We all know that to keep physically healthy we have to exercise and eat well, but what about maintaining our mental health? This Mental Health Awareness Week we take time to outline how, just like our body, our mind needs care and conditioning too. According to research by the New Economics Foundation, there are five key ‘ways to wellbeing’: connect, be active, keep learning, take notice and give. We also know that a happy school includes both happy students and happy teachers. With the help of some excellent resources from Education Support we cover how you can apply the five ways to wellbeing in your own lives and, with some of our top resources here on Global Dimension, how you can spread this positivity to your students.
Connecting is all about giving ourselves the opportunity to create and sustain meaningful relationships with the people around us. This includes, friends, partners, family, colleagues and everyone in between. This can start with a simple conversation, that text you’ve been meaning to send, the meet-up you’ve been meaning to plan or making a new random acquaintance on the street. Relationships both new and old give us joy and strength- it's important we all remember to nourish them.
For teachers, Education Support offers a guide on how to have great workplace relationships. For students, check out our class activity where students are encouraged to adopt different characters and find connections between them.
2: Be Active
It’s amazing the wonders that a quick walk or run will do. After no time at all, suddenly those fresh endorphins make everything seem a little easier. We don’t have to spend hours in the gym or on the football field either. Sometimes taking a slightly longer walking route will do the trick. Bonus points too if you get active through a forest. Studies have shown that increased oxygen levels and the hormones secreted by trees have measurable effects on our wellbeing and stress levels.
It can be hard fitting in exercise with a busy teaching schedule; this article from the Guardian surveys teachers for recommendations on how they make time for exercise whilst teaching. Groundwork’s Urban Nature Challenge is also great for getting students out and about in their local area whilst learning about the natural world and their own wellbeing.
3: Take Notice
In a bustling, busy life it is so easy to go into autopilot. Yet, according to the NEF’s report, studies have shown that awareness of the present and one’s surroundings ‘noticeably enhances wellbeing’. This can be taking the time to look around on a walk or in the classroom. Think to yourself: what is the weather like, the clouds, the trees outside, the food I’m eating, the people I’m with? This is about savouring the little moments, and it can make all the difference to your day.
A great way to practise awareness is to make notes about our experiences or to observe and draw our surroundings. Education Support offers a guide on meditation for teachers which is another powerful tool for enhancing our focus on the present. ThoughtBox Education’s Awe and Wonder curriculum is an amazing resource that aims to teach students to have an emotional connection to the beautiful world around us.
4: Keep learning
It can be hard as educators to make time for ourselves to keep on learning. However, maintaining a consistent curiosity about the world around us helps everything to feel fresh, new and exciting. Learning can take many forms from a quick Wikipedia dive to a podcast, a conversation with a knowledgeable person or learning a new skill at an evening class. This kind of learning is about freely following your own curiosity - a skill for everyone, students and teachers alike.
Here’s a good starting place for ideas on how to give your curiosity a boost as an adult. For students, check out our own activity about curiosity where students are encouraged to explore the intricacies of global problems.
We all know that giving a good present can sometimes be as pleasurable as receiving one. However, giving is something that can boost our mental health at any time of the year. Making a commitment to altruistic behaviour makes us feel better at the same time as strengthening our relationships with those around us. Giving can be a small act of kindness for a stranger, a moment of care for a friend or joining a community group.
Education support offers a useful guide for how teachers can look after themselves and fellow colleagues in the workplace by building networks of care and understanding. For students, our own pack on developing compassionate values aims to introduce students to acts of kindness, and empathic action.