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1-250-514-8459 tamara@posminds.com
World Leaders in Positive Education Announce 2019 Launch of Canadian Office

World Leaders in Positive Education Announce 2019 Launch of Canadian Office

Justin Robinson (IPE Director), Tamara Lechner (Canadian Regional Manager), Ron Lalonde (Middle East Regional Manager), David Bott (IPE Associate Director)

As the mental health of individuals continues to be of growing concern globally, the Institute of Positive Education prioritizes sharing its rigorous, research based programs around the world.

The Institute of Positive Education is internationally acclaimed as a leader in the field, providing positive psychology-based interventions and practices in a school setting. Partnering with the ‘founding father’ of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, the Geelong Grammar School team established the field of positive education and created the groundbreaking Learn, Live, Teach, Embed model.  Geelong Grammar School first became the world-leader in delivering evidence-based programs, then forming the Institute of Positive Education (2014) and launching International incubators in Canada and the Middle East (2018).

 The IPE continues to grow its impact in inspiring and supporting schools to discover and implement Positive Education.  In 2018, they delivered 124 training courses comprising 208 training days, which were attended by over 6000 participants.  To meet the increasing demand, the Institute team has doubled in size and created designated teams in training, research, and business development.  Whilst continuing to deliver a range of open-entry courses and workshops, the IPE is increasingly working directly with individual schools to provide whole-school training and in-depth, long-term consultancy to facilitate customized whole-school Positive Education implementation strategies.

The Institute of Positive Education (IPE) is pleased to announce the launch of our Canadian regional incubator as well as the appointment of wellbeing expert, Tamara Lechner, in the role of regional consultant.

 Tamara is a Canadian entrepreneur, educator, writer & speaker whose wellbeing expertise has focused on  positive psychology, meditation, and positive habit formation in schools, corporate settings and for individuals. Her deep belief is that happiness happens by choice, not by chance.

Starting in 2019 the Institute of Positive Education will offer an introductory suite of workshops across Canada. Stay tuned for our launch tour and course listings for the year ahead. 

Positive Education in a Nutshell

Positive Education in a Nutshell

 

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.

Did You Know You Can Measure Wellbeing?

Did You Know You Can Measure Wellbeing?

The world has become data driven. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter. But for those working in fields like mental health, education, human resources and psychology, there hasn’t been a clear way to measure both the strengths and weaknesses of either an individual or an organization. Of course there are clinical resources like the DSM-5, PANAS, DASS, and Kessler-10, but these were all designed for clinical or research settings. And none of these measured wellbeing in a way that allowed proactive intervention.

But now, there is an evidence-based measurement (and intervention!) tool that works.

For Schools- FAS (Flourishing at School)

The FAS software platform includes the Flourishing Profile survey. This 62 item measure is a leading indicator of mental health, useful for proactive wellbeing interventions at both an individual and collective level. The approach is consistent with the other partnership we have at Positive Minds International the Geelong Grammar School Model for Positive Education (2013).

Instead of seeking to identify those who are “at risk” or already distressed, the Flourishing Profile survey uses a positive psychology approach to assess the degree to which individuals have developed the “pillars” of wellbeing. These pillars are commonly referred to by the acronym “PERMA”, which stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement (or flow), Positive Relationships, Meaningfulness, and Accomplishment. Consistent with Geelong Grammar model, the survey also measures Positive Health (nutrition, exercise, and sleep).

The online survey can be taken in about 15 minutes and enables objective assessment of the success of wellbeing interventions. It can also be used to benchmark wellbeing against whole school, cohort, sex and cohort AND sex specific normative samples. It is suitable for secondary students (ages 11-18+) and staff of all ages. Individual results for students are available to the school administrator in order to inform proactive and insightful pastoral care interactions.

Flourishing at School is more than just a measurement tool. It is a complete solution for wellbeing improvement for students and staff. It includes comprehensive administration instructions, tips on whole-of-school implementation, student specific feedback and wellbeing goal setting features, self-development resources (different resources suitable for student and staff users), and full lesson plans for classroom interventions.

For University Students- Flourish Dx (University)

The current approach to mental health in a collegiate setting is largely reactive, targeting the estimated one in six students who have a diagnosable mental illness (Eisenber et al, 2013). Student counselling services are commonly reported to be struggling to keep up with the demand on their time by distressed students.

