“Our brain has a natural negativity bias, where it is naturally drawn to the negative, creating something of a bottleneck in the brain. In order toturn this negativity into something positive, and open up the bottleneck, we have to consciously make an effort to make this shift.” ~ Jennifer Rojas
(Transcript available below)
START OF TRANSCRIPT
Heidi Higgins: Hi there. I'm Heidi Higgins, and you are listening to K12 On Learning. Today's episode will be another part of our mental health series. We're going to talk about everyday happiness, and we're going to do this by learning a little bit more about how our brain works. I don't know about you, but having my children at home for the summer, or when I began school, I want to know how their brains work. I'm always wondering, what are you thinking? Well, today we're going to learn a little bit about how the brain works with patterns and how you can change patterns if you find yourself or your child in a negative state of mind.
Jennifer Rojas: My name is Jennifer, I am your impact manager from the Cook Center for Human Connection. I would very much like to thank the Stride leadership team for making parent guidance.org and our time together possible. The recorded segments in the series are taken from a live workshop that Brett Williams hosted on Everyday Happiness. Brett is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a masters from California state in clinical psychology. And he is the clinical director at Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah. Today's session is going to be broken up into four main segments.
First, we'll be learning about the brain and how things work so we can ultimately create change. We'll learn about who you are, what makes you, you. We'll learn about patterns, both positive patterns and negative patterns. And finally, we're going to learn four steps that you can implement to change your thinking.
We're going to start off by learning more about our brain and how it works. By understanding more about our brain and the patterns that it creates, we'll be able to better understand how to change patterns in our brain. Our brain has a natural negativity bias, where it is naturally drawn to the negative, creating something of a bottleneck in the brain. In order to turn this negativity into something positive and open up the bottleneck, we have to consciously make an effort to make this shift. Imagine the mind as a garden, we have three options for how to be in this garden. We can sit back and we can witness what's happening, we can get in there and pull weeds, or we can plant flowers and vegetables. Today, we're going to be working on that third step, planting flowers and vegetables in our mental gardens, or replacing the negative weeds in our garden with something more positive, beautiful memories. Let's jump right into this idea with Brett.
Brett Williams: We all come to things like this, read books, go to seminars, stuff like that, because we want to create change. So we put the idea in our head, but for some reason it doesn't work. So the first thing I want to do as we get ourselves started, is look at why change isn't happening and then look at what we need to do to create change happening. One of the reasons why we don't change is one, we don't recognize that we have patterns. We are all made up of habits. I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret, your brain doesn't like to think. Well, especially my left neocortex loves to believe that it thinks, but it really doesn't, brains don't like to think. You know what brains like to do? They like to create patterns. And then once they've created a pattern, then they just go with that pattern all the time.
So even really simple things like walking, we take it for granted. We don't even think twice about it. But if you guys have babies and you watch babies learning how to walk, it is incredibly difficult. And the reasons it's difficult is because they have to think about everything that's happening, and there's a lot happening in taking a step. And so our brain likes to create patterns. Once it's created the pattern, then it just runs the pattern, and then it doesn't have to think. Learning how to drive a car, the same exact thing. When we first learned how to drive a car, it was hard because we were thinking about everything we were doing, and then we would lock up. But after a while, once you get into your brain as a pattern, then it happens quickly and easily.
So one of the reasons why we don't change is because your brain is made of patterns. That's what it does, it creates patterns. And if you want to create change, you have to realize it's a pattern. You can't just say to yourself, "Well, I'm going to lose that 15 pounds. I'm getting up at five to do that meditation." That's the good intention, but unless you change the patterns around it, it's not going to happen.
The second reason why we don't create change is because we don't create a complete pattern change, we just maybe change one little thing. So we got to change the whole pattern for its work.
The other reason why patterns don't change, it's hard, it's work. When you're struggling to create pattern changes, what you're actually doing is reinforcing negativity. When you try to do anything and it's hard, even though you think it's going to ultimately produce a good result, if you're struggling, what you're really reinforcing is negativity. So we can't have it hard. And the last thing is, we just give up, we don't practice. And if we don't practice, it doesn't get into the physiology and that's a key, key part of it.
