A Positive Spin – Introducing the Wheel of Well-being

‘Life is difficult.  Life is complex’.

These are the opening lines to American psychiatrist, Dr M. Scott Peck’s international bestselling books, The Road Less Travelled, and, The Road Less Travelled and Beyond.  One review I stumbled across described the latter as being a, ‘work that leads us to a deeper awareness of how to live rich, fulfilling lives in a world fraught with stress and anxiety’.

Well, we are surely all extremely eager to lead rich, fulfilling lives but, at times, it does seem that in such a pursuit we actually heap up those stresses on ourselves to a point whereby the impact of the means threatens to push the sought-after end completely beyond our reach.  To provide a personal example of this noble, but quite confusingly contradictory quest, just consider me and my Fitbit watch!

I love my Fitbit watch; a Christmas present that counts my every footstep, connects to an app on my phone to log exercise sessions of all sorts, counting calories burnt and distances covered; oh, and my current pulse rate and an averaged-out resting pulse rate too!  Terrific.  This gadget should help ensure I remain focused on a healthy lifestyle, an approach that will surely see me thriving well into my senior years?  Or so I thought!

As a fan of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s wonderful website, I avidly devour articles on all sorts of newsworthy events virtually every day, and thoroughly enjoy items of a sporting and lifestyle nature too.  Imagine my horror to read last month that, to paraphrase the learned scientists, ‘middle aged men who exercise regularly, but who worry deeply that their peers may be exercising more than they are, are likely to live shorter, less healthy lives than those who don’t exercise at all, and who couldn’t care less what those road rage inciting Sunday morning MAMILs (‘Middle-Aged Men In Lycra’, who perspire profusely outside The Cherry Tree and similar coffee shops all over Australia at around 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, sipping cappuccinos after 30 or 40 km of imagined Tour de France-pace bike riding) are up to!’

Scientifically proven, and published in Britain’s most respected medical journal, The Lancet, something that I suspect we have all experienced ourselves!  Cool, unflappable, laconic folk, perhaps tending slightly towards the less manic end of the activity spectrum, seem to live long, happy lives; in fact, longer, healthier lives than their highly driven, restless and fidgety counterparts who cannot stop long enough to read an entire text message, let alone a whole page of a novel, as they hurtle from one extreme activity, be it work- or recreation-centred, to another.

And then in Wednesday’s Courier Mail, as if I needed something else to worry and get stressed about, those Brits are at it again. Another study reveals that walking 10,000+ steps gently every day is less effective at reducing heart attack and stroke risk than a mere 1,000 steps made at a rapid 5-7 km/h.  Doesn’t that seem to contradict the earlier research’s findings?

It is all too much.   My Fitbit is making me more stressed, not more healthy!

This paradox is why the visit of Jay Silver, a Queensland Education Senior Guidance Officer, and clinical psychologist, to SCOTS on Monday was a sheer delight!  With us at the invitation of the Principal and Director of Boarding, Jay has that most highly prized asset of any educator: the ability to make the complex, simple.  Only too well aware of the trials and tribulations so many of our students (and their parents) and staff have battled through in the past few months, and continue to confront as we approach the middle of the academic year, Jay urged us as a College to focus on what makes we humans happy, not what leads us to feel stressed and anxious.

In order to make this abstract concept, tangible and accessible to all, Jay introduced a large group of staff to the ‘Wheel of Well-being’ and its parent organisation:  https://www.wheelofwellbeing.org/

Clicking on the hyperlink will reward you with a very user-friendly way to learn what the wheel itself has to offer us, namely 6 universal aspects of health and happiness:  Body, Mind, Spirit, People, Place and Planet.  Each of the 6 aspects has a role to play, but by ensuring we have all 6 in our lives we offer ourselves the best chance of feeling totally fulfilled.  That fulfilment fortunately leads directly to longer, healthier, purposeful and rewarding lives.

As a staff we chatted about ways we can do even more than we already do to develop opportunities for every single student in our care to deepen their exposure to all 6 of the wheel’s aspects of well-being.  Plans are already being made for more chances to notice the beauty of nature, to enjoy the company of others and to practice random acts of kindness, to name but 3 of the 6.  Yes, they currently exist in abundance at SCOTS, but perhaps we need to insist such opportunities are grasped by all, not just the large majority?  This would be a journey that everyone would benefit from.

After all, to quote another famous scientist with an American accent (curious, considering he was a Vulcan) are we not here to, ‘Live long, and prosper?’  (Dr Spock, Star Trek season 2, 1968).

Mr David Proudlove – Head of Senior School