our fears and worries one step at a time.
Week 7. Empathy
Aim: One learns about empathy as “Standing in a person’s shoes” “Seeing the view through another person’s eyes.” It is an important skill, to be less judgemental of those around us. In this lesson we look at the trials and tribulations of ‘family’. Families don’t always go according to plan: You may have siblings that cause you frustration or anger. You may not want to do what your parents or carers ask you to do. It might be that you can’t understand ‘why or what’ you have been asked to do in certain situations. We look at how building our resilience up enables us to recognise our own feelings and also to be able to see the situations with the other persons eyes.
We ask the question: – “When have you felt let down by a member of your family? What was your reaction?
Brain: Our empathetic skills are developing in our Thinking Brain, whilst our families are situated in our Emotional (Social) Brain. Our Amygdala and Reptile Brain will join the party when we feel hurt and let down.
Strategy: “Walking in someone else’s shoes” We see the other persons story.
Week 8. Nothing We Can’t Do!
Aim: The definition of a Mindset is: “A particular way of thinking; a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something.” Mindsets are important because the way we think about ourselves, our potential, and our abilities affects how successful we will be with something. A Fixed mindset is the belief that your skills, intelligence, and talents are something within you that cannot change – “I am terrible at maths.” A Growth mindset is when you believe that you can get better at and achieve just about anything that you put your mind to. You are willing to put in the time, the perseverance, and the effort to do it – “I can’t do this maths yet, so I’m going to practice it till I get it!”
We ask the question: – “Imagine there was a new law that required every person your age to learn to play the flute. What would your first thought be?”
Brain: We understand the word “Neuroplasticity.” We understand how neurones ‘fire and wire.’ We learn how we have the ability to change the way we think, behave and what we can achieve.
Strategy: Mini workouts to exercise a Growth Mindset.
Week 9. Creativity, Imagination, Innovation.
Aim: “Everyone has a huge creative capacity; the challenge is to develop them. Creativity is possible whenever we’re using our intelligence.” Ken Robinson. Creativity is not just about the arts and music, it can also be about mathematics and science. It can be about working in a highly focused way on ideas and projects, creating them into their best forms and making critical judgements along the way about which work best and why. We explore how to develop our individual creativity.
We ask the question: – “If you could invent anything at all, what would it be, what would it look like, be made out of and why?”
Brain: “Imagination, the process of bringing to mind things that are not present to our senses; Creativity, the process of developing original ideas that have value, and Innovation, the process of putting new ideas into practice.” The Right side of our Thinking Brain takes precedence.
Strategy: Singing, dancing, acting, painting! We become creative with our independence.
Week 10. Empowerment. The Power of Positive talk.
Aim: Words are influential for a simple reason – each word or phase spoken to a child carries with it an underlying message about the child and his relationship to the world. Once the words are ‘internalised this message becomes a ‘belief’ that governs their future experience. We look at the word ‘Empowerment’ – “The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” To finish this term, we look at words that hurt us and words that Empower and create Resilience within us.
We ask the question: – “What favourite quote would you like to empower you daily.”
Brain: – The Left side of our Thinking Brain is logical, literal and linguistic, it is where we make sense of what we read and put into words in how we feel. To become resilient, we must be able to put into words our thoughts and emotions, to enable us to overcome the challenges that we face.
Strategy: “Self-talk” we learn why it’s good and how to do it.
Week 11. RESILIENCE
Aim: We celebrate the end of term by recapping our weeks and putting them altogether. We look at how we are braver, stronger, more responsible, more empathetic, creative and empowered to face the challenges in our every-day lives.
We ask the question: – What was your favourite week? What part of yourself have you developed most this term? What do you need to work on?
Brain: We recap the areas of the brain and our learning through a quizzes and games.
Strategy: We practice the one that works the best for us.