Four things we need to create change, first, it has to be quick. If the exercise I'm going to teach you today is really long and really hard, you're not going to do it. It has to be immediate change. As soon as you start doing the exercise, you have to feel better. If it doesn't happen right now, your brain's not going to want to do it. The second thing that has to happen is that the change I'm going to teach you is going to be easy. It's going to be quick and easy. The third thing, it's going to be fun, because your brain likes fun. And if it's not fun, your brain doesn't want to do it. And the last thing you got to do is, you've got to practice.
Jennifer Rojas: To recap, in order to create positive change, it has to have those four things. It has to be quick and easy, it has to be fun and it has to be repetitive. Do you exercise regularly? If you do exercise regularly, those of you that do exercise regularly, what are some words that come to mind for you when you think about exercise? If you don't exercise regularly, list some words why you think people who do exercise regularly do it, fresh air, stress relief, for health, makes you happy, peace of mind. Notice these are mostly positive reasons. Is exercise fun for you? Is it a scheduled repetitive part of your routine? We know that exercise isn't easy, but it is easy once you know how to use the machines at the gym or you start to maybe recognize people in a group class and develop friendships, to wear myself out, getting to places, to relieve stress, to stay in a current size. Hey, valid reason. These are all reasons. Talking with my partner, having fun, yes, that fun word, nature, health, happy, stress relief.
So for those of you that do exercise, you'll notice that aspect of it becoming easier because it has that fun factor to it. So if you do not exercise, what are some words that describe to you why you don't exercise, exhausted, lack of motivation, work too late, time, hard, no time, no instant results, need a partner. So notice these thinking patterns. You'll notice that these words aren't as positive towards exercise as those who have built the exercise habit. These words are significantly different from those people who do exercise. So in order for exercise to become a routine, you have to love what you're doing and that's when it becomes fun. Maybe the treadmill at the gym, isn't your thing., But a nice walk with your dog is. Find ways to enjoy what you're doing so that you can implement healthy routines, whether they're physical or mental.
So using this example, how do we form more positive routines in our lives? We may have the desire to make a change, but we can't quite seem to make it happen. So in order to change our thinking patterns, you must first understand who you are and how your brain functions. We have left and right brain patterns. Yes, we do use both at all times, but let's look through the differences to see which side you relate to more. The left brain is that more logical, sequential side that loves to focus on facts. Goal setting and working from a list, is the preferred mode. But right brain thinkers tend to be more creative, less structured and a bit disorganized. They have good people skills and live in the moment which offers more spontaneity. Right brain thinkers are comfortable with the unknown, which side do you relate to the most? Brett's going to teach us more than that difference between the left/right sides of the brain. He's going to talk to us about the four portions of the brain and what they do.
Brett Williams: Let's start with mind, body, emotions and our consciousness. We have four brains that monitor and work are four different parts. The four brains are really quickly, we have our left and right neocortex. So if you picture a brain, you can see the outside squiggly stuff. So that outside squiggly stuff is our right and left hemisphere, or the right and left neocortex. Inside of the brain, in the middle of the brain, there's what's called our limbic system. And our limbic system is our emotional memory brain and that's where we create emotions, generate emotions and then also we store memories in that part of the brain as well. And then the last part of our brain is our brain stem, and it's way down at the bottom, the back of our brain. And that really controls our body functions, so heart rate, respiration, blood pressure. You don't have to think about any of those things, but your brain is constantly telling your heart, "Keep eating, keep eating, keep eating." Well it's the brain stem, the base part of your brain that tells your body what to do.
So those are the four core parts of your brain, and they interestingly go with the four parts of who we are. So when you think of our mind, usually we think of our mind as that chatty part that talks all the time to us or that we talk with, but when you hear that chatty part of your mind, that's usually your left neocortex. In your left neocortex, there's two centers called the Wernicke and Broca areas and that has to do with language. And so your left brain is usually talking because it's where your language centers are, so it loves to talk. Your right brain is more the creative, artistic part of you. And that is the part that's more in the here and now, in the moment, aware of things, aware of what people are thinking of, aware of what people are feeling. That's more of a right brain activity.
Obviously, the brain stem is in our body. It's the base part of our brain. And then the last part is the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. When we look at change later on, we're going to look at changing all of these parts, because we really have to change all of these parts.
