The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 029: Inviting Joy and Positivity into Your Life with Sheila Kennedy

March 26, 2024 Tammy Musiowsky-Borneman
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 029: Inviting Joy and Positivity into Your Life with Sheila Kennedy
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What does it mean to truly invite joy into our lives? What impact can it have on our personal and professional experiences? This week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the esteemed Sheila Kennedy, founder of Be Positively Connected. Together, we took a deep dive into her 25-year journey in education and discovered the immense power of applied positive psychology.

Sheila Kennedy is the founder of Be Positively Connected. One of the first thousand in the world to earn a masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, she is known for her passion for connecting others to the practical applications of the science of well-being so they can live their best lives. Ranging from first grade teacher to instructional coach, adjunct professor to educational consultant, as well as conference presenter and keynote speaker, Sheila has spent the past twenty-five years working in education. With a focus on topics rooted in positive emotions, investing in joy, and building resiliency, her mission is to help others reclaim their happiness, ignite their passions, and unleash their potential.

Picture your day-to-day life, now imagine being able to spot joy in every corner of it, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Sheila shares her experience with 'joy spotting' - an intentional practice that has not only aided her through personal losses like the passing of her beloved Chihuahua, Oreo, but also greatly enhanced her life. Through vivid tales from her own journey, she illustrates how joy spotting can amplify gratitude, foster resilience, and ultimately make our lives richer.

Reaching the end of our conversation, Sheila gifted us with the story of her personal connection to joy and how it influences the relationships that matter most to her. We examined the potency of positive messaging and its role in shaping the ambiance of our personal spaces and workplaces. This episode promises to offer a fresh perspective for educators and a guide for anyone seeking to lead a more positive and fulfilling life. Get ready to step into a world where joy is limitless and positivity is contagious. You won't want to miss this.

Episode resources:
Sheila Kennedy, MAPP 

Martin Seligman

Book recommendations:

  • Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee
  • The Power of Play: Optimize Your Joy Potential by Elaine O’Brien & Andra Seydel
  • The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again by Catherine Price

Read Aloud books: (for children AND adults)

  • Finding Muchness by Kobi Yamada
  • Feeling Grateful by Kobi Yamada

This episode is sponsored by Positively Sheila; stay positively connected. 

Buy The Minimalist Teacher book on Amazon.
Follow on Instagram and Twitter @PlanZPLS
The Minimalist Educator Podcast is a Plan Z Professional Learning Services adventure.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, a podcast about paring down to refocus on the purpose and priorities in our roles with co-hosts and co-authors of the Minimalist Teacher Book, Tammy Musiowsky-Borniman and Christine Arnold.

Speaker 2:

On today's episode, sheila shares with us various insights into how we can spread healthy positivity through our days and with each other in our busy lives as educators. Her pared down pointer is about making today count. Sheila Kennedy is the founder of Be Positively Connected, one of the first thousand in the world to earn a master's degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is known for her passion for connecting others to the practical applications of the science of well-being so they can live their best lives. Ranging from the first grade teacher to instructional coach, adjunct professor to educational consultant, as well as conference presenter and keynote speaker, sheila has spent the past 25 years working in education With a focus on topics rooted in positive emotions, investing in joy and building resiliency. Her mission is to help others reclaim their happiness, ignite their passions and unleash their potential.

Speaker 3:

Hello everyone, welcome to today's episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. Today we have with us Sheila Kennedy. We are super excited to have you with us today, Sheila. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 4:

I am so happy to be here.

Speaker 3:

Thank you for having me. You're welcome. How are you today? I'm doing well.

Speaker 4:

Like I say, practice. When I preach, I always try to find the goodness. It was a little bit of a crazy morning, but it's all turning out well, good, good.

Speaker 3:

And how are you today, christine?

Speaker 2:

I'm very good. And what about you, Tammy?

Speaker 3:

Pretty well. I'm happy to just be talking with lovely people today, so it's a good day.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Speaking of good days and happy moments, so far we are with Sheila, who is an expert, someone who knows a lot about positive psychology, which is a very interesting field, especially with all of us being educators, where education is often a rough field to be in and we really need positivity. So, Sheila, can you tell us a bit about how you got into the study of positive psychology?

