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Roland Martin - Issue #48


Roland Martin

March 21 · Issue #48 · 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

Headmaster’s Assembly 20.iii.17: relate; find meaning; achieve. #wellbeing #emotionalhealth

I began Monday morning assembly by alluding to that date being the International day of Happiness … serendipitous that it coincides with the last of this tri-partite series of school assemblies.
Assembly 3/3
Concluding a reflection inspired by clinical psychologist, Dr Hazel Harrison’s talk at The Society of Heads’ annual conference, let’s look at the last three letters of the P.E.R.M.A. acronym.
The ‘r’ stands for relationships, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the biggest predictors of physical and mental health. Our relationships with others help us to build resilience and constitute one of the biggest predictors of long-term happiness. When relationships are healthy this nurtures positive well-being. Conversely, it is well documented, not least by Matthew Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger, that social pain – for example social exclusion - hurts just like physical pain. 
Social/Physical pain
You will have heard the term ‘emotional intelligence’ and you may or may not know that strong EI is a very good predictor of success later on in life. You may have heard me say before that one of the qualities which I would always hope to nurture in young people is compassion; by learning empathy, we can improve our emotional intelligence. Dr Brené Brown explains empathy brilliantly in this animation.
Only connect ...
There is a really key bit of learning here: you don’t have to worry about what you say when someone needs you; you just have to connect with how they are feeling. ‘Only connect’! [Dr Brown develops her ideas further in this TED talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’]
From Mindful to Meaningful
The ‘m’ stands for meaning. Dr Martin Seligman, cited in the first of these reflections, wrote of the importance of ‘belonging to or serving something that is bigger than yourself’ as being crucial to a positive sense of wellbeing. This is why belonging to clubs, serving the community through – for example - volunteering, being involved in a Church or youth group, playing sport for a team, being in an orchestra, are all really good ways of improving our sense of wellbeing. A sense of belonging is a key mental health concept and finding areas where we can use our strengths, share our values and find a purpose are really important for us. Another good way of cultivating a sense of meaning is by intentionally doing something good for someone else. Conscious acts of kindness can be a really good way of generating positive wellbeing. In the run up to Christmas, I signed up to the Bible Society’s ‘Advent Challenge’ which sent you a task to try to attempt each day – it may have been buying a coffee for someone who was homeless, considering a donation to a charity, paying someone a compliment or even being a courteous driver. It was interesting to note how much I really did look forward to those emails first thing in the morning!
How to achieve it all
Finally, the ‘a’ stands for achievement. Probably the expert on achievement is a woman called Carol Dweck who has carried out some pioneering research on something that has become a bit of a buzzword in education over the last couple of years: Growth Mindset, a term she coined. Essentially, the concept of growth mindset is that everyone/anyone through effort and practice can develop a skill. Essentially, all of us could stack cups like Austin Naber if we put our minds to it and spent the time practising.
How to fail
One caveat with which to end: I think that it’s really important for us all to acknowledge something as we are striving for better emotional health and wellbeing. The thing to acknowledge is, we all fail. Can’t get away from this one. BUT, we all learn from these failings. AND failure doesn’t make you a bad person.
Those of you who have come up through Mr Robinson’s Junior School may remember that he often uses the word ‘yet’.
‘I can’t do long division.’
‘You can’t do long division, yet.’
Yet is a powerful word and one we ought to use frequently if we want to build positive emotional health.
Practise being emotionally healthy
Looking after your mental health – like stacking cups - is a skill. It takes practice. Reflect, be empathetic, show gratitude and take time to practice.
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