Optimism: Can we learn to be ‘Sunny’?

Optimism: Can we learn to be ‘Sunny’?

Originally posted on Bhavya’s blog Living Simply and Simply Living designed to help people deal with their everyday stress and anxieties. She’s looking forward to working with Let’s Get Together! to strengthen the voices of youth through the role of Youth Ambassador. Welcome Bhavya!

As you may have read in my previous blog post, defensive pessimism is a strategy with a lot of potential for those prone to certain levels of anxiety. However, dispositional optimism still holds a lot more traditional advantages to its name; lower rates of depression, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and protection from the common cold to name a few. Companies want to employ positive workers who’ll increase efficiency and add to a healthy work environment over more downcast ones. The benefits of being an optimist in today’s world are ubiquitous. They might as well sell it in a bottle. Profits would be astronomical. ‘The B Positive Serum, the smallest dose will do’.

It doesn’t seem fair that pessimists are more liable to a plethora of mental and physical illnesses. So why are some people predisposed to think in a positive fashion while others think in a negative one? Can we change our tendencies to those of an optimist’s rather than a pessimist’s?

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman explains and highlights the differences between optimists and pessimists by way of Explanatory Style. This rationale can be used to give some insight into the learned helplessness model (Overmier & Seligman, 1967). Some throw their hands in the air and accept defeat easily when faced with an insurmountable challenge while others choose to persist nevertheless. Those who bow out would be labelled as pessimists while those who endure are likely optimists. Our explanatory style is second nature, a default influenced by past experiences that brings us to anticipate similar events in the future a certain way.

Seligman nicely outlines the differences between the two outlooks in his bestselling publication, ‘Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life’.

” The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault.
The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. “

Positive Explanatory style and Negative Explanatory style induce different behaviours to a certain outcome or situation on three key points; temporary vs permanent, specific vs pervasive, and external control vs internal control. Does the individual believe that the same event or a similar one will not be subject to change or that it will potentially evolve? Do they hold a general contributing factor responsible for the end result or a specific one? Do they credit themselves with the outcome or an independent force?

Prior to writing this blog and doing a bit of research on explanatory style I took a quiz created by Stanford University students. They had adapted a short test of 48 questions from Seligman’s book that I thought was fun and gave me some understanding of my ‘default setting’. Click here to take the quiz for yourself.

In essence, when a wanted outcome develops, an optimist responds to permanence, pervasiveness, and internal control while a pessimist looks towards temporariness, specificity,  and external control and vice versa. Say a sunny person and a cloudy one both received ninety-eights on their English tests. The former would feel energized under the assumption that they’ll continue to earn such marks, the affirmation that they’re good at English, and that their mark was a direct result of their hard work. The latter would believe that this high-ninety was incidental and not likely to repeat itself, that their success was attributed to their understanding of the individual test subject, and that the questions asked were simply extremely easy.

It seems cruel to be forced under the seemingly constant cloud of doom and gloom that is dispositional pessimism. To fall victim to the learned helplessness model and as a result  perhaps succumb to depression. Research suggests that psychological interventions can increase optimism (Malouff & Schoutte, 2016). Dr. Martin Seligman includes a cognitive therapy method known as the ABC’s in his book.
A – Adversity – The problem/situation encountered
B – Beliefs – What you think about the problem/situation

C – Consequences – How you face the problem/situation

Using the above acronym you record a problem you’ve encountered in your daily life, your thoughts surrounding it, and how you reacted to the problem. Seligman also advises those wishing to transition from pessimism to optimism to either distract themselves when pessimistic thoughts make an unwanted appearance or dispute these thoughts. He writes that the technique of disputing them proves to be more helpful in the future. This is because successfully disputed beliefs are less likely to recur.

Of course these strategies can only be implemented if someone is aware of their inclination to think negatively. Pessimists tend to discredit victory, beat themselves up over failure, give in to the helplessness model, and generally see the worst in themselves and others driving them to exhibit selfish and jealous traits. Don’t label yourself as an awful person if any of the previously mentioned criteria applies to you. That’s all in accordance with your default setting. It’s up to you to flip the switch from negative to positive.

