Wellbeing and its importance for learning

Well being comprises of two main elements: feeling good and functioning well. Feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement are characteristics of someone who has a positive experience in life. (Aked, Marks, Cordon, Thompson, 2008).

The Middle School implemented a wellness programme last year focusing on various aspects of well being deemed important by the Heads of House. This year the Senior School Heads of House with support of House tutors have also implemented a wellness programme and the first term has focused on stress and coping. All of these sessions have an underlying theme of wellness and the benefits of well being. The evidence is very clear that well being of students can significantly impact and improve their learning. The sessions have been developed in a way to promote awareness of well being and to allow students to think and reflect on how wellness can improve their learning. This links to our Schools values of Thriving and Belonging and Cultivating a Passion in and for life. Each House participates in the same programme. Archer House has also developed some key values that promote wellbeing and allow students to consider how to improve their learning by developing strategies that focus on wellness.

The nef, one of the UK’s leading think tanks in promoting social, economic and and environmental justice found through the foresight project there are 5 ways to well being. The project found that following these five actions in our day-today lives is important for well being:

Connect: Connections with people around you, family, friends, teachers are critically important to enrich your life and build the capacity to learn and feel supported. The Foresight report found solid evidence which indicated that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world, the idea of connecting to people seems key to any set of actions. (Aked, Marks, Cordon, Thompson, 2008)

Be active: walk, play, run, go outside, find activities that make you physically active. This aligns closely to the research conducted by developmental molecular biologist John Medina, that exercise boosts brain power. Medina found that the brain needs physical activity to work at its best.

“A lifetime of exercise can result in sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary. Exercisers outperformed couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so called fluid intelligence tasks. Essentially, exercise improves a whole host of abilities prized in the classroom and at work”. (Medina, 2008).

Dr. Antronette Yancey also concluded that exercise improves children. Her study found that physically fit children identify visual stimuli much faster and concentrate better. Brain-activation studies show that children and adolescents who are fit allocate more cognitive resources to a task and do so for longer periods of time. Medina, 2008.

“Kids pay better attention to their subjects when they’ve been active” Yancey says. “Kids are less likely to be disruptive in terms of their classroom behaviour when they’re active. Kids feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem, less depression, less anxiety. All of those things can impair academic performance and attentiveness” Yancey, 2008

Take Notice: Be attentive to things around you, be grateful for what is given to you and what you interact with. Treat every moment as a gift and savour it. Reflect, think and act, these moments allow you to consider what is important to you and why. A 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology asked year 6 and 7 students to list five things they were grateful for everyday for two weeks. It found that the students had a better outlook on school and a greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with students that were assigned to list five hassles. Another study in 2010 found that students who demonstrated high levels of gratitude, who were thankful for the beauty in nature or had a strong appreciation for other people, had stronger tests results, less depression and envy and a much more positive outlook than less grateful teens.  The studies can be found here http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303773704579270293660965768

Keep learning: The continuation of learning through life has the benefits of enhancing an individual’s self-esteem, encouraging social interaction and a more active life. Learning new things allows students to feel success, confidence grows as well as it being fun and a sense of enjoyment in achieving. It has been suggested that feelings of satisfaction associated with both progress and goal attainment mediate the effects of goal setting on well being. A recent study has shown that teaching individuals goal setting and planning skills, increases well being. Participants received three, one hour, group sessions or completed the programme in their own time. Taking part in the intervention, whether in a group or individually, elevated well being in comparison with controls who did not receive the intervention. The implication is that goal-setting and planning skills can be learned. (Aked, Marks, Cordon, Thompson, 2008)

Give: Do something nice for someone, a friend or a stranger. Thank people for supporting you, show appreciation for people who do things for you. Smile, volunteer your time. Look outward as well as inward. Professor Kirkwood comments,

‘the vast majority of our behaviour is motivated by either obtaining rewards or avoiding punishments which modify behaviour through reinforcement. Appropriate stimulation of this reward system, particularly in early life, contributes to gains in cognitive and social functioning critical for the development of mental capital and well-being. Indeed, the Foresight definition of mental well-being says that it is enhanced when an individual is able to achieve a sense of purpose in society and, thus, contribute to their community. So, helping, sharing, giving and team-oriented behaviours are likely to be associated with an increased sense of self-worth and positive feelings.’

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