Historically psychologists have dealt with mental health deficiency or mental illness.
One pioneer, Martin Seligman, recognized that the absence of metal illbeing was not the same as mental wellbeing; if you remove unhappiness you don’t get happiness. Thus began the science of positive psychology, a proactive area of mental health designed to help an individual to flourish.
What is Flourishing?
To flourish is to find fulfillment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life” (Seligman, 2011). Flourishing as an individual means feeling good and living a life that feels meaningful and impacts the community around you for the greater good. It is not the absence of emotions like fear, anxiety or jealousy that might be considered negative emotions nor is does flourishing mean you are happy all the time. When an individual is flourishing they are experiencing more positive emotions (love, joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe) and shorten the rumination over negative ones.
How do you learn the skills required to Flourish?
Until recently, learning how to flourish was left to chance. Psychologists or counselors sometimes helped. Religion, yoga, or deep conversations held in salons by academics might touch on some of the topics that fall under this umbrella. The problem with leaving wellbeing to chance is there’s a greater chance that it won’t happen than it will.
Researchers now agree (for the most part) on PERMA or PERMA-H being part of the equation to optimal wellbeing.
P = positive emotions (experience more of them intentionally)
E = engagement (immersion in a task, job, or hobby you love)
R = relationships (a sense of belonging and support to and from family, peers, and friends)
M = meaning (understanding the deeper why behind your actions or why you are on this planet)
A =accomplishment (having ambition and goals)
H= health (enough sleep, exercise & nutrition)
This is where positive education plays a key role.
What Exactly is Positive Education?
Most simply put, positive education puts wellbeing at the heart of education.
It started almost ten years ago at Geelong Grammar School, just south of Melbourne (which is where I am as I write this). Best practice teaching combined with positive psychology to embed the skills of positive psychology across an entire school organization from top to bottom. The GGS model has created a common language, a culture, and way to help students, educators, and community members like parents and support staff to thrive.
Positive education is what happens when you teach the entire organization of a school to flourish.
Evidence is showing that positive education programs decrease stress while increasing self-esteem, optimism and self-efficacy. Students who are flourishing exercise resilience and are more engaged in their learning. But it’s not just about the students. Teachers have the highest reported stress levels of any career including first-responders and physicians or nurses. Positive education helps teachers too. By using the PERMA H model the whole school learns and lives differently.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing resources (from reading lists to worksheet downloads) to help your school get started. If you want to make sure you get access to these, please join the Positive Minds International mailing list and join our growing group of people making a difference in the wellbeing of children.