Student Wellbeing Approach at Mt St Michael’s College
The Positive Education Program aligns Positive Psychology constructs with education in the Catholic faith to shape students capable of building a repertoire of evidence-based skills and strategies to lead a flourishing life. There is strong evidence to show that positive wellbeing is intrinsically linked to successful academic performance. Our program addresses female adolescent wellbeing from a positive and proactive rather than a reactive and deficit model, and explicitly teaches resilience skills based on evidence-based constructs aligned with Martin Seligman’s latest research; character strengths and virtues, gratitude, mindfulness, savouring and flow (Seligman, 2011).
Positive Education Constructs (Evidence-Based)
Our program recognises the importance of individual strengths; identifying these strengths, utilising these strengths, recognising the importance of signature strengths, being aware of the shadow side of strengths, and realising the connection between strengths, flow and life satisfaction. A practical, working definition is that strengths are ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that come naturally and easily to a person and that enable high functioning and performance (Linley & Harrington, 2006).
A general definition of gratitude that can be applied to adults and adolescents is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life” (Emmons & Shelton, 2005, p. 460). Gratitude is a strong part of the Mt St Michael’s culture, with the mantra ‘having a positive attitude and a heart of gratitude’ deeply embedded in the student psyche.
Mindfulness can be described as purposefully paying non-judgemental attention to what one is actually experiencing in the present moment. The objective is to welcome and accept the current state including any emotions, thoughts and perceptions (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Regularly practising mindfulness is believed to lead to deeper self-awareness and increased capacity to manage emotional responses, and can break the link between negative thoughts and negative emotions.
Flow was a concept developed by Mike Csikszentmihalyi in the 1960s when he was researching the creative process. Flow is Csikszentmihalyi’s term for the psychological state that accompanies highly engaging activities (Peterson, 2006). When students use their strengths and engage in activities and learning, they are very likely to experience flow. Flow is a state of mind that is associated with wellbeing (Lyubomirsky, 2007).
Savouring refers to our awareness of pleasure and our deliberate attempt to make it last (Peterson, 2006). Adolescents in secondary education spend a great deal of time striving to achieve their goals in multiple domains such as academic, sporting and cultural. Those who habitually savour are happier and more satisfied overall with life, more optimistic and less depressed that those who do not savour (Peterson, 2006).