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Roland Martin - Issue #47


Roland Martin

March 14 · Issue #47 · View online

Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London; Chair - Society of Heads - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

Be grateful; be present; just be.

Well-being Assembly #2
Last week, I spoke a little about mental health and well-being and how we can take some simple steps to learn the skill of looking after our mental health in the same way that we could – like Austin Naber – become phenomenal at stacking cups if we learned that skill.
Dr Harrison used an acronym, P.E.R.M.A. to go through some of the things that we can do to learn the skill of developing better mental health. We will look at the ‘P’ and the ‘E’ this week.
The ‘P’, stands for positive emotion. If we can be positive emotionally, this will impact on our physical health, it will help us to build relationships and it will nurture a sense of optimism in us. Dr Harrison was careful to suggest that we will never be happy all the time and in fact we need those negative emotions like anxiety, anger and sadness. They warn us of threats or challenges with which we may need to deal, potentially alerting us to possible danger. Anger warns us that someone is crossing a boundary and can be a signal that we might need to act on our own behalf. Negative emotions focus our awareness. They help us to zero in on a problem so we can deal with it. But obviously, too many negative emotions can be overwhelming. I found some quite good learning on the purpose of emotions on the ‘Verywell’ website:
Dr Harrison spoke about ‘authentic happiness’ and nurturing an abundance of positive emotion, because when we have an abundance of positive emotion, our minds broaden. She asserted that gratitude is key here – we should foster an appreciation of everything around us. There is some good learning on this topic, with Harvard Health publishing a really interesting article on this back in 2011 which encourages us to thank people, count our blessings and pray or meditate. There is also a good Huffington Post digest that is worth looking through.
Be thankful
The Harvard Health article mentions keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ recording each day what went well, what it means to you and how to get more of it. There is loads of research that has been done on gratitude journals and they are seen as being the most effective strategy for increasing your level of gratitude; they have a particularly positive impact on young people. Typically, people list three to five things for which they are grateful; my wife habitually does this quite simply with our daughter, asking her what her ‘three best things of the day’ are, just before she goes to bed. The important thing is to establish the daily practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and ideally to write them down. Robert Emmons, who is the leading expert on the importance and power of gratitude, suggests that the act of writing ‘allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.’ So, my challenge of the week for you all is to notice the things going well in your life; I am going to try to get staff and parents to do likewise. Give it a go and see what you think.
Be engaged
The ‘e’ stands for engagement. You might be as surprised as I was to learn that we spend 48% of time thinking about things we are not doing in any current moment. A central concept that helps our mental health and well-being is the idea of being present in the here and now. I think musicians are particularly good at this as they fully engage with a piece that they are playing but it is certainly transferable to other areas of life. One of the other speakers at the Society of Heads’ conference the other week was an explorer called Mark Wood, who in 2011 travelled solo to the South Geographic and the North Geographic Poles consecutively; I am hoping that we might be able to get him to speak to you here at some point in the future.
Just be
When he was asked what he did when he got to his final destination at the North Pole at the end of the expedition, he said ‘I did nothing for several minutes.’ His message was that he didn’t want to clutter the moment by taking a selfie or filming or doing anything at all; he just wanted to be, to breathe it in and to enjoy it. Multi tasking, by the way is over-rated – and it is very, very tiring for your brains.
Find your flow
Essentially, the practice of being in the moment is called finding your ‘flow’ or ‘mindfulness’.
One way that you can practically engage with your well-being is through the Via Character website which has a really interesting survey where you can find your character strengths.  Or, through the trackyourhappiness app which sprung out of Dr Matt Killingworth’s doctoral research at Harvard.
I do hope to hear some feedback on what you are grateful for over the next few days and weeks.
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