Bhavya Tandon, Student
Youth Ambassador with Let’s Get Together!

 

Bhavya is a high school student with an interest in the sciences, psychology and sociology in particular. She is an advocate for mental health and writes a blog called Living Simply and Simply Living. She’s looking forward to working with Let’s Get Together! to strengthen the voices of youth through the role of Youth Ambassador. A young person with a passion for writing; LGT gives her the opportunity to reach more people with her blog.

PRESS RELEASE: Growth Mindset – From the Playground to the NBA…

PRESS RELEASE: Growth Mindset – From the Playground to the NBA…

An interactive, community event connecting children, youth and their families with emerging basketball stars to talk about teamwork, building a growth mindset, life lessons, resilience and lifelong learning.

Mississauga, Ontario CANADA: Let’s Get Together! in partnership with Raptors 905, Mississauga Sports Council and Ontario Basketball Association is hosting a one-of-a-kind, interactive community event on March 10th, 2018 at the Hershey Centre and SportZone in Mississauga.

WHAT IS GROWTH MINDSET?

Raptors 905 players, Aaron BestKaza Kajami-Keane, Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks sit down to share their personal stories with families from across the GTA, to promote a growth mindset – a strategy that can be the key to every child’s, every parent’s success.

LEARNING TOGEHTER

Let’s Get Together’s! Executive Director, Alison Canning, says “We see the Raptors 905 players learning path parallel to today’s students.  They need to learn how to work under pressure, deal with transitions, thrive as a team, accept feedback, overcome challenges/barriers and cope with failures”. She goes on to say, “Research shows growth mindset can have both a short-term and long-term positive impact on a child’s life by helping them to believe skills and abilities can be developed and are not just limited to those who are naturally skilled. These players have developed a mindset that have helped them achieve their goals so we need to learn how they did it”.

The Growth Mindset talk is the second of two we’ve hosted with the Raptors 905. It follows up on the Parent Involvement Matters talk that took place on January 27, 2018, where Aaron Best and Kaza Kajami-Keane’s families shared their stories of how they raised and supported Aaron and Kaza. Check out our event video and the recording of the Parent Involvement Talk.

Alison Canning in closing says “This event is an opportunity for families to learn together. Our hope is that children and youth come away inspired and empowered with an actionable plan and that parents feel more equipped to support and foster growth mindset in their family.”

“Every basketball family faces different obstacles on their path of development and we look forward to hearing the stories and lessons shared at Growth Mindset,” said Jason Jansson, Executive Director of Ontario Basketball. “Hearing from the Raptors 905 players, some of them former OBA athletes, will be fun and inspirational.”

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

On Saturday, March 10th, starting at 1 pm, come watch the Raptors 905 take on the Canton Charge, and join the players after the game for our interactive discussion: Growth Mindset –  a Key to Your Child’s SuccessParents are encouraged to attend with their child(ren).

Game will be held at Hershey Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga ON L4Z 4B6

REGISTER and learn more at www.communitylearninghub.org.

Raptors 905 are the NBA G League defending champions and the lone Canadian team in the league. Founded in 2015, the team joined the league for the 2015-16 season, playing out of Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

Let’s Get Together! is a Not-for-Profit organization that creates opportunities for parents, youth and communities to access learning resources that provide educational assistance and supports student well-being.

JOB POSTING: Volunteer Research Assistant

JOB POSTING: Volunteer Research Assistant

Let’s Get Together! Is on the lookout for a bright and motivated individual to join our research team for a 3-4 month period. We’re currently completing a research project that seeks to obtain data from youth and community members on their experiences in learning and what they think is needed to achieve student success. You’ll be responsible for facilitating focus group discussions either virtually or in person with youth, parents, educators and community partners, creating a survey for distribution and assist with exploring other methods to collect relevant data. In addition you will be responsible for compiling this information. We’re looking for an individual who is wanting experience, who is interested in youth studies and who is open to sharing their ideas with us.

