An increasingly worldwide focus upon mental and physical well-being, as per Arianna Huffington's book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, has changed the lives of many adults.
Martin Seligman, leading authority in the field of Positive Psychology, notes that "almost everything is better now than it was 50 years ago: there is about three times more actual purchasing power, houses are much bigger, there are many more cars, and clothes are more attractive. ... Everything is better, that is, everything except human morale."
It is becoming increasingly obvious, then, that there is more to life than material goods and that there is a need for people to take action to address what is missing. These measures are being targeted mainly at adults because it is they who are old enough to have made the decision to make a change; perhaps they have experienced the burnout Arianna Huffington references in her book, or perhaps they they simply feel that there is a void to be filled.
But what place does the well-being of children have in this conversation? Should young people be practising the techniques such as mindfulness and meditation, gratitude and purposeful living that are being adopted by thousands worldwide?
A child who grows up in a bilingual household has no issues with speaking both languages fluently, translating with ease between two vocabularies and perhaps speaking to each parent in a different language. An adult who is learning a second language at a later stage in their life faces a much more difficult task, given the fact that their language use has been ingrained over many years.
It is in the same manner, I believe, that children can be taught the 'right' way to think in order to live a healthy and happy life; to thrive. Some are naturally optimistic people. But a lot need to be given the cognitive tools for the resilience and optimism needed to thrive and I believe that children should be exposed to these from the outset so that they come as naturally as their language use.
There are numerous books and websites offering practical exercises for parents to use with their children to make positive thinking a lifestyle. Reaching beyond the home, it is important for schools to incorporate themes such as resilience, gratitude and optimism into day to day activities and conversations.
This is not a groundbreaking revelation. Well-being programs such as The Penn Resiliency Program have been written and implemented around the world, with more being added every day. As I research the programs already available across the world it is with interest and excitement that I watch the positive education movement gaining priority status across a broader range of schools.
What must be established is the degree to which these programs are available to a cross section of society. It is an important element of the social responsibility of educators to ensure that every child across the full range of socio economic backgrounds and cultures has access to the cognitive tools that will promote well-being as the norm for future generations across the board.