by hooperj, whatchildrenneedtobehappy: http://whatchildrenneedtobehappy.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/10-ways-to-nurture-wellbeing-and-build-resilience/
We live in a busy world where children as well as adults
encounter challenges and may find this stressful.
Some people are
naturally confident and resilient but most of us need some help.
do we support children who need a helping hand?
I passionately believe
that we need to talk more about the positive factors which nurture
well-being. The prevention of mental health issues makes such sound
Well-being is not about being happy all the time or living a charmed
life cushioned from want or challenges.
Well-being is having the personal
resources - mental, emotional, social and spiritual to deal with life’s
challenges and having the skills to create a good life which is
authentic and satisfying. Well-being is not something we can assume comes
naturally and we cannot afford to leave it to chance.
Positive Psychology has a growing evidence base on what creates
well-being. Here are my top 10 ways to promote well-being so that
Nurture Positive Emotions
joy and contentment are not only pleasant experiences but they also
broaden the mind, literally. Professor Barbara Frederickson’s research
on positivity has established that positive emotions have 2 valuable
effects: firstly they undo any of the physical tension and stress we may
be feeling and then they allow us to look beyond our immediate
concerns. Negative emotions can take us inwards or preoccupy us with
handling a threat while positive emotions release energy and allow us to
try new things or think creatively. We all get more done when the mood
is right but don’t wait for the mood to appear out of the blue when you
can create positivity yourself. Savouring and appreciating good things
helps children to learn to stay with the positive and search it out when
Learn Optimistic Thinking
Life doesn’t always bring us flowers. Thinking optimistically reminds us
that today’s challenges are transitory and are not due to the 3 Ps
which blight pessimistic thinking: that things are personal (it’s my
entire fault), pervasive (this will affect everything - it is hopeless),
and permanent (this will last and never go away). Optimistic thinking is
open minded and looks for other explanations and most importantly for
solutions. Optimistic thinking is essential for resilience which is the
ability to bounce back from setbacks.
Create Positive Relationships
need love and support but small children are biologically primed to seek
adult protection and they will become very agitated when they feel
abandoned or threatened. Children need to feel safe and protected, not
only at home, but in school and when playing with friends. A strong
sense of community not only helps to protect children but also provides a
secure base from which they can go forward to explore and experiment.
Discover and Develop Strengths
of us is unique and we are naturally drawn to do things which reflect
our skills and interests. Using our strengths is an appealing way to
build a sense of achievement; we enjoy both the process of doing the
task and the outcome. Using our strengths give us energy and a zest for
living. Becoming competent at something is a powerful motivator for
further efforts. Children often have limited opportunities to use their
strengths if they are too heavily focused on challenging, fast paced
school work and the accompanying homework. Children need a balance
between this adult-directed learning and the time to follow their own
interests and develop their strengths.
Talk about Effort Rather than Ability
is a skill which like a muscle grows as a result of practice. Adopting a
growth mindset encourages effort and practice and when faced with a
challenge a child will set about solving the problem. Traditional
psychology with its emphasis on intelligence testing has encouraged a
fixed mindset which encourages the belief that ability has a ceiling and
challenges may be a sign of being out of your depth. Professor Carol
Dweck’s research has shown that children adopting a growth mindset make
more progress than those with a fixed mindset.
Learn Something Challenging but Worthwhile
may have read about the 10,000 hours it takes to develop expertise with a
chosen skill. The original research was with violinists but it applies
to other complex skills too. It takes real energy and commitment to
learn a complex skill and you are unlikely to persevere unless you are
passionately interested in what you are doing. On a smaller scale,
having a hobby which is compelling creates that sense of meaning and
purpose the experience of practice gives you satisfaction and hooks you
in. Life satisfaction often comes from those hard won successes and you
can never start too early or in too small a way.
Lose Track of Time
Deep and focused
attention is a powerful skill which absorbs us completely and makes time
stand still. Young children experience this in their play and athletes
and experts do too while training or using their skill. Psychologists
term this experience 'flow' and it is a vital skill for maintaining
involvement when doing something difficult. Play is an ideal way to
encourage children to experience flow and for older children dancing,
sport and music can be easy ways into flow.
Set Compelling Goals
have an idea of what they want from their future are happier and more
successful. The very act of considering the future is a sign of
self-awareness which is healthy. Short term goals are equally important
encouraging children to set themselves challenges and monitor their
progress. Keep it simple and realistic. Too many or too complex a set of
goals can rebound and end in disappointment.
Being a child is
not an easy ride. Emotions run at full pelt and emotional insecurity is
the brain’s default position unless sensitive adults support and
protect. If that was not enough to contend, with there is also so much
to learn that it can be sometimes over whelming for children who feel
anxious and frightened of failure. So focusing on what is going well is
vital. If you haven’t tried the 3 Good Things before this is what you
do: take it in turns to talk about 3 things that have happened today
which you are grateful for. Your choices can be personal achievements,
pleasant experiences, acts of kindness given or received, beautiful
things you have seen which gave you pleasure - the possibilities are
endless. Strangely some people find this difficult to do despite the
wide range of possibilities. This can happen when you are primed to look
out for dangers and disappointments and the new way of looking at the
world can take time to learn. It’s worth persevering.
We tend to take
our mind and mental well-being for granted in a way we would not do with
our physical health. Mindfulness is the practice of being still and
fully present in the moment which allows us to slow down and reduce
stress. Mindfulness meditation practice can be valuable for adults and
some teens. A simple way to encourage mindfulness for younger children
is to find activities which absorb their complete attention without
being mentally taxing. Slowly stroking a pet, concentrating on the
softness of the fur; kicking your way through autumn leaves looking at
the colours and textures; skimming stones on a pond and watching the
ripples form all these activities encourage awareness of the detail of
our immediate experience. I’m sure you can think of many more.
Jeni Hooper is a Child and educational psychologist specialising in
helping children to find their best selves and to flourish. Her book.
'What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step
Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish' is published by Jessica
Kingsley Publishers and can be viewed here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Children-Happy-Confident-Successful/dp/1849052395/ref=tmm_pap_title_0