I recently came across the pioneering work of Yale University psychologist Professor Laurie Santos, and have greatly enjoyed reading various bits and pieces she has written where she explores human behaviour – happiness in particular, and how to encourage others to flourish – as well as listening to her podcasts (https://www.happinesslab.fm/)
Professor Santos has some quite interesting views on the current well-being agenda, and believes that happiness is not just about “self-care”. High amongst what she and her research team have discovered so far, regarding how to develop a sense of lasting happiness, includes being open to others and being what she describes as “other-oriented in your experiences”.
Whilst Professor Santos recognises there is little data to substantiate this, there are some interesting signposts emerging pointing to a link between a decline in our overt, identifiable feelings of happiness and our increased exposure to a variety of social media platforms. This is music to my ears (well, it was more ‘early morning pre-recorded podcast discussion’ to my ears, actually). This all reinforces my own personal belief that doing less in the company of real people in real time but doing more in the midst of strangers in an online community is bound to be ultimately unsatisfactory and may in fact have a direct negative impact upon our social and emotional growth. As our ethos on our website explains, at our School, we rely on each other.
This is in part why I am so glad we have our programme of co-curricular activities here at the Pre-Prep & Prep. I am very happy to be outdoors running the Gardening Club this term, but I also love wandering about the place after lessons end on other afternoons and seeing the boys involved in a whole host of activities, talking to and joking about with and just enjoying the company of their friends, in contexts other than our timetabled lessons. Professor Santos claims that “we’re happier when we’re being other-oriented — i.e. caring about others more than ourselves.” I could not agree more.