But there's four practices that manipulate or change who we are. And the first one is thought. Thought will literally rewire your brain. If you choose to think positive things, your brain will rewire differently. If you choose to think negative things, your brain will rewire differently. So your thought is going to be your first tool, or your first practice.
The second thing that's going to change your brain and change you is your actions. If you eat healthy, if you eat crappy, if you sleep or don't sleep, if you're exercising, meditating, all of those kind of choices we make, all the actions we take, will literally shape our body. I mean, literally shape our body in terms of being big or small or healthy or unhealthy. Our choices or actions affect physical body. In terms of our emotions, our emotions are really controlled by our energy levels. So we're going to learn how to control our emotions by learning how to direct and control our energy. The last part is consciousness and that's basically your attention. What we focus our attention on is going to direct our conscious and focus [inaudible 00:11:58].
Jennifer Rojas: What are the four areas of the brain that Brett just mentioned? On our left side of the brain, that's where our brain generates inner thoughts. Our brain stem tells us to do something about it and it controls the physical reaction, like smiling or crying. Our limbic system controls our emotions and assigns energy to the situation, and our right side of the brain brings awareness by giving the situation attention. If you want to see a change in anything, all four areas of the brain must be altered. So what does that mean? That means that we have to change our thoughts. We have to change our actions. We have to change our energy, and we have to change our attention.
Now that we know the basic functions for each part of the brain, and the importance of changing all four areas, we're going to learn more about the positive and negative patterns. And then later, we'll practice implementing these changes. Do you compare yourself to others, and it's hard not to at times. We often find ourselves in a negative thinking pattern when we compare or when we worry. We can scroll through social media and think our body isn't good enough, our clothes need to be trendier, my home decor isn't Pottery Barn enough. These thoughts start to make you feel like you aren't enough. With 24/7 access to view our friends and our neighbor's best part of their lives, it can easily alter how we feel about ourselves. Our children's feelings and temptations to compare, are not all that different from ours. Comparison can steal our joy, our confidence, even our paychecks, if we let it, but how do you break the cycle? Brett's going to talk to us about negative patterns and how to break it permanently. But I'm warning you, it does take effort, but this effort it's also going to be worth it.
Brett Williams: First let's look at negative patterns, because these are so familiar to us. All right, so I want you to role play with me, think for a minute, what would happen if you texted somebody you love, somebody you cared about and they did not return your text or call? We would keep focusing over and over and our attention would go back again and again and again, "They haven't texted. They haven't called back. They haven't texted, they haven't called back." So the first thing we'd do is we'd apply our attention to that again and again and again.
The second thing that would happen, and maybe you don't even notice it happening, is you'd start to feel some energy, "What's going on, they're not getting back to me." Then the third thing that would happen, and again, this happens on an unconscious level, you start to get tense. And then what happens is then we start thinking, "What is going on here? Are they ignoring me? They don't care? What's happening?"
Then my brain starts thinking about things. My brain starts going through that whole pattern again and again and again and again. And it becomes what's called a negative feedback loop, and each part reinforces the other parts. So the more I keep looking at the phone, the more my energy starts to rise. The more my energy starts to rise, the more tense I start to feel. The more tense I start to feel, the more I keep thinking about, why aren't they calling me back? The more I keep thinking about, why aren't they calling me back, the more I keep thinking about the phone. And it just becomes a feedback loop, a negative feedback loop where I'm just spun over and over and over again.
Now normal cognitive behavioral therapy would say, "Oh, let's just change the thought," but that would really be ineffective because I'm trying to change one part of the process but not the whole part of the process. It's definitely something we need to change, but we need to change the whole process. We would start with thoughts, actions, energy, and attention.
Now, a lot of times we do pattern interrupts, and pattern interrupts or when we take one piece of that loop, and because it's a feedback loop that keeps going around and around and around, if you jump in and try to break one part of the loop, it will give you momentary relief, it really will. It won't be permanent change, because we're not changing the whole pattern, but it will give you temporary relief. When you're doing pattern interrupts, you can change any one of the four. You can change your thoughts, your actions, your energy, or your focus, what you're focusing on. We all do these interrupts all the time with ourselves, we just don't know we're doing them.
