For at least five years now we have been teaching Well-Being at St. Helen's College and in doing this we are ahead of the general trend. Some years ago, I attended a series of courses at Wellington College on Well-Being which featured the big names in this area, like Martin Seligman, Felicia Huppert and, of course, Anthony Seldon, the Head of Wellington.
On one occasion I happened to sit next to a psychologist who had written a course on positive psychology for children that she wanted to pilot. At the time there was no written material for Well-Being, but just lots of ideas. I therefore volunteered to trial her course and we have now run it at St. Helen's College ever since, with Year 5.
This term in Positive Psychology the children have been looking at Positive Meaning, which is one aspect of happiness. This is where one does kind acts for others. The Year 5 children began with kind acts for each other and this week their task was to do a kind act for their community, such as doing something for a neighbour, or old person or giving some of their possessions to charity. They then had to write about it in their Positive Well-Being Journal.
They wrote about what they did and how it made them feel, which in all cases was very happy, but the happiness of their neighbours or old people who benefited may well have been even greater. We don't, as a rule, go out of our way to do little kindnesses for people who we don't come across in our everyday life, so what the children have done is to create links with people who may be lonely or sad and this may touch them in a very meaningful way. Lots of children spoke about the happiness on the faces of those for whom they had baked cakes, made a card or chatted to about their lives, which in turn caused the children to feel happy.
The other aspect of the article was the development into Mindfulness, which we have now practised at St. Helen's College for two years. Again we are ahead of the trend because we teach PawsB in Year 4, which looks at the brain as well as aspects of Mindfulness, and then in Year 6 we teach the .b course which was intended for secondary children, but which is fine for our Year 6 and is slightly different in the way that it presents the material.
It is interesting that the two School Council projects that the children chose for this term were visiting old people at Sweetcroft Old People's Home and the creation of a Zen Garden. These two choices represent the Well-Being and Mindfulness aspects of their curriculum, and may show that the children really do appreciate the aspects of caring for others and learning to be still. In the latest School Council notes the Year 2 children have asked if they could sit in the Zen Garden for five minutes before coming in from lunchtime play to calm themselves down before afternoon school! There is also a long queue of children who want to come on our fortnightly visits to Sweetcroft Old People's Home.
One of our three aims at St. Helen's College is to develop the spirituality and good character of the children and I hope that our courses in Well-Being, as well as the general ethos of the school, will teach the children that happiness is within, and not something to be acquired through external situations or possessions.
Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.
True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
It is neither wealth nor splendour; but tranquillity and occupation which give you happiness.
If you want to be happy, be.