Entering these roaring twenties the state of our health and wellbeing must be of the utmost importance to one and all. Collectively, we need to promote and value our wellbeing – particularly in our schools and our communities where age needn’t be a factor in adopting some key life-skills that should, in time, become second nature in our daily & weekly activities.
In the Guardian’s G2 section on wellbeing there are two articles that highlight this point succinctly.
The first article suggests five ways in which we can improve our attitude and our approach to living well.
- Have realistic aims
- Count our blessings
- Challenge negative thoughts
- Help others
- Go outside
All of these should be part of our lives but encouraging children and adults who work in schools to be mindful of these five key issues would, we believe, have significant individual and communal benefits.
- Having realistic aims doesn’t mean you should be less ambitious, but it does mean we should make our aims as achievable as possible in order to counteract disappointment or despondency. This is as true for children and young people as they strive for academic achievement as it is for teachers. Targets should be realistic, personalised, of value and relevant to the individual and/or the institution.
- Gratitude is affirming. There should be as much of it as possible in order to increase our contentment. The article suggests writing down everything in the day that you are grateful for. This too could be done in school at the end of each day or week. Imagine a whole school – including senior managers and admin staff – spending five minutes at the end of the day to reflect, appreciate and be thankful for the good that has happened to them. What a calming influence that would be.
- Challenging negative thoughts can be difficult but all schools should be working with pupils regularly – and not just in token PSHE lessons or assemblies– to find ways of managing negative thoughts and destructive emotions. Combating negative emotions requires skills and techniques, and needs plenty of practice. Time should be afforded in curriculum time and demonstrated in practical ways within the ethos of the school to enable staff and pupils to counteract negativity.
- Long ago, in the distant past of 2000 when Citizenship was introduced as a statutory subject, one part of the curriculum was “Active Citizenship” – a non-sedentary component whereby young people looked at ways to engage in the local community or contribute to a societal cause such as climate change. Sadly, even its statutory status didn’t give the subject the place at the heart of the curriculum it truly deserved. Yet the old mantra of giving rather than receiving being ultimately beneficial to all still holds strong. Again, this should be an essential and clear point in any school’s values and practice.
- Over the last decade or two, outdoor learning and physical activity has rightly been recognised as fundamental to our health and wellbeing. Early Years practitioners have known this far longer than teachers of older students and have practised it daily. Fresh air and fun shouldn’t just be for the under 5s. Physical activity leads, in most cases, to good mental health as well as liberating and refreshing minds for both work and pleasure.
Five simple and effective changes here that are so simple to implement and so pertinent for the wellbeing of pupils and the effective and collegiate running of a school.
The other article, in a way, enhances these five “ways to be upbeat”.
Put creativity – singing, dancing, music, artwork, etc – into the equation and you enhance the potential of your wellbeing strategies to take root and flourish.
Here, Kate Corbett-Winder explains how joining a choir and finding a creative avenue decreased anxiety and provided her with a sense of wellbeing that went beyond the meditation, medication and therapy that she’d previously tried to raise her levels of good mental health.
“My childhood had been filled with creativity. School and, later, university burst at the seams with music, art and dancing, yet for most of my adult life these outlets had been neglected.”
How many children from the Education, Education, Education era, followed by Gove’s new National Curriculum, will be able to say the same thing about creativity in their childhood classrooms?
She continues to explain how she felt after re-engaging with singing and other creative activities.
“Although my job is in the creative industry, the day-to-day skills I use are not so I have had to learn the importance of finding time to include creativity in my life. I sing, go to dance classes and make my own Christmas cards. I fear that if these creative outlets stagnate I may relapse and if keeping healthy means doing things I love all the time, I am certainly not going to complain.”
Isn’t this a lesson for us all?
Add this sixth element to our daily lives (in addition to the five components already mentioned) and one wonders where our joint levels of wellbeing might be.
A new decade, a new year. Maybe following this advice could be a new start for many.