 

Please send your resume and cover letter by Monday, March 5th, 2018 to kianna@letsgettogether.ca.

Virtual interviews will be conducted shortly after.
We thank you for your interest.

Raptors 905 on Parenting 101

Raptors 905 on Parenting 101

Hershey Centre, Mississauga – As the Raptors 905 players were preparing for their game against Wisconsin, the families of Kaza Kajami-Keane and Aaron Best were sharing their parenting stories with families from across the GTA. Parent Involvement Matters is an event organized by Raptors 905 and Let’s Get Together!, a grassroot non-profit, with the goal of bringing together a community of parents inspired to support their children through physical activity. It was also supported by the Ontario Basketball Association.

When one parent asked how to encourage children to stay humble and support their teammates, Donna Best stressed the importance of family – the theme of the conference.

“I’m always telling Aaron: the family’s eyes are on you,” she said. “We’re close-knit, watching you, making sure you’re staying on the right track and making sure that you’re not getting caught up in the bright lights.” 

Hugh Keane spoke about how introverted children can build relationships through participating in sports. “Kaza is very quiet,” he said. “Once he gets on the court he’s still a little bit non-vocal, but he begins to trust the people that are on his team and that usually becomes his conversational support.”

Elsewhere in the Hershey Centre, children were participating in activities supported by the University of Toronto Mississauga student volunteers – shooting hoops or designing signs in support of Raptors 905.

Ryan, grade 6, was decked out in Raptors 905 merchandise as he created a poster in support of his favourite player – DeMar DeRozan.  With him was Jaiden, who says he would like to ask the Raptors 905 players what they had to sacrifice to become good players. 

Back in the conference, John, the father of two children, asked about the best way to prepare his children for the loss of a familiar community network when they go to university. In his response, Hugh Keane addressed the sacrifices that parents make for their children. “When it’s your child’s dream and your child’s goal,” he told John, “you make the necessary adjustments that you have to – and it’s a wonderful experience for them.”

Donna Best stressed having a safe place for children to share any problems they’ve encountered. “We have to set an example,” she said. “You have to let the kids know what they’re going to be facing.  You have to make it a comfortable environment for them to talk to you.”

The Executive Director of Let’s Get Together!, Alison Canning, finished up the conference with a closing statement about the importance of communities coming together to create good experiences for their children. She stressed that “it starts at home and it starts with us and that’s why we’re here today – to make sure that we have the tools to do the job so we can do it the best we can.

John Wiggins, the Team Operations Director for Raptors 905 stated that “This discussion that Let’s Get Together! is hosting is providing an interactive platform to help the parents learn from each other and share their insights as to how to best manage this responsibility. In most youth clubs that I’ve been a part of or have witnessed, the parents are the backbone of success for the program. Raptors 905 is happy to support this campaign as a way to help foster the future success of our athletes.”

Let’s Get Together!’s goal is to bring together a community of parents and youth who are inspired to support each other and to provide resources and opportunities for their communities.  

Parent Involvement Matters was Let’s Get Together!’s first event – an event that Let’s Get Together! and Raptors 905 should be proud of. Alison Canning expressed her delight at the success of the event and is looking forward to the future.

She said, “This is the start of us; getting together and creating something better and creating a movement and making our world and our communities healthy.”

Moving forward, Let’s Get Together! will be partnering once again with the Raptors 905 team on March 10th for an event discussing a growth mindset. This presentation will provide powerful and inspirational messages from Raptors 905 players Aaron Best, Kaza Keane, Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks on how they have developed resiliency and focus.

Visit our website at communitylearninghub.org for more information.
We hope to see your family there!

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

Photos/videos courtesy of Laura MakEdge Imaging, our volunteers and guests.

Julia Wischnewski is currently completing her Honours Bachelor’s Degree with the University of Toronto and specializes in Psychology and Religion. She works closely with various organizations that promote youth welfare and offer services to new families coming into Canada, including volunteering with Let’s Get Together! Julia plans on continuing her education by volunteering and teaching abroad once she has graduated.

