May 6, 2021 | By Holly Connelly and Erica Stine
“...each tiny move toward a more positive mindset can send ripples of positivity through our organizations, our families and our communities.”
After last year’s interminably long and lonely spring term being isolated from our students, and after doing some really captivating reading and research about happiness mentalities, we got together and brainstormed simple ways to allow students and faculty to reach out to each other, build community, and feel happier in the midst of this very challenging world-wide pandemic.
The idea of Wellness Wednesday was born, where every Wednesday homeroom teachers read aloud an idea for a skill or activity to foster happiness. It’s a stress-free and simple way for teachers and students at ANC to learn skills and practice activities that we hope will send ripples of positivity through our own community.
The Wellness Wednesday activities draw heavily from two sources. The first is Shawn Achor, an expert in the field of positive psychology, whose book The Happiness Advantage convincingly lays out researched and proven ways to increase our happiness through such things as service to others and mindfulness, which in turn increases our creativity, focus, intelligence, productivity, health, and even longevity. The other is LG’s Experience Happiness initiative, which is a web-based program that was developed to help teens cope with daily stressors and bring happiness to their lives. They believe that sustainable happiness is attainable through learning and using happiness skills. These happiness skills center around the concepts of mindfulness, human connection, gratitude, positive outlook, purpose and generosity. This free online resource provides articles, activities, stories and playlists that support each of the happiness skills.
These methods for increasing happiness were especially inspiring to us, because many of them tie in closely with the New Church’s ideas of the doctrine of use. In Arcana Coelestia, n. 1103, we read, “...the sole purpose for which a person is born is that he may perform a use to the community he is in, and to his neighbour.” Both Shawn Achor and LG’s Experience Happiness initiative highlight generosity or prosocial behavior as an important behavior for spreading happiness to both the receiver and the giver, and increasing feelings of connectedness. It makes sense that generosity would foster both happiness and connection, as it links directly with being useful, which is our purpose in life! Connectedness and usefulness is something many of us have felt severely deprived of this past year, which has brought into stark relief how essential it is to us all.
We’re excited to see that both teachers and students are finding ways to incorporate skills learned during Wellness Wednesday into activities both in and outside of the classroom. For example, after a breathing exercise activity during winter term exams, a homeroom teacher told us: “[We’ve] been loving the wellness [ideas]! Thanks! We did the breathing thing this morning and it helped us ALL.”
We hope to continue this Wellness Wednesday practice, and believe it’s one of the many good things to come out of the hardships experienced this past year.
If you’d like to join our community in this fun practice, check out ANC’s weekly instagram and Facebook stories -we’d love the company!
Some examples of students participating in previous Wellness Wednesday ideas:
Students are encouraged to focus on the positive by writing down three good things that happened each day and by taking pictures that show things that hold meaning for them.
Students were challenged to spend time outside each day as an easy way to elevate their mood and lower stress hormones.