I am working on a book about kindness and various ways to promote it, particularly with children. One aspect of kindness is a sense of positive affect, what Buddhists might call the noble truth of “Right Effort.” It’s not about faking it, but it is about cultivating positive feeling and dwelling on beauty and what is good. Rick Hanson talks about how spending time focusing on what is good actually builds different neural connections that can affect our emotional outlook, but we need to put in the effort to spend time dwelling in that direction.
I’ve been reading Alfie Kohn lately, and I want to be careful that this isn’t about turning into a praise machine. The implications of unqualified praise are many, and not the best for kids in the end. Better to focus on their experience, their efforts, and their perspective than to have them key into your judgement. Subtle differences, but studies have shown interesting things about the effects of praise on achievement.
And here’s a song about it all. I wrote it for the Brazilian project last year. Sarah and I joked that at one point the whole project should be called “I Can,” and there were many serious currents of positivity running through the whole thing. This is a zipper song, recorded by my friends Chris and Faye Stanley.