Raptors 905 and Let’s Get Together! partner to support parents, make connections and build a community

Raptors 905 and Let’s Get Together! partner to support parents, make connections and build a community

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown

From left to right: Hugh and Karen Keane, Donna Best, Sierra Shinn-Best and Ryan Reid, share their personal stories of how they support Raptors 905 players, Kaza Keane and Aaron Best. 

Last Saturday morning Let’s Get Together! in partnership with the Raptors 905 team hosted a parent involvement panel discussion. The Raptors 905 is the G-League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors. Families of two players, Kaza Keane and Aaron Best, sat on the panel sharing their journey of raising young professional athletes and offering advice to parents of inspiring athletes.

Services for parent support is a need in our community that has been identified by Alison Canning and her team from Let’s Get Together! Parents face ongoing pressures that can be a difficult path to navigate. Although there are a multitude of parenting blogs and magazines, creating human connections and finding ways to relate to one another allows parents to know they are not alone in their experience.

Today’s modern Toronto family looks much different than it did fifty years ago. We are seeing an increase in mixed-race, same-sex, blended, and even single parent families. According to a 2011 study, single parents head one in every five families. As well it was found that in 2016 almost a quarter are lone-parent households (88.5% of these are a female alone family) (Statistics Canada, 2016). Many parents have expressed that they struggle to connect with their family due to increased demands and expectations. As the work force modernizes with both parents working, there is less time to connect with their children. Parents also tend to have less family support as they no longer live within 5km of their extended family to share the responsibilities of raising a child. This is shown in the most recent census where only 3.7% of households in Toronto are a multi-generational household. (Statistics Canada, 2016)

Children are more stressed and are burning out faster than ever due to high expectations from school and extracurricular activities. This can intensify from distractions like video games, television, and social media. Children and parents are both experiencing high levels of stress that can take away from spending time with another thus leading to relationships that lack trust and understanding.

This disconnect between families is stressful and leads to difficult emotions. Youth have higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts than in prior generations. However, we do know that sports and play are a natural and healthy tool to combat many of these emotions. Playing through sports allows for human connection, it teaches youth social and problem-solving skills and encourages a more active lifestyle. Although it does take time out of an already busy schedule our parents know how important it is in their child’s development. As stated by UNICEF:

“Throughout the life of a child, sport and play can be valuable tools to promote health and prevent disease, both through sport itself, and through the participatory act of watching others play, with the associated communication, education and social interaction that games can produce.” (UNICEF, 2014)

Together with the Raptors 905 team and the parents of the players, a panel was created to give new parents support in the navigation of raising their young athletes. The intention of the panel was to enable parents to build connections with another to know they are not alone in their experiences. Throughout the conversation key messages included ‘Just show up’, ‘Build your tribe’, ‘Don’t get caught up in the bright light’ and ‘Family is everything’. Overall the common theme was the importance of family connection or building community with those around you. In addition, it was expressed how valuable it is to be present with your child both on and off the court to build a healthy relationship. The Raptors 905 parents shared and suggested some helpful routines that can propel a parents’ good intentions into practice. These suggestions included: home cooked meals, hosting study groups, holding therapy breakfasts and opening a family group chat.

Watching the panel discussion, the audience nodded their heads, resonating with the experiences that the Raptors 905 parents shared. There were emotional conversations of how to raise children as a single parent and the importance of building community beyond family relations. This discussion provided an incredible opportunity to build human connection for parents across the GTA and left many filled with gratitude and inspiration.

Moving forward, Let’s Get Together! will be partnering once again with the Raptors 905 team on March 10th for an event discussing a growth mindset. This presentation will provide powerful and inspirational messages from Raptors 905 players Aaron Best, Kaza Keane, Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks on how they have developed resiliency and focus.

Visit our website at communitylearninghub.org for more information.
We hope to see your family there!

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

Photos/videos courtesy of Laura MakEdge Imaging, our volunteers and guests.

Kianna Dewart, B.A, MSc. International Development
Coordinator and Youth Ambassador with Let’s Get Together!
Email: kianna@letsgettogether.ca

Feel free to connect if you have any questions!