This High School Health lesson outlines how you can teach your students and teens about the power of positive thinking and self talk!
Introducing the Topic: Positive Thinking & Self Talk
Positive thinking is a really important concept for individuals to understand, especially teenagers. I think this lesson is important, because it helps educate students on their minds.
For a long time, mental health has been a taboo topic. However, in recent years, people have become more comfortable addressing it. Unfortunately, many teenage kids still don’t know the basics of managing their thoughts and emotions.
Teaching about this topic can improve their overall well being and give them the tools to be successful.
When introducing this health lesson topic, I often start by saying something like, “Each day we have thousands of thoughts that go through our mind. Some are good and make us feel happy, and some are not so good and make us feel bad. Each of us has experiences that also affect our thoughts and our thoughts become our beliefs. We react and behave according to our thoughts and beliefs, thus creating our life.”
Thought Belief Effect
This introduction then leads us into a class discussion. It often helps my class if we talk about examples in real life.
You can take a few minutes to discuss examples of negative and positive thinking.
Statement: “Here are a few examples. If you think you are not good at art then you will have a belief that it is not worth trying in art class. Then this belief affects your life in that you don’t want to do art.
If you think you are a worthwhile person for people to know then you will have the belief that you can talk to other people. Your belief will make you act confident with others and help you have better relationships.”
Once the class has had some time to think about and discuss how thoughts can turn into beliefs, have them write down an example. They can include this on their notes worksheet.
Activity: “Write one way you can see how your thoughts became a belief. Then write what effect your belief had on your life. Think about how your beliefs affect your mood, behaviors, and relationships.”
Managing Positive and Negative Thoughts
Following the Thought Belief Effect activity, I like to move into helping my Health class understand how to manage their thoughts.
Statement: “Each of us can choose what thoughts we keep or get rid of. We also have the ability to actively choose to think positive thoughts about ourselves, others, and life. This is an important concept to learn as you mature, so you can recognize the thought patterns you want to shift. When you realize that you can choose your thoughts and be a more positive person, you give yourself power to choose a happier life for yourself. We may not be able to always choose what happens in life, but we always have a choice about what we think and believe.”
For this section, I like to teach about how they don’t have control over what thoughts pop into their head, but that they can control whether or not those thoughts stay. I’ve found that teaching about this empowers the youth. They have the power to dispel negative thoughts and invite positive thinking. If they don’t like a thought, they can always replace it with something else!
From here we move into an activity to help them learn about self love.
Activity: Tell the teens that you are going to give them one minute to write what they love on a piece of paper or in their notes. Watch the timer and let them write for about a minute. Ask a few of them to share a few things they wrote. Ask if anyone wrote “Myself.”
Statement: “It is easy to talk about things that we love, but the most important thing to love is ourselves. This doesn’t mean that you think you are better than others, it just means you know you are a person who has worth, just like everyone else.”
“When we love ourselves we have a better life, better relationships, more confidence that attracts opportunities, and better mental health. Decide today that you can and will love yourself, flaws and all. Take time each day to allow yourself to do some positive self talk.”
Practicing Positive Thinking
The last section helped them identify the importance of self love, and now you can give them the chance to put in into practice.
Activity: Let’s start by thinking positive about yourself. Give each person a piece of paper. Allow them to write 10 positive thoughts they can have for themselves. I like to put the words “I am” in the center and write the rest all around them.
Here are a few examples: I am kind, I am smart, I am amazing, I am talented, I am a good listener, or I am good at math.
Let them be creative and decorate this paper if they want. It can be a separate paper that they can hang in their room or be part of a paper where they take notes.
Statement: “Hopefully this paper is just the start of your list of good things you can think about yourself. Add more things as you think of them and read this paper often, maybe everyday or several times a day. Choose to think positive thoughts about yourself and your life will improve in every way.”
I like to end with a challenge or invitation for them to apply the lesson we talked about. For this lesson on having a good mindset, encourage them to participate in the positive thinking challenge.
Positive thinking challenge: The challenge is to notice your interactions you have in the next day or so and be aware of your thoughts. If negative thoughts come up, take time to think about how to be more positive in the situation. Do your best to change your thoughts to be more positive and notice how your choice to be positive affects the situation.
Here are some examples of situations you can do the positive thinking challenge in:
- with annoying family members: You could choose to see them as a person who needs love that you can give.
- Having too much homework: You can choose to be glad that you are getting an education and strengthening your mind.
- You have to go to work: Choose to think about how you earn money to buy things that you enjoy.
Note: While this lesson is a great base, definitely change things up so that they best work for your students. Maybe they would benefit from you including videos or personal stories. Regardless of the end result, I hope that this outline is helpful!