Speaker 4:

Absolutely. It's kind of funny because it started, you said, us all being here as educators. It was through professional development that I was taking and we had a list of books to choose from and for some reason I chose the book Learned Helplessness, which doesn't sound a whole lot like a positive book to read, but it was by Marty Salgman, who is considered one of the forefathers of the positive psychology field, and through reading that book I really just got on this journey of discovering the field and through that and on a teacher's salary, realized at that time I was not able to earn a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, in which Marty Salgman offers a degree in the field. So instead I went and got a certificate in positive psychology and I, as many of us as learners do, wanted to take what I was learning and bring it into my classroom with my first graders, and so through the certificate program I'm learning the science of how to live well.

Speaker 4:

And I'm also one who loves positive messages on my shirts and I would wear them on Dress Down Fridays Not a lot of Fridays for that. So I thought, hmm, how could I make it that I can wear these t-shirts a little bit more and still look professional and throw a blazer over a t-shirt, it dresses you up. Along with that, I was looking on social media and you would see a lot of the Sunday night scarries, the Monday morning blues, which is all real and okay. And also I thought, well, how could I kind of take these two things I'm seeing and bring it into my classroom? And so I got the idea of wearing my positive shirts on Mondays and I would share the message with my students during Monday morning meetings as well as have a lot of curious teachers, as I was doing it more and more often of looking to see what that positive message was on my shirt. Aside from doing it in my classroom, I would post it on social media. I would use the hashtag Monday positive at T, but with a TEE.

Speaker 4:

I would not only share this positive message, but I also would share a little bit of the science behind why that message really could help us with. What the science tells us is how can we live better, how can we flourish both in the classroom and outside of the classroom? I started sharing that and through sharing that, it not only helped myself get excited for a Monday morning, because I got to pick out a new T-shirt with a great message. It also had that ripple effect of what we know about positivity, which is it started affecting others and others started wanting to do it. So other teachers started sharing it on social media as well as my students, and at the time my school had a dress code. My principal was really supportive of what I was doing and seeing the effects of having positivity in my classroom, how it was having my students excited to come up to school. They even allowed the students to start wearing shirts with positive messages to school. So it had that ripple effect.

Speaker 4:

That's the longer version of how I got into the field. But through that, like many of us, that passion grows and gets deeper. So it was about three years later. I went from getting a certificate to saying you know what I'm all in, I want more of this. And I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted into the master's program and then, since I've earned a master's in positive psychology and now not only get to share it with educators and students but with lots of different organizations in bringing it into how we can have that ripple effect in all of our lives.

Speaker 2:

Very cool. What a great thing to do a master's in. I love it. I'm yeah, yeah, awesome. I mean I definitely want to hear more about positive psychology with the students. But just my first initial thought, thinking about what we can spread, the feelings that we can spread. So when I look at Instagram reels and so on, I'm seeing a lot of these teacher tired. We're so overwhelmed and like the world is burning down around our shoulders, sort of things. We send it to each other as a joke and a laugh. But this is making me think. Are we actually spreading rumination? Are we spreading this feeling of negativity rather than actually spreading a more positive message? What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 4:

That is such a great question, christine. I really think it ties into what and I know we're probably going to talk a little bit later about your 3P process, but I think one of my piece, that at first part of the purpose of your why, really ties into that awareness. I think when we're on social media to have that awareness of what we're consuming, is it bringing us, when we send it as a joke, adding a little laughter to our day. Laughter is good. It's good to have that awareness also of like, okay, I'm not in this alone, other people are experiencing the same thing I'm experiencing.

Speaker 4:

Then I think, but then it has to go that next step of but if I'm consuming it and it's ruminating and it's causing now more of taking me down that downward spiral of not feeling good and spreading more negativity feelings, that's where then we need to take a pause and say wait a minute. If what I'm consuming is not doing what I really intended it to do, to take a pause and do something about it. I think that's where then a lot of these other people who share and post about things like maybe it's Monday positivity, or it's the joy spotting that I do as well as many others do, or it's sharing your passions, your strengths, the things that really light you up to counteract some of those not so good feelings, because we also, if we didn't have those bad feelings, we wouldn't know how good the good feels, and so we need both, but we also need to have that awareness of when it's too much.

Speaker 3:

That's such a good point. And, as you were just talking, I was thinking about some of those memes, right, like Christine and I will share them to each other sometimes and I send things to you too, sheila. But I also think, like, when I look at some of your posts, sheila, because I like looking at your joy spotting, because you do these cute things and you can share about that in a moment. But the joy spotting has a clear purpose, right? The sharing the dumpster burning.

