Having a healthy mind contributes to a healthy body, and vice versa. Not feeling accepted and valued can have a detrimental impact on children's overall well-being. Nurturing their physical, emotional and social development enhances their ability to cultivate healthy relationships. Fostering an atmosphere of acceptance in the classroom can transform the school environment.
There is much that our teachers do to nurture students' minds and bodies, such as helping children differentiate between healthy and unhealthy lifestyle choices and understand the importance of getting adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise. We give children the opportunity to discuss these areas in lessons and ask any questions that they may have. We encourage students to have positive attitudes about body image and self-esteem, which minimises the likelihood that they will develop eating disorders, depression and other mental health concerns. Through positive experiences and by promoting self-love we help to make students feel empowered in their own skin. We teach them about how diverse human beings are, explaining that everyone is different and that this is something to appreciate.
Teachers also create a culture of kindness and mindfulness in the classroom - modelling behaviours that show children how to manage their emotions and demonstrate empathy toward others. They teach the skills in mindfulness that can help to build resilient children who are able to handle their emotions and experiences. It also shows them how to relax and take time out from difficult situations, and how to give their brains a chance to reset and reorder feelings and emotions. Early research suggests that such programmes may improve students' cognitive abilities, grades and relationship skills. Promoting kindness in the classroom can help children cope effectively not only with school-related stress but difficult situations at home. It gives them key tools to use throughout their lives when things may seem hard.
At OWIS, we recently had Health Week to give our students some additional insight on how to thrive physically and emotionally. One event, in particular, highlighted the importance of the connections between a healthy mind, healthy body and healthy relationships. This is a key point in the world of wellbeing that is getting greater traction in the research sphere. For that reason it was important to give students the opportunity to find out more about the links between the health of their minds as well as the health of their bodies.
Sarah Hass from International Counselling Singapore gave a presentation on relaxation and recognising and expressing emotions. First, she showed students how to do simple breathing exercises using their fingers. These techniques can be done anywhere, anytime, to help students relax. It is a skill that they can take with them throughout their lives.
Next, students looked at a series of images depicting a variety of emotions. They were invited to talk about their own emotional reactions to interactions with friends and their responses to different social settings. Students were asked to differentiate between various emotions and consider how those feelings caused them to react. Sarah assured them that it is natural and normal to experience both happy and sad emotions. She also ensured that students understood that it is good to talk about these emotions with friends and family members.
The next segment of the discussion delved deeper into the nature of emotions. Sarah had students consider questions such as "When do emotions become unhealthy?" and "What is depression?" Before the talk concluded, Sarah equipped the children with tools to identify the types of thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. She also stressed the importance of sharing sad or angry emotions with trusted friends and adults. She let the students know that they should never be worried about opening up, and that everyone will go through a range of emotions at different times in their lives. She also referred back to the ideas that mind and body are linked. Sometimes it may be the case that their bodies are feeling tired, for instance when they are unwell, and this may have an effect on the emotions that they are feeling. It may be the case that during this time they feel sad, are more easily annoyed or feel like being on their own. She discussed that this is normal, however it is important to keep those close to us in the picture as they will want to ensure ouryour wellbeing.
Sarah's presentation helped our children understand the importance of managing emotions. Health Week has given our students an opportunity to gain new perspectives and learn practical knowledge and skills to help them proactively deal with stress and adversity - techniques that will prove invaluable throughout life.