What does wellbeing mean to you? Is wellbeing something you do or something you have? I suspect that for many of us wellbeing is something we hope for but are not sure how to make happen on a daily basis. Sonya Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness tells us that 40% of our happiness comes from what we do, rather than our genes or what happens to us. We can make a difference by what we choose to do.
The 5 a day for wellbeing is a great way to get the happiness habit.
5 a day for wellbeing was devised by The New Economics Foundation which researches the “new model of wealth creation, based on equality, diversity and economic stability”. How the economy impacts on wellbeing is core to their work. The 5 a day for wellbeing was launched in 2008 and can be read here
The 5 a day diet
1. Connect: first of all other people matter, children want to spend quality time with the people they care about with family, friends, and neighbours. These relationships are the cornerstones of a happy life and need time to develop and nurture. Building these connections will support and enrich a child’s life. In a busy world the time for love and friendships need to be protected from the intrusion of work/school, travel, shopping/cleaning, and homework. How can children be confident of having time with and being listened to by close family members? What routines in your family protect time together? Is it a daily mealtime? Story time? The chat you have about the day? How can you help to make time for their friends if playing out after school isn’t a practical possibility?
2. Be active: an active life is good for both physical health and for emotional wellbeing as moderate exercise releases endorphins. Children need an hour a day of activity which makes them slightly breathless. So go for a brisk walk or run. Get out that bike. Play a game. Visit a park or get out in the garden. If it is wet and cold you could always dance around the house. Exercising makes you feel good so help children discover a range of physical activities they enjoy so they can do something every day.
3. Take notice: encourage children to notice, appreciate and be mindful of all experience. Encourage curiousity, asking questions and appreciating the world around them. “What is that?” “How does that work?” Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Encourage children to savour each moment, be aware of what is happening now and what they are feeling. Reflecting on experiences will help a child appreciate what matters to them.
4. Value learning: for children learning can become a chore or something that is unending. When a child doesn’t get the chance to stop and appreciate what they have learnt so far it can undermine their confidence, all they see are the tasks ahead. it’s vital to celebrate achievements large and small. Focus on the CAN DO List rather than the TO DO list. Discover a child’s strengths and ensure they have the chance to use them. Use positive and constructive praise to let a child know what has gone well whether it was the effort they made or the result. Learning new things will create confidence as well as being fun.
5. Give: children love to get involved with things and make a contribution. It is fundamental to being human to take care of others but sometimes we see children as not being capable and restrict the ways they can contribute. Giving teaches children about the world around them. What do others need? How are people different from me? What can I do to help? Giving doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Help out around the house. Looking outwards, as well as inwards develops empathy. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
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