Wellbeing in the workplace and in schools is currently growing in popularity throughout the UK and across the globe. More and more companies, schools and organisations are investing in the wellbeing of their staff and students. Positive psychological practices and interventions are starting to be used more and more in both workplaces and schools. Positive psychology is the science of optimal functioning – I love that term ‘optimal functioning’. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we all learned how to function daily at an optimal level, imagine the possibilities for a moment?
In the past no one dicussed mental health or wellbeing and there certainly wasn’t the opportunity to take part in wellbeing practices in schools or in the workplace. This was an area people had to figure out for themselves, yet today we are starting to understand the impact good mental health and wellbeing has on individuals. So how can we promote wellbeing?
As an Assistant Principal in a school in inner city Liverpool we are working very hard to provide both our staff and students with opportunities to look after and improve their own mental health and wellbeing. One of the ways we do this is through our termly Wellness Weeks.
During Wellness Week students and staff are given the opportunity to discuss mental health, explore new practices that can improve wellbeing and take part in a variety of wellbeing activities. During our Wellness Weeks this year staff and students have the opportunity to try Yoga or Tai Chi before and after school, these are mixed sessions which have proved very popular throughout our school community. We have health checks available so staff and students can check their blood pressure, BMI and weight and receive expert advice from health and wellbeing practicioners. From our fitness suite we move our exercise bikes and place them in the main reception area and give everyone the chance to take part in the one minute exercise challenge to see how fast you can cycle in one minute – we have a score board and the fastest individual gets a prize at the end of the week in each year group and among the staff – this always creates a lot of excitement and competition during our breaks and lunchtimes.
Our staff have the opportunity to have a massage, this is a favourite amoungst the teachers and something staff have requested we have more regularly. We have mindfulness meditation available every morning and we invite meditation experts into school to do masterclasses during Wellness Week. In our refectory we have healthy breakfasts and lunches for staff and students encouraging our whole community to think carefully about the food they consume on a daily basis. We hold masterclasses showing our students and staff how to make healthy juice drinks and encourage everyone in the school to do random acts of kindness all week.
At the end of every school day during wellness week students and staff spend 5 minutes reflecting on their day and identify three good things about their day or three things they are grateful for. A firm favourite with our students is when the Principal allows us to hijack to tanoy system and play music to the whole school during our break times. Students decide the playlist and the only stipulation I have is that the message must be a positive one. Staff receive daily health quotes in the morning via email and they share the daily quotes with students and we give out free gym passes as prizes all week.
I love Wellness Week in school and I hope staff and students love it as much as I do. It gives us all a chance to remind ourselves that life is about enjoying what we do and being happy. It reminds everyone that we have to make time in our lives to stop, to smile and to enjoy the simple things in life and that by taking part in little things like this we can not only make ourselves feel better and happier but we can help others feel the same. I always say to my students, we all impact each others lives every day and we have a responsibility to think carefully about how our actions, our words and our behaviour can affect others. We have to choose to have a positive impact on other people’s lives and no longer can we leave our mental health and wellbeing to chance – we have to incorporate it into our schools, workplaces and communities to give everyone in life a chance to be improve their own levels of happiness and wellbeing. My ideal school would certainly have termly Wellness Weeks for staff and students because if I really want my staff and students to function at an optimal level to achieve the best results, then looking after them and promoting positive emotion and wellbeing is the only way of achieving this.