FlourishDx allows for data-driven proactive mental health intervention at both an individual and collective level. The smartphone first application (it also is compatible with web/tablet), contains two measures: the Flourish Survey (a short version of the school-based Flourishing Profile survey which includes measures of PERMA+Sleep), and a psycho-social risk factors survey (including common student stressors such as study load, relationships, knowledge of and access to services etc.).

The solution also contains a strong educational component with more than 30 video modules covering a range of topics related to both mental health and sleep health. Students can use their results to identify priorities to maintain or optimize wellbeing, with almost two dozen evidence based activities contained within the app. There is also audio based guided meditations such as mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation to quickly address elevated stress levels.

To keep students engaged in the app, there is a “Mental Fitness” coach bot, that will regularly prompt students to check in and feed them relevant information and resources suitable for their wellbeing needs, and interests.

FlourishDx is a preventative approach to mental health for university students. The goal is to keep individuals well, assist to optimize wellbeing, reduce the load on student counselling services, inform campus-based wellbeing interventions, and increase the likelihood that individuals will seek professional assistance if there is a need.

For Corporations- Flourish Dx (Corporate)

Mental health is a growing concern globally. The World Health Organisation believes that unipolar depression will become the number one cause of the global disease burden by 2030. Positive Minds International is bringing Jason van Schie, People Diagnostix Managing Director, to North America in January 2019 to help spread the word that wellbeing is measurable and impacted by your actions.

“Traditionally mental health has been focused on the identification and treatment of illness. However, this is akin to only dealing with heart disease once someone has had a stroke. Like physical health, more needs to be done on prevention if we expect to see reductions on mental illness prevalence, and its burden on individuals, families and the broader community”.

FlourishDx allows for data-driven proactive mental health intervention at both an individual and corporation/department level. The smartphone first application (it also is compatible with web/tablet), contains two measures: the Flourish Survey (a short version of the school-based Flourishing Profile survey which includes measures of PERMA+Sleep), and a Work Design survey (including common workplaces stressors such as workload, role clarity, autonomy, support, justice etc.).

The solution also contains three eLearning programs covering important topics including mental health, sleep health, and fatigue risk management. These can be pushed and monitored by the FlourishDx workplace administrator as well as being explored by employees on an as needs basis”,

Employees can use their Flourish Profile survey results to identify priorities to maintain or optimize wellbeing, with almost two dozen evidence based activities contained within the app. There is also audio based guided meditations such as mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation to quickly address elevated stress levels.

To keep individuals engaged in the app, there is a “Mental Fitness” coach bot, that will regularly prompt workers to check in and feed them relevant information and resources suitable for their wellbeing needs, and interests.

FlourishDx is a preventative approach to mental health for workers The goal is to keep individuals well, assist to optimize wellbeing, inform workplace-wide and departmental mental health interventions, and increase the likelihood that individuals will seek professional assistance if there is a need.

 

 

 

Eisenberg, D., Hunt, J. & Speer, N. 2013. Mental health in American colleges and universities: variation across student subgroups and across campuses. J Nerv Ment Dis, 201, 60-7.

 

 

Why Well-Being at School is the Elephant in the Classroom

Why Well-Being at School is the Elephant in the Classroom

The Problem

We all know that well-being (social intelligence, mindfulness, self-regulation, grit, resilience, etc.) are important.  Mental health is the number one issue in schools today as identified by our teachers, principals, superintendents, directors of education and trustees according to the Ontario School Board in 2013.[1] The epidemic of anxiety, stress, and teen depression is alarming. We are expecting this generation of students to change the world, yet we aren’t giving them all the tools they will need to be successful.

Right now, many schools are making great strides towards changing this. Across Canada we see mindfulness programs introduced, growth mindset curriculum launched, and psychology topics like gratitude and grit being applauded and encouraged.

Despite these massive efforts, mental well-being remains a tricky topic. How much is needed? (More) If you talk about it too much can it make it worse rather than better? (Yes) Are some methods more effective than others? (Absolutely!)

Let’s start by defining exactly what’s needed. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

When an individual grows or develops in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment it’s called flourishing.

We’re aiming for well-being so students and staff can flourish.