All right, now let's talk about how positive patterns are formed, and as you can probably imagine, they're formed the exact same way. Most of the time for us, we don't give that much attention. I did something kind, and then as soon as I do something kind, I push it out of my head. And soon as I push it out of my head, I don't feel any energy on that, I don't feel that in my body and I don't really even give it a thought. And because of that, there's no positive loop formed, but that's the only way a positive pattern's going to form is if we give it some attention, we give it some energy, we give it some action, we put it into our body and then we actually allow ourselves to think about it, talk to ourselves about it.
Jennifer Rojas: Let's review what we just learned by playing truth or lie. All right, so these are the three questions. Is it true? Or is it a lie? We can temporarily interrupt a feedback loop by changing the thought, this changes the feedback loop, and negative and positive loops are formed the same way? Let's go through these one by one. That it is true, we can temporarily interrupt a feedback loop, but for the second one, by changing a thought, does this change the feedback loop? Unfortunately, that one is a lie. It's a lie that we tell ourselves that we think good thoughts, but that it isn't quite enough. We must change not only the thought, but all four parts of the process to make permanent changes. The thoughts, the actions, the energy and the attention. If we change or interrupt part of the loop, it gives us temporary relief, but not lasting effects.
And then the third question, negative and positive feedback loops are formed the same way, that is true. Regardless of whether it is a positive or a negative thought, the repeated thinking patterns is what creates these loops. If we have to change all four areas of the feedback loop to create permanent change, how do we do that? You want to experience more happiness, but what loop is formed in your mind? Do you focus on the positive?
So first you need to stop comparing yourself to others. Brett is going to walk us through the step by step process for making change permanent. Pay close attention in this next section, and truly engage your mind. Again in order to create permanent change, we have to interrupt all four areas of the feedback loop. HEAL is an acronym for the four steps in making permanent change, changes in our patterns. Through implementing this process, we can make permanent changes and create more positive memories or experience everyday happiness. HEAL stands for Hold Energize Act Link. Brett is going to take us through the thinking process. Keep this cycle in your mind as you go through these next few segments when thinking about memories that you want to reinforce or change.
Brett Williams: The first part of the technique is called hold. What we're going to do is we're going to hold in our consciousness, something positive, something good. We're going to hold that in our consciousness. The second part of that is we're going to energize it. Two things that make memories, memories, one is how many times you repeat it, but a second way that memories are formed is that they're sticky. And what makes a memory sticky is it has some kind of emotional charge to it. A third part of that is that we have to act on it. I got to act on whatever it is I'm thinking. If I'm thinking a positive thought, I have to act on that positive thought, take some kind of action. And we'll talk a little bit about some of the actions, like take a breath, smile, bring your head up, bring your eyes up. Any of those kind of things will begin to match the mood. And that's what you want to do, you want to physically match what you're doing with the mood. If you don't match, you'll just interrupt the pattern.
The last part is thinking, what am I telling myself? And that is going to be what I call the L or the link. I'm going to link this positive thought to something or this positive experience and positive memory to something. What would be a positive memory you want to reinforce, something from your past, something that feels good to you, something that is positive for you, and preferably, something that you did. Hold it in your mind, think about it. Bring as many sensory inputs as you can into that, really hold that in your consciousness. As you hold that in your consciousness, what you'll feel is energy. All memories are made up of two things, the experience and the energy, the energy makes it sticky. So when you remember something, good or bad, you will also remember the emotions that's connected to it, always, because that's what makes the memory is both the experience and the energy.
So as you think about the positive events that each of you are thinking about, feel and bring out the energy with you, feel the energy attached to it. And as you feel that energy, let it increase. Just let it be there. Let it hang, let it linger. Feel that warm feeling in your chest. Feel kind of that relaxation in your body. Feel that energy and energize that thought.
Next, I want you to match it with your body. So again, I would prefer if you put your heads up, not down, because putting your heads down will put you into a dark thinking analytical spot and I want this to be lighter. So keep your head up, take a couple breaths, relax your shoulders, relax your back. If you can, smile. Smiling is always good. There's so much good research that shows if you smile, it improves your mood. If you do nothing else, but just smile, it boosts your mood. It's a great antidepressant. So just smile, hold that, good.
