Monday, December 28, 2015

Five Tips for Eating Healthier in 2016

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

The holidays are a time for us to eat, drink and be merry. Surrounded by great food and an abundance of sweets, many of us find it hard to resist the temptation of "just one more bite," followed by another bite and perhaps another one after that. Having overindulged in foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats for much of December, we promise ourselves to eat a healthier diet in the coming year.

Eating healthy is definitely a critical component to a losing weight, lowering cholesterol and reducing our risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and a myriad of other adverse medical conditions. For those who maintain healthy eating habits, food is more than just the fuel that gets us through the day. It is also the pathway to feeling good and to staying focused and energized, or relaxed and calm.

In our book Positively Smarter: Science and Strategies for Increasing Happiness, Achievement, and Well-Being. we explain that healthy eating is important for fueling the Body-Brain System.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Positive Brains Are Smarter Brains

Editor's Note: This blog post, written by Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, originally appeared on Edutopia.

Explicit instruction to guide students toward taking charge of their outlook on academic endeavors can lead to a more positive—and ultimately more productive—approach to learning. Applying metacognition to both the emotional and cognitive aspects of learning can help students steer their minds to make steady gains in developing their knowledge and skills.

In a previous post, we explored the gains that are possible when students adopt an attitude of practical optimism as they learn. These advantages persist into adulthood, as business research shows that people with a positive outlook are more productive, motivated, and likely to achieve their goals on the job. And optimistic people enjoy better personal and professional relationships and even better physical health than people who tend toward pessimism.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Strategies for Getting and Keeping the Brain's Attention

Editor’s Note: This blog post, written by Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, originally appeared on Edutopia.

The human brain has an amazing capacity to wield a potent cognitive strategy: selective attention. When we consciously focus our attention on something, we bring the power of the prefrontal cortex to this endeavor. By honing our ability to focus attention at will, we can more effectively screen out two types of distractions:
  1. Input through our sensory organs, and
  2. Our emotional responses.
Distractions via sensory input may be the easier of the two to block, according to Daniel Goleman in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. As educators, we may tend to notice the impact of sights, sounds, and touch points that draw students' focus away from lessons and learning activities. But while all of the sensory stimulations in the environment are readily obvious, emotions can be even "louder" when it comes to diverting attention in unwanted directions and making it hard to focus on learning.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Training the Brain to Listen: A Practical Strategy for Student Learning and Classroom Management

Editor’s Note: This popular blog post, written by Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, originally appeared on Edutopia. We received a tremendous response to the post and are republishing it here so that new readers can benefit from the information and strategies provided.

During the school year, students are expected to listen to and absorb vast amounts of content. But how much time has been devoted to equipping students with ways to disconnect from their own internal dialogue (self-talk) and to focus their attention fully on academic content that is being presented? Listening is hard work even for adults. When students are unable to listen effectively, classroom management issues arise.

Explicit instruction on cognitive strategies that can help students learn how to learn may have a positive impact on both academic performance and classroom management by emphasizing that students are in charge of their own behavior and learning. Teachers we've worked with find that classroom management issues decrease over time as students begin to master thinking skills that help them become more self-directed learners.