Lessons in happiness

From BBC

At Wellington College, they take a very enlightened approach to the everyday anger and stress some of their pupils may feel on occasions. BBC Berkshire spoke to one of their teachers to find out more.

It’s not just adults who suffer from pent-up anger. The stresses and strains of modern day life affect school children too.

For the last two years, Ian Morris has been giving pupils at Wellington College in Crowthorne ‘well being and happiness’ classes.

“The most important thing to teach young people is that it’s alright to be angry. But it’s not alright to hang on to your anger.

“We’ve found out through research, that angry people live shorter lives, as they put far too much stress on their hearts,” says Ian.

Some view anger as a bad emotion, when in fact it’s an exceptionally healthy one.

“It’s helpful, it lets us know that something is wrong and we need to change. But you need to make use of the anger, instead of holding on to it and letting it rule your life.”

In his classes he teaches his students certain techniques to notice when they’re angry. Once they’ve identified their anger, they can use it in a positive and constructive manner.

“The simplest techniques involve meditation, which comes from Buddhism. You just take three deep breaths. You should do this on a regular basis.”

Ian recalls a story about a man who used to get annoyed when having to stop at red traffic lights. The driver used to get so wound up he became prone to road rage.

He soon realised this wasn’t getting him anywhere. The driver decided to take three deep breaths every time he was forced to stop at a traffic light.

“He now sees red traffic lights as an opportunity to start a cycle of calm in his day. And he doesn’t get as angry as he used to.”

The happiness and well being classes are built into Wellington College’s curriculum and take place once every two weeks.

“We start the lesson with 10 minutes of meditation, that’s the one thing they really love.

“It seems the pace of modern life, particularly at a modern boarding school is such, that the kids don’t have time to be still, stop and just take stock of things.”

Ian explains the other components of the lesson.

“We also get them to reguarly focus on gratitude. They think of things that have gone well and write down why they’ve gone well.

“I think modern education seems to be about exam results, rather than teaching to the whole child. Sometimes we lose hold of the fact we have human beings in a classroom.

He also believes this concept should be introduced in schools throughout the country.

“Sometimes we focus more on whether we are getting the right percentage of A* to C grades.

“We need to get this stuff built into the structure of the school, so we are looking at the well being of the kids. That’ll really help them to flourish and be more successful in life.”

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