Another Little Problem

Most schools are teaching tools. Gratitude is a tool. Growth mindset is a tool. Getting enough sleep is a mental health tool. Social capital is also a tool. But what if the students, and let’s face it the staff too, what if they are given the entire toolkit but they don’t have the blueprint to know what they are making with these tools?

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Abraham Maslow

 

It’s time to give both teachers and students a blueprint to go with their tools. Every problem doesn’t need a hammer.

 

One More Problem

Everyone wants to know how their child’s school ranks on standardized test scores and rankings like the Fraser Institute School Rankings for Canadian schools. School blogs, magazines, administration, students and their families all broadcast how many students got accepted to an Ivy school but nobody is talking about how many students, both those too overcome by their stress and depression to be successful and those coping with massive amount of depression, stress, and anxiety and still appearing successful,  are eventually falling prey to the lack of balance in their lives. Is it really success to land a place at Stanford or Harvard and drop out second semester? Is it a success to practice grit through med school only to have a massive breakdown and never practice medicine? Defining success to include well-being and balance is key. Research says that success and productivity drop off after 55 hours of work in a week. Many students, whose work includes not only their time in class and their homework but also their extra-curricular sports, clubs and volunteer hours are just depleted physically and mentally.

What Do Schools Need?

We cannot expect teachers to be experts at mental well-being. It wasn’t part of their bachelor’s degree in education curriculum and even if they have an area of professional development beyond their degree requirements, that only provides their students with a really useful tool. Without the entire school system continuing to teach these skills until they are embedded fully into a child’s default brain system, it just isn’t enough. It’s like watering a plant really well for one year and expecting it to thrive. Is it even the school’s role? Some believe that parents should be the primary source of well-being education. Let’s assume that we can all agree that kids with more positive emotion and less mental deficit are better students- they can be more engaged, focused, and successful (and research shows this is true). It would seem counterintuitive for schools to not deliver well-being education.

Well-Being education needs to be:

Measurable

When something is quantifiable it allows us to know if it is working. It stops time and dollars from being wasted on curriculum, speakers, and lessons that aren’t makinga positive impact. How can you measure well-being? Until recently it hasn’t really been easy to do unless your school is part of a research program or study. Who had time to measure and what exactly was being measured? Recent innovations like the Flourishing at School by People Diagnostic out of Australia are changing this. This innovative cloud-based software solution uses a survey as an indicator of mental health, useful for proactive wellbeing interventions at both an individual and collective level. uses a positive psychology approach to assess the degree to which individuals have developed the “pillars” of good mental health to stay well and optimise quality of life.

Proactive

Children can learn to recognize the difference between useful stress and dangerous levels of stress. They are quite capable of turning a negative downward spiral around. They are also able to form social connections with supportive peers and adults who can be mentors. Starting early teaching tools and providing a blueprint for mental wellness is important. School counselors are overwhelmed dealing with the problems and have very little time to help prevent the problems. If schools put well-being as one of the basic required skills for all students, we can prevent the epidemic of poor mental health from continuing.

Embedded

Conversations about mental health more public than ever. Movements like WE Day have made strides in taking topics that used to be hidden into mainstream media and everyday conversation. Talking about suicide, bullying, cutting, and eating disorders is no longer taboo yet talking alone isn’t enough. A whole school model like Geelong Grammar School’s Learn, Live, Teach, Embed model opens conversations, teaches science-backed skills and fosters wellness across an entire community. Until everyone across a campus (parents too) has the same language and understanding of wellness, the depth required to impact community mental health cannot be reached.

Individualized

Wellness is unique. Everyone’s blueprint is slightly different. There are seven domains proven to impact long-term happiness, success, and resilience according to recent research. The tools to boost an individual’s experience of each domain are universal. The blueprint, however, must be customized to match motivation, age, and habit formation tendency.

The problems around delivering well-being at school haven’t changed. But the number of tools available and experts willing to assist is growing. If your school needs help designing and implementing a program, ask for expert help from Positive Minds International and our team of experts or your local positive psychology practitioner.

 

 

[1] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/586814ae2e69cfb1676a5c0b/t/5894ceede58c62b3280ff685/1486147328328/Leading-Mentally-Health-Schools.pdf