Speaker 3:

This is my teaching job, which, again, we know is funny. But it's such a different feeling and I think about, like how do I even though I do laugh at it and it's relatable what feeling do I wanna walk away with when I'm done looking at Instagram or whatever? Well, I probably wanna look at something that has that better kind of like warming your heart, feeling right, and it's not one of those things like you're not ever saying like everything is, we're not thinking like toxic positivity where there's nothing negative happening, like you're real about things, right, but maybe this is a good spot for you to talk about the joy spotting that you do.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely, and I love what you said there. A couple of things that I wanted to pull out was like that intentionality piece. It's great to have that awareness of like. Oh, is it filling me up, or maybe not so much. I suddenly wanna walk away with that feeling. But prioritizing and having that intentionality of like, okay, well, when I'm consuming this, now what? And maybe it's when I see something like that, that funny meme, that's that intentional piece of like. Now I need to go find something that lifts me up. Yeah, it's my cue to move on, but with the joy spotting and how. Yes, it's not all sunshine and roses all the time.

Speaker 4:

Joy spotting really is a key to filling the pieces when things aren't feeling so great In our lives. We can't control a whole lot of things and we can have days when things aren't going right. But what I like to say is joy is and I'm not sure if you're familiar with or if you've ever heard of Kintsuji, which is this Japanese art form where it's pottery that has cracks and usually when you think of something cracked, it's broken, it's no longer good. But in this Japanese art form, they fill these cracks with a liquid gold and turn this broken piece of pottery into this beautiful form of art. And I like to think of joy in the same way. That joy is that liquid gold into our days of when the things that aren't so good kind of put the cracks in our day that by using joy you can fill in those cracks. You can have that liquid gold. And with joy especially, I know time. You're aware of this, but I've recently lost what I always say is my love of my life, my little Oreo, my Chihuahua, who would have been 15 just two weeks ago. But it was through joy spotting that really helped me get through the hard stuff, because, as much as there was some pain involved in that and we all need to have that it was those moments of joy that I had collected that really refueled me and allowed me to get through it. And so when I talk about joy spotting for those that may not be familiar with it it's really those couple components that we've kind of touched on already, which is having that awareness of taking that pause for a moment.

Speaker 4:

Your day can be crazy. For example, even just this morning I said I had a little bit of a crazy morning. I took my mother. She's going through a lot of medical issues right now, but she went for a procedure. We go to sign her in and they say, oh, your insurance is no longer valid and she's now panicking. The hands are shaking like I need to get this procedure done and she's stressing out. And I happen to look over and on account. Or there's this planner with a little succulent in it and it says be happy, choose joy. She didn't see this, but I immediately grabbed my phone, I walk over and I snap a picture and she says what are you doing? And she goes are you joy spotting?

Speaker 1:

And I said yes.

Speaker 4:

And then I showed her the picture of what it was and just for that moment she went from being stressed and the hands shaking and nervous of am I going to be able to get this procedure that I need to get to?

Speaker 4:

Just for that moment, being able to calm down her internal nervous system and take a pause and catch her breath, put a little smile on and then go on with dealing with what she was dealing with at hand. And that's what joy spotting allows us to do to have that awareness for that moment, to take in something around us when we see it and capture it. And it doesn't need to be the big stuff, because that's easy to spot. The easy stuff is easy to spot when it's a real big stuff the big celebrations, the big goal settings that we accomplish, the big get-togethers but in those little moments there are the things that those little moments add up and really have a profound effect on us. So it's with that awareness that we have and then the ability of purposely going out and doing more of it. So when I first started doing Jui Spotting, it wasn't something I automatically went to, but we know with any muscle that whatever we focus on is gonna grow stronger.

Speaker 1:

And so if we?

Speaker 4:

look for negative, we're gonna find it really easily because our brain is designed to do that. But when it comes to joy, like a lot of other things, if we really make it a point to be intentional and look for it, the more we do it, the easier it's gonna be to find it. And so what started off with from my positive psychology program of a gratitude practice in which we were told to write in a journal and practice gratitude, it didn't work for me. I did not enjoy writing in a journal. I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I'm in this program and I'm supposed to be grateful and I am, but writing it down is not making me feel good. And so they said be creative, find other ways to try it out. And so I thought well, I always have my cell phone with me. I'm gonna snap a picture every day of something that I'm grateful for. And so I had an album in my phone of a daily gratitude picture.

