“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right” Henry Ford.
The way we think has an enormous effect on our lives and in particular on our mental wellbeing. When we feel confident, by and large, we don’t feel anxious. If you feel in control and confident about something and that you’ve got a skillset in that particular area, you don’t create stress and anxiety about it. For example, someone who is secure in their presentation skills, who feels confident and competent, will not keep themselves awake the night before a presentation worrying about it. The reverse is also true – the one who thinks they can’t, probably gives a lousy presentation, or chicken’s out at the last minute, and proves themselves right!
We will all be able to think of young people we’re working with who feel out of control, who lack confidence and are anxious and stressed. And it’s often about more than giving one presentation! Being in this prolonged state of anxiety affects not only our emotional and mental well-being but it also impacts on our physical health. The Scottish Government also acknowledges the importance of mental and emotional wellbeing in raising attainment for all. So it’s never been more important for all those working with young people to work out how to teach them to ‘think they can’, rather than ‘think they can’t.’
In today’s society, we have an array of “pop” psychology books and gurus telling us that to be happy, all we need is to be ‘positive’. To ‘think ourselves’ happy. When we are positive we do have a better chance of achieving our goals. However, there is more to it than that. In schools, our children are told to use a ‘growth mindset’, but how do you teach that? Schools are inundated with programmes and approaches to develop young people’s social, emotional and behavioural competencies. But they are also, increasingly, being asked to evidence the impact. How can the youth work sector demonstrate its impact in this key area of work?
Through the BetterMe community interest company I have been supporting the youth and formal education sectors to use an evidence-based and measurable model for improving wellbeing in young people.
The BetterMe Programme gives young people a complete toolkit for emotional wellbeing and importantly ‘teaches’ them the how and why. Research has demonstrated that both an internal locus of control and a healthy self-esteem are important to a range of educational, psychological and health-related outcomes. Young people learn how to build strong psychological foundations (locus of control, self-esteem, social confidence and emotional intelligence) before they can build skills such as mindset and resilience. The programme uses a recognised self-evaluation tool to help young people recognise their progress.