How can we improve our wellbeing?
We can’t make it through the day without a press release or research findings to support evidence that our wellbeing is at an all-time low. The statistics and ‘state of the nation’ are frightening and certainly something needs to be done.
This got me thinking about how we can each play our part in improving the situation, embracing the need for change and recognising that there is no one damning cause or Eureka solution to this.
Is Your Being Well?
I think it’s important that we remind ourselves of the big picture and what we mean by wellbeing. For me, wellbeing connects intimately with health. In simple terms it is about happiness that comes from the physical, social and emotional aspects of our lives. This Influences how satisfied you and others are with life, the sense of purpose and how in control you feel.
I am a physical educator by trade and I have been lucky enough to have spent three and half years working for the Youth Sport Trust. So, you will not be surprised to hear that I truly believe in the power of PE, sport and physical activity as great drivers for improved personal wellness. I have seen how powerful interventions like ‘Get Exam Fit’ and a transformed Physical Education offer in schools can make all the difference for wellbeing and achievement.
5 wellbeing quick wins
I believe there are some quick wins that will help make a positive difference to our wellbeing. Here are my top 5 actionable tips.
1. It starts with you
Be kind to yourself and make time for you. You need to switch off and recharge but also to role model the importance of putting yourself first and recognising the great stuff that is achieved every day.
Great stuff happens when you feel good, so that is the catalyst to achieving more but that is different to relentless trying and tiring. As a part of that, don’t take yourself or the job too seriously! Students will still be learning tomorrow whether you stay up all night planning, marking, analysing and strategising or not.
2. Take a digital detox
Whether it is for an hour, a day or even a week I really am a great believer in time away from tech and to get “offline”.
Computers, social media and soon artificial intelligence will have brought great efficiencies and opportunities to our lives but they all come with a health warning. Switching off and returning to good old conversation (with yourself or others) along with plenty of fresh outdoor air is a regular must in everyone’s diet in my opinion.
3. Consume “exercise snacks” and plenty of them
The science connecting physical activity with happiness is overwhelming, exercise induced serotonin release is better than chocolate. On top of that exercise enables better concentration and cognition. Without it our brains can’t grow or function anything like as well as if we build regular physical activity and movement into daily habits.
Like with hydration, once you become thirsty you have already left it too late, so if your brain is starting to fatigue you should have got up and moved again a while ago! For more specifics about this research, check out the Youth Sport Trust website and the likes of Dr John Ratey, Prof Guy Claxton and Dr William Bird.
4. Role model it with staff first
Do this in the way you value and treat staff and in what you expect from them. If, as a school, you have any aspiration of improving wellbeing for young people you cannot skip the middle men and women. If we don’t practice what we preach then we have no hope in trying to drive behaviour change. Live out and reinforce the value of wellbeing through actions more than words.
5. Say something nice
My experience of working with hundreds of teachers is that we are all far too self-critical. We are too quick to judge what should be done better next time and shortcomings or “development” points.
We need to encourage each other more to hold up the mirror, coach-out, and articulate specific examples of all that has gone well and where we have made a positive difference. This goes for conversations with colleagues but also direct with students (especially when served cold on the days after the event) and certainly with parents via that positive phone call home at the end of the day. That will make all the difference to that families evening.
So, as we suspected, it isn’t rocket science. But it is wellbeing science and as behaviour expert Jez Rose notes, the key to driving lasting change is in lots of little steps not one transformational event.
I’m off to get a portion of exercise outdoors, whilst calling a colleague to pass on some meaningful praise before switching off devices for the evening. I hope that was of use and has driven some self-reflection.