Including someone new is a powerful act that can dramatically lessen the effects of isolation.²⁵ Is there someone in your class that you’ve noticed looking down or lonely? Make a point to reach out and invite them to hang out with your friends this week, even if they’re not normally part of your group. You could say, “We’re seeing a new movie after school, want to join? Should be fun,” or “A group of us is going to play some pickup basketball on Saturday afternoon. Wanna come? Don’t worry, we’re no pros.” That tiny gesture could make a world of difference to them.
Empathy is an invaluable skill when it comes to taking the power out of bullying. According to a 2014 study, schools where students reported having more empathy for their classmates had fewer instances of bullying. Thankfully, empathy is something we can all work on. This week, read, or even write, a story about someone who is very different from you. Maybe they go to a school on the opposite side of the country from you, or maybe they have radically different political views. Maybe it’s a fictional character, someone in the public eye, or even someone from history. Taking on the viewpoint, even briefly, of people we imagine to be different from us can increase our empathy. BONUS: When you’ve finished, share your story with a friend, and encourage them to try it, too.
Questioning a rumor can be a great way to stop it in its tracks. This week, when you hear someone share a rumor, question them. You can try saying, “How would you feel if someone said that about you?” or “Come on, we should really give them the benefit of the doubt. Who told you that?” Even though it’s tough, questioning rumors is a great way to defuse them.
Sometimes simple actions can make the biggest difference. Each day this week, email or text a different friend a supportive message. You can try starting with friends who look down or who you know are struggling, but then branch out. You can text something like, “Hey, ___. I know you might just be tired and stressed from school (I know I am), but I noticed you looked kind of down today. Just a little reminder that I’m on your team and you’ve totally got this,” or “___! We haven’t talked in a couple months, but I was just thinking about how much fun we had at my birthday party last year. You’re such a good friend and I miss you! Let’s catch up soon.” Don’t worry if you can’t get the message just right. What matters most is the gesture.
Apologies are powerful and beneficial, not just to those receiving them, but also to those giving them. This week, think of someone you want to apologize
to and do it, whether it’s someone you feel you wronged yesterday, or even last year. You can start with, “Hey, I just wanted to reach out and apologize
for the way I treated you,” or “I’ve been thinking about what happened and I really want to say that I’m sorry.” If you can’t think of someone to apologize to, put yourself in the shoes of your parent or guardian and think about your recent behavior from their perspective. Chances are you can apologize for something.
Mindfulness means creating a greater moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding environment. This week, we want you
to do a mindfulness exercise by keeping a tally of all the little things you either take responsibility for or ignore. Literally, write them down! They can be household chores like washing the dishes, or harder things like letting someone who is getting bullied know you care. Just taking note of when you act and when you ignore can help you become more mindful and remember to act more frequently.
Have you ever heard a teacher say, “If you sit in the same place every day during class, moss will start to grow on you”? No? Well, let’s fight the moss effect anyway! According to one study, changing your seat can actually boost your creativity. So why not try it? Sit in a different seat in your class each day this week. See who you meet and what new things you experience!