The need to teach social and emotional intelligence has come about as a response to our rapidly changing world and in particular as a solution to the growing mental health crisis amongst teenagers.
This provides us with an opportunity; if we really understand and properly teach young people about what it truly means to live well and know themselves, we as a society will become less materialistic. This is, I believe, our best chance at solving not just the mental health crisis, but also the related societal issues such as the environmental and political-economic crises, which arguably are also fostered by disconnection and individualism in society.
By teaching people to look after their body and mind they can connect more deeply to themselves and act in accordance with their truer nature. One can divide the most important components of a good wellbeing education into three general areas. The three areas are as follows
1. Look after yourself: There’s so much noise in the world that we get lost in our attempts to keep up and forget to do the basics.
· Focus on getting enough good quality sleep. Smartphones, caffeine (and other drugs), and irregular hours affect sleeping patterns, leading to hormone imbalance and worsened mood swings in teenagers.
· A balanced diet – the simple stuff – carbs, proteins and healthy fats keep mood and energy levels in check. Use mindful eating to consume food with joy and balance.
· Exercise – We evolved to hunt, not hunch. Move and play more, preferably outdoors.
· Digital wellbeing – technology allows us to connect and communicate like never before, once we use it wisely. Time-outs are no longer a luxury; they’re a necessity. Digital detox, digital minimalism, meditation – take some time away from the digital noise.
2. Know yourself: Every religious leader and philosopher throughout history has called for this, but now more than ever it’s easier to distract ourselves from perhaps the most important purpose in life.
· Meditation is not only a relaxation tool but is the most incisive method of self-enquiry. Mindfulness meditation is free of religiosity, and evidence based. By observing your thoughts you begin to dis-identify from them, and so learn who you are not. It’s not a new age fad.
· Not everyone wants to meditate, but everyone breathes. As an easy access alternative to meditation, use breathwork to calm yourself, and observe your thoughts – not be so identified with them.
· Be in nature more. This reduces ego, the biggest obstruction to knowing yourself.
3. Behave yourself: Most people are fundamentally good, and aim to love, be happy and experience the full journey of life. However, the world corrupts and will attempt to break us.
· Develop competence. Read more. Learn how to learn. Communicate and collaborate. Think critically and learn how to solve complex problems.
· Always tell the truth, or at least don’t lie. This one is tricky in practice, but reality should always be welcomed as it is. Represent yourself fully.
· Foster a growth mindset – it is your efforts that define your successes. Again, meditation can help with this, loosening you from the fixed idea you may have of yourself.
· Focus on compassion rather than empathy. A more reasoned approach to our emotions will better develop emotional intelligence.
· Meditation helps you to develop discipline and control your mind. Begin by observing how wild it actually is.