Now link it to a thought. What thought do you want to link it to, my life is blessed, I love my family. But think of a thought that you want to link it to and bring in that left neocortex. And just repeat that thought. Now, as you're doing that, I want you to go through the loop. Do it again and do it again and do it again and do it again and do it again. Just let that positive loop really go. Thinking about it, feeling it, energizing it in your body and then linking to that thought, I am blessed, I am so blessed and then feeling that, holding that, energizing that and just let it build.
Jennifer Rojas: Memories are made up of two things, experience and energy. Think about a road you travel on every day. You drive down the road without much thought. But what if an animal darted out in front of you one day, this just infused this routine pattern with energy and it created a different experience for you. Next time that you drive down that same road, what are you likely to think about? That animal. Because the energy caused the experience to become sticky or to stick in your mind. Can you now see how energy can change a pattern? So when you're trying to create more positive memories, hold the thought in your mind to have a positive experience and create energy to remember it longer. Act on that energy by smiling or by allowing your heart to race with excitement, truly absorb that feeling. Imagine yourself like a sponge, absorbing the emotions that are tied to the thought, then link that memory to a positive thought, I am fortunate because, I appreciate.
Then the important thing is to create the loop. Experience that same cycle over a few times to help solidify that experience. This process usually takes about 10 to 20 seconds or so, so it takes some time, but it's not an all day thing. So think about your favorite song for a minute. Why is it your favorite song? Did you think of a memory that's tied to that song? Was there energy around the feeling when you thought about your favorite song? Music is powerful and our brain can remember so many lyrics to many songs because we listen to them over and over again until they become part of our internal memory, this same thing applies to your thoughts. When you put something positive in your mental cycle and allow it to play over and over forming a loop, it becomes part of your thought process and in that way, it starts to crowd out the negative weeds that are trying to take over. Let's try this same exercise, but this time with a present event.
Brett Williams: All right, so we've done it for a past event, let's do it for a present event. Think of something in your life right now that you feel gratitude for or feel good about or feel positive about, something about you. Think of something present instead of something yesterday or last month or last year. Think of something right now.
Now again, we're going to go through the same process. I want you to hold that in your consciousness, hold. I want you to feel some energy on that, put some energy on that thought. Allow that energy to kind of grow, build. Remember the energy you used before, create that energy, that same kind of energy that you feel inside. Again, put it in your body. Smile, relax your shoulders, keep your head up. Okay, good. And then link it to a thought. I'm a good person. I'm intelligent. What you link it to, it's anything you want, but link it and feel it in the present, feel it now. And then again, once you've got it, all four pieces, just let them loop and let it build. I have a good life. Hold your consciousness on that. Hold your consciousness on how you see that. Bring that energy in, put it in your body and then link that thought again and just let the cycle continue. Good.
Jennifer Rojas: So we've done past and present, now let's look forward with Brett.
Brett Williams: All right, now we're going to do the same thing, one last time. This is a technique called stacking, we're stacking positives. We did a past positive, we did a present positive, now I want you to think about your future. I want you to think about next year, five years. Think about your future. And I want you to create in your mind a positive image, a wonderful vacation, having a wonderful time with your family, maybe in a new home, whatever you want, it doesn't matter to me. Think for yourself what you want to hold in your mind, what is it you want for yourself.
As you hold that thought, bring some energy on it. You got to put some energy on it. We all have dreams. We all think about what we want in the future, but we don't put any energy on it. Put some energy on that thing. So put some energy on that thought, put it in your body. Feel it inside of you right now. Feel it taking hold. Let yourself smile. Let yourself relax. And then link it to a thought. It could be the thoughts we've already practiced, that's fine. It could be a new thought. It doesn't matter. Put it to a thought. Things are working out for me. Things are going to work out for me. Again, my life is blessed. Link it to a thought and then loop it, let it become a positive feedback loop. Good.
Jennifer Rojas: Now that we all have our futures envisioned, did you put some serious positive energy towards this thought so that it would become something that'll stick in your mind? Last month I had an opportunity to take a really fun tour. And while we were on that tour, we met a family of four and they were there because they were celebrating their youngest child's 10th birthday. And so the dad told me the whole story about how in their family they value birthdays that end with a zero. And so their youngest one said, "Yes, I saw my older brother. I saw my mom's big birthday." She wouldn't say which zero, but she had a birthday with a zero. And the fact that they, as a family, had really created this idea, they had put the positive energy on it, they were working to build experiences anytime one of them had a birthday ending in a zero. It just really touched my heart, made the planning fun. So it made everyone feel invested before they even left. And the vacation became a very positive energy memory for the family.