Speaker 4:

And so when I started discovering joy and really doing a lot more research in joy, I thought, well, let me see if I could do this with joy and start finding things that bring me joy. It might be a rainbow, it might be a pretty flower, it might be something funny using all five senses. And what I found was like, the more I did it, the easier it was to find those moments of joy, even in what you would consider to be maybe not a good day. And what I realized was oh, how can I take this practice and make it even more meaningful? And that's where on Sundays, as Tammy commented, I do a weekly most Sundays not all not perfect, but most Sundays I try to share a joy spotting post.

Speaker 4:

And it really started off as a way to kind of hold myself accountable, to really get used to this practice and strengthen that muscle. But it was through the reflection of going back and looking at each picture from the past week of that one moment of joy, that through that reflection of really looking at and thinking about why, going back to that purpose and awareness, why did that bring me joy? It really increased and heightened my awareness. And through the reflection process I realized it really level back down to gratitude. I realized like I have all these things to be grateful for in my life and so it has turned into a joy post. But it really underlying is gratitude and what we know from the science is gratitude and joy are very closely connected to one another.

Speaker 2:

That's making me think about, yeah, the science behind it. Is it more effective if we're noticing it in the moment or is it as effective if, at the end of the day, I can go back and reflect on my day and think, okay, what were the moments of joy or gratitude? Is there any science behind that or is it, as you say, it's kind of more dependent on the person and what they prefer?

Speaker 4:

I like to often refer to this, christine, as the Goldilocks rule. It's kind of my own little saying, probably from my first grade teacher background, that I refer to Goldilocks. But when we think of Goldilocks and having to try out things to find what's just right for Goldilocks, the same holds true for us. And so what the science tells us, with positive interventions which are truly like these intentional actions that we go after to increase our level of positive emotions that we're feeling, you really need to find a just right fit for you. And so, like anything, you need to practice it and try it on and see which one really fits for you. And so for me, initially, I had to be really intentional about looking for and spotting those moments, other people. It may come very easily too if it's something you kind of unconsciously do already, probably if you're more of that cup half filled kind of a perspective. But it also involved for a lot of people it might be, if you're someone who thinks about it at the end of the day, what was good about my day. That may be the initial step you have to take and through that heightened awareness you'll start to realize you know, I noticed a lot of times when I'm out in nature. It seems to be those moments that are really shining for me. I need to get out in the nature more. Or I noticed when I get on a Zoom call and see faces of my friends that I haven't seen in a while, that really lights me up. I need to be more intentional about planning out some more Zoom calls with friends that live far away.

Speaker 4:

You know, or as many people know, my favorite color is color pink. I have that awareness, but some people may not be aware of what things in your surroundings really make you light up and feel good, and so maybe it's a certain color or your happy place. For me it's New York City. So whether I'm physically in New York or I have little reminders around that Remind me of New York, I'm gonna feel more joy by having those reminders. So I think it really comes down to having that first self-awareness and understanding it. And if you can do it in the moment, that's great. But also that reflection and we know reflection is so important as educators to go back and see what's working and what's not working. That's really gonna help us to see and the science tells us the same thing that awareness is key first and foremost Cause, then we know what to either practice more of or, in some cases, get rid of and eliminate.

Speaker 4:

And I know you ladies are very, very keen on that, absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Yes, yes, yes, yes. Well, and you've just brought up so many good points about the intentionality of what we do, right? So how many times do we go somewhere and we were taking pictures of things and then do we actually look back at them? And yes, you know lots of people do.

Speaker 3:

But I really like that focus on using your photos as a reflection point to find joy or goodness or happiness, and I know you and I have both done this in professional learning sessions, where it's like get out your phone and find a picture that makes you happy or makes you smile as a way to kick off a session, because then people have to start with a smile on their face instead of coming in kind of feeling down like they have to be in another meeting, right. So it's nice to use that as a tool to spark a little joy before you're going to continue some learning. But it's so intentional and like think about like everybody's probably got what 10, 20,000 pictures on their phones. It's like start scrolling back and looking at them and see what, why you even took the pictures in the first place. Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 4:

And you just reminded me of something that I have right here. Actually, my door will probably kill me. I know your listeners can't see this, but I have this dally calendar that my children have got me as a Christmas gift each for the last two years now, but they go through and find pictures either from my social media or pictures as a family that we send back and forth and every day talking about like, setting yourself up for joy. Every morning when I wake up, my surroundings I have colors that bring me joy, pictures that bring me joy. This is a dally piece of going back into those billions of pictures that we have on our phones and have. They have turned it into a dally like reminder of something from the past, and savoring is such a powerful tool to elicit those positive emotions.

