In this article, I discuss the importance of positive education for the well-being of school students, including statistics to illustrate some of the well-being challenges that school students in Australia face.
Positive education, a subfield from positive psychology, is a research-based way of developing and increasing happiness and well-being in school learning environments.
Positive education encompasses applying positive psychology and well-being strategies with school students (Seligman et al., 2009). Positive psychology is the study of the science of human strengths and virtue, founded on the aim of nurturing what is best in each person, how we can live with optimal functioning and factors that help us to thrive in life (Pawelski, 2016).
Positive education encompasses applying positive psychology and well-being strategies with school students.
Positive education can address many concerns about well-being in school students, in particular, the high incidence of mental illnesses (Patel et al., 2007). Australian children and adolescents live in an era plagued with problems, ranging from social, environmental, health, economic, population issues, disasters and more, causing stress and adverse effects on their mental well-being (Waters, 2011). The World Health Organization (2004) defines mental well-being as the state of well-being, where an individual realizes their abilities, is able to both manage normal stresses in life and work productively and fruitfully.
Mental disorders are the greatest health problem for youth (World Health Organization, 2014). A staggering 25% of 15 -19 year old adolescents, suffer from a mental disorder and 1 in 3 adolescents, suffer from psychological distress (Australian Government Office for Youth, 2009).
The National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being (2008) also reports that 26% of young people aged 16–24 had a mental disorder compared to 6% of people aged 75–85. In 2007, 1 in 5 Australian adults reported having a mental illness over the past year and more than 75% will have their first episode before reaching 25 years old (Slade et al., 2009).
Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) promote well-being and is a key feature of positive education at schools. PPIs are scientific tools and strategies focused on increasing wellbeing, happiness, positive thinking and emotions (Keyes, Fredrickson, & Park, 2012).
Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) define PPI as a psychological intervention that raises positive feelings, thoughts, and behaviour.
PPIs have two key elements according to their definition. Improving happiness through positive emotions and thoughts and maintaining the effects over time. Without interventions, mental disorders have the potential to impact the overall functioning of children and adolescents well into their adult years (Sawyer et al., 2012).
Hope is a significant subject in both positive psychology and positive education – to read more about the contribution of hope theory to children and adolescents, please go to my next article on Hope Theory for Schools.
Written by Aisha Meguid
Well-Being Teacher, Educator, Consultant & Coach
This article is an excerpt from an essay written during my Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology (Melbourne University)