How can we support “wellness” for high school students?

img_1130I’ve been teaching high school English Language Arts in the province of Alberta, Canada, for the past 14 years. In 2009, Alberta Education developed a definition of wellness which states :

Wellness is a balanced state of emotional, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual well-being that enables students to reach their full potential in the school community. Personal wellness occurs with commitment to lifestyle choices based on healthy attitudes and actions.  (2015, Alberta Education,   Framework for K to 12 Wellness Education  )

Alberta Education has divided Wellness into five categories,

  1. emotional wellness,
  2. social wellness,
  3. intellectual wellness,
  4. physical wellness
  5. spiritual wellness

In the past number of years, I’ve been working with my teaching colleagues on wellness initiatives that address each of these categories within high school classrooms, which for me included incorporating meditation and self-reflection into my English courses.  The heart of wellness education is not just for students to learn about the concepts of wellness, but to create a culture of wellness where students can have experiences and opportunities to practice making choices that are good for their health.  This clear focus on Wellness Education inspired me to step outside the classroom and create a 25 day online speaker summit, LIT FROM WITHIN: Connecting teens to their own inner resources for success in school AND life, which was available in October 2016. LIT FROM WITHIN directly addresses  the questions faced by high school youth and their parents as they reach for a life of making healthy decisions.  Here are each of the five categories of wellness as they are defined by Alberta Education, with the questions I’ve posed in the interviews on LIT FROM WITHIN.

Emotional wellness is acknowledging, understanding, managing and expressing thoughts and feelings in a constructive manner.

  • Do you hate spending time alone because of the thoughts in your head?
  • Wishing you were prettier/taller/stronger/cooler?
  • Are you tying yourself in knots trying to think your way into feeling differently?
  • Which is worse: the guilt of cheating, or the shame of not feeling like you’re enough?
  • Are you willing to break down your fears and learn about yourself?
  • Do you have ALL THE SELF CONFIDENCE YOU COULD EVER WANT?
  • Feeling overwhelmed or anxious?
  • What is meditation, and how can it help me?
  • Are you tying yourself in knots trying to think your way into feeling differently?

Social Wellness is relating positively to others and is influenced by many factors including how individuals communicate, establish and maintain relationships, are treated by others and interpret that treatment.

  • Does everyone else’s life on Facebook and Twitter look better than yours?
  • Are you wondering how to find a mentor?
  • Have you been world schooling without knowing it?
  • Do you have the travel bug?
  • Are you tired of people asking what you’re going to do after high school?

Intellectual Wellness is the development and the critical and creative use of the mind to its fullest potential.

  • Do you have great ideas but struggle to get things done?
  • Do you know that there are scientific reasons that teens still need their parents?
  • What kind of person do you want to be on, and off the web?
  • How can we set limits for our technology use, and why would we want to?
  • How do we go from knowing something to ACTUALLY doing it?
  • What are you curious about? Do you even know HOW to be curious?
  • Why are so many “successful” people so miserable…and how to avoid that trap!
  • Are you waiting to get out of school and into the “real world”?
  • Study-distraction-stress, how do I get out of this cycle?
  • How do I move closer to my goals?
  • What is actually happening in my brain when I learn?
  • Do you every feel like your brain has been hijacked and you’re doing things that just “aren’t you”?

Physical Wellness is the ability, motivation and confidence to move effectively and efficiently in a variety of situations, and the healthy growth, development, nutrition and care of the body.

  • What is sugar doing to your body and mind?
  • How can you actually develop self-compassion for your body?

Spiritual wellness is an understanding of one’s own values and beliefs leading to a sense of meaning or purpose and a relationship to the community.

  • What story do you believe about yourself?
  • What is possible in the midst of your difficulty?
  • What lights you up? What inspires you?
  • When did you feel like you were at your best?
  • Why is passion so important for young leaders?
  • How can I learn to trust myself to make decisions from the heart?

Through the 25 days of LIT FROM WITHIN, participants not only learned about the brain science of adolescence, and immersed themselves in a culture of inspiration and strategies to develop confidence in making healthy choices, they also had 5 different mindful meditation experiences as a way to kick-start a life-long practice of cultivating a sense of wellbeing.

Gratitudeworks is committed to developing support and resources for teens, parents, and teachers to develop a culture of wellness in the lives of individuals, within families, and in classrooms.

Book a 15 minute strategy call today to get one step closer to THRIVING in high school!