Speaker 4:

Whether it's savoring in the present moment, like I do with my phone when I do joy spotting, or when we go back and look at all the pictures on our phone or an old yearbook or a photo album back when printing pictures was a thing, that has just as much of a benefit.

Speaker 4:

It gets us to take us like time travel back into the past and experience that positive emotion again in the present moment and so, even having just something that is a reminder of that, to go back on to our phone and, as you mentioned, tammy, about sharing it in professional development, of having that like starting off with a smile, I have even forced myself to really be intentional about, instead of asking you know how are you doing, because, again, you're opening up, it can go one of two ways. You know it's either going great or it's not going so great, and that's okay too. But if we want to start with an intentionality of raising the positive emotions and putting a smile is to change that and shift to tell me something that's going good today and right away. It forces us to shift from maybe not all the stuff that's going on that didn't go well, but really to be intentional and focus on what is something that's going good for me. You know what's finding the good.

Speaker 3:

And what a great way to start a day with students too, right, because I do that too. Like I'll see the kids in the morning and I'm like how are you this morning, so? And so they're like, good, okay. Well, that's kind of the response that I was expecting. But just changing that language a little bit can really change someone's day too. So I really appreciate just thinking about those little tweaks in language that we can make.

Speaker 4:

That little change in a question can change some day With the good part is, you know like, oh, it's good, I mean, that's our general good, that's good, everything's good. And like what's going good, what's going well, or what are you looking forward to? Because that's the other piece of savory. You know, not just in the present or reminiscing in the past, but anticipation is also a powerful tool in regards to like something to look forward to. So even if you're coming in and you're tired on a Monday morning, or even Friday morning, you're worn out and look forward to that afternoon of like, woohoo, the weekend's finally here. It's a way to up our positive emotions and what we know is students learn better when you come from a positive state. So if for no other reason, if you need justification of why, to start your day with going around and having children in your room, share about what's going well for them or tell me something good for learning purpose, the brain's going to be better ready to learn when it comes from a state of positivity. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

It makes so much sense. I feel like we might need to invite you back again, sheila, to talk more about how we can really implement this with our students. Do you think would that be okay? Can we invite you back sometime?

Speaker 4:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

That would be awesome.

Speaker 4:

I think we got a little bit too preoccupied with the adults, totally fine Thinking about ourselves, and I think that's a great beginning, because if we show up with our cups filled, get to go back to that analogy, but we're refueled, then we're gonna show up for our students in such a better way. And so now that we know what we need to do to show up as our best selves, now we can take that and have that ripple effect and find ways to bring it into our students. So I would love to have a part two.

Speaker 2:

Excellent. Thank you so much, but before we go, we do ask our guests to share a pay down point with us, some tip or strategy that might help our listeners to maybe be more minimalist or to find more joy in their day. Do you have a pay down pointer for us?

Speaker 4:

Yeah Well, my favorite motto, my mantra, is to make today count, and I think one of the best ways to do that if we wanna put a financial investment piece onto, that spin onto that is truly invest in joy, because that is really gonna give you the highest interest, that compounding interest of the more you keep investing in moments of joy. It's gonna show up in so many different ways and I don't know about you, but I'll take any way of being rich as I can, and if it's being rich and joy, I will take it.

Speaker 3:

I love that. Thank you so much for being with us today, Sheila.

Speaker 4:

Thank you so much for having me today, and I will be happy also to share with you, ladies, some of my favorite resources when it comes to books and sites for cultivating more joy. Awesome, you've got those in the show notes, thank you, we'll see you for part two Absolutely anticipation.

Speaker 2:

This episode was brought to you by a positively Sheila. Invest in a life full of joy and stay positively connected. Follow Sheila on Instagram at positivelysheela on her Facebook page at be positively connected.

Speaker 1:

Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the minimalist educator podcast. They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them at plan ZPLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaia Moretti.

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