Possessing the Secret of Joy

Since quitting my full time teaching job I’ve been reading a lot more.  There’s no mystery there, I’ve a lot more time on my hands.

I’ve enjoyed reading a little bit of everything but the most compelling books and blogs that I’ve read are about wellness and how to be a better version of myself.  What reassures me is that the same themes keep coming up time and time again.  There is pretty conclusive proof about what can make us happier, and what the most contented people do each day as a matter of course.  I’m doing quite a few of them these days, and my goodness am I noticing the difference?

What worries me is how few of my teacher colleagues are managing to do the same.  With a sixty hour typical working week, most of them simply don’t have the time.  Here I’ve picked out two or three –  to my mind they’re essentials – which we should be aware, can make a huge difference to our wellbeing.

Spending Time in the Natural World

In our busy, automated working lives, heading outdoors can seem frivolous and superfluous.  Yet there is clear research evidence that spending time in the natural world helps to keep us happier. Whether this is walking your dog, gardening or going to the park with someone you care about it, the heightened sense of relaxation is completely tangible in my estimation.  Yet for many time-pressed professionals, for example, teachers, it’s not a priority.  Look at your weekly or daily schedule, find a way to fit it in and feel the difference.

Mindfulness and Meditation

The scientific proof is out there; our minds need to be at rest on a regular basis.  Unless we allow time for this though, it isn’t going to happen.  When we juggle a busy family life and career, a few minutes each day to do and think of practically nothing seems like an indulgence. We should turn it into an essential.   My suggestion finding some online help – YouTube videos and Smart phone apps can both help you turn meditation into a good habit.  Just like getting outdoors, you should look at your daily schedule and actually mark off the time, ten minutes is enough. And be aware that concentrating on just one task is easier on your brain than trying to do five things at once.  That’s another reason not to multitask.

Spending Time with Loved Ones

What can I say, isn’t it one of the things we’re alive for?  In my trade union days, it would break my heart to listen to teachers who were parents describe how little time they got to spend with their children.  It’s important to remember that when we choose to prepare lessons, we are choosing not to do something else. That could mean we’re choosing not to read with our toddler or meet a friend for a coffee.

In the era of high stakes testing and performance-related pay for teachers this is easier said than done.  However, next time you feel forced to put work first, try to take a step back and reflect on the impact on your wellbeing, any of course, that of your loved ones.

These are just a handful of the activities which the most contented people do on a regular basis.  As teachers we naturally feel that finding just a few more minutes in our day to put ourselves first is a non-starter.  Yet building these three simple habits into our lives Ensuring we do them regularly means our chances of being happier and healthier are greater.  And surely, those are non-negotiables.

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