So it made sense, when you apply the HEAL process, it can create a more memorable experience. Which part of the process was difficult for you to apply? Knowing the difficult part of the process will help you know where you need more practice or help you figure out where your loop is being interrupted. Once you know the weakest area in your loop, you can practice this more to reinforce positive memories in your mind. What happens if you don't practice this process? Then what? What happens then? Let's find out.
Brett Williams: All right, why do people fail? Remember we don't recognize that we're pattern machines. Everything we do is pattern. Everything we do is pattern. You've got to recognize that. If you want to create change, you've got to create new patterns. You can't just create partial patterns... Well, you can to interrupt. You can do pattern interrupts, but they won't last long. They'll just break up the negative. But if you really want to create lasting change, you got to change the whole package.
The other reason why we don't succeed is because it's not fun. My hope is you guys enjoyed that exercise. If you make it fun, you're going to want to do it. The only people on the planet that exercise every day are people that like exercise. It sounds weird, but it's true. Those are the only people that exercise. The only people that run marathons are people that like running marathons. I don't like that that much, but some people do and okay. But if you're not having fun doing it, your brain automatically won't do it.
Then the last thing we got at practice, so I'm going to talk a little bit about practice real quick, HEAL, H-E-A-L. Here is your homework assign, this is the practice part, all right. To get this into your body, to get this into your neurons, we have to repeat it. What I'm going to ask you to do is every night as you go to bed, as you're falling asleep, you're entering a time in your sleep called a hypnagogic time. Whenever you're going from sleep to awake, you're going into this kind of hypnagogic state. As you're going into the hypnagogic state, I want you to practice this for about 10 to 15 minutes, because we will really want to build neurons on this. Hold it in your mind, as you're just falling asleep.
What that'll do for you is two things. One, it'll put you in a positive space, but also it'll give you a positive sleep, because your brain is going to take that momentum that you're setting and then take that into your sleep. Most of us use that time before we go to sleep to worry or think about all the things we have to take care of, and then that really disrupts our sleep, that really creates a negative sleep for us because we're just setting this momentum forward and then it's all negative. So this time I want you to practice being positive. You could do past, you could do present, you could do future, or you could do all three. It doesn't matter.
Then the second way I want you to practice is randomly throughout the day. Just a minute here, a minute there, you could be driving in your car and you can think, "Okay, what are my four steps?" And then practice it as you're driving home. You could be in the market. You could be at home when there's actually a quiet minute, there's a spare moment. And then just practice it. I don't want you to take too long and I don't want it to be a 15 minute exercise, just take a minute or two and then move on with your day and then do it again and move on with your day. And just throughout the day, just randomly break up your day by going through HEAL, holding something positive, energizing that, putting it in your body, linking it to a positive thought and then move on. My goals, I hope we met our goals for today, was to teach you how to HEAL. What I wanted to do was teach you a technique that was quick, easy, fun, and repetitive.
Jennifer Rojas: The best way to make changes in our lives is to practice with true intent. We all know how to go through the motions, but if you truly want to make a change, it's going to require practice. Listen to that music in your mind on repeat until it pushes out the weeds and becomes part of your thought process. Think through the HEAL process throughout the coming days, and see if you can begin to create more positive memories based on the way you approach each situation. Be aware of the energy and the thoughts that you put towards each experience. Rewiring your brain to focus more on the positive and allowing yourself to truly feel experiences takes time. But remember, if you want to make change happen, change the pattern and change that pattern in a way that is quick, easy, fun, and repetitive. If you're interested in learning more about this series, we have a course on parentguidance.org titled, Everyday Happiness. It's under the banner of Improve Yourself With Our Self-help Courses for Parents. I encourage you to explore all of the courses that are offered on parentguidance.org.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools, powered by Stride K12, Stride career prep programs that foster lifelong learning or any of the private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. A special thanks to Tree-K Studios for providing the music for us. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next time for K12 On Learning.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
Meet a Leader in online education.
See why over two million students have chosen Stride K12-powered schools.