Wellbeing research is finding that our social and emotional state is a powerful predictor of our wellbeing over many years and it is an area that we know comparatively little about how to improve. This is not to say that our wellbeing is entirely down to how well we have learnt ‘wellbeing skills’ and nothing to do with external objective circumstances that we can act to improve. It’s more that this is an area we haven’t looked at as much yet and looks promising. It has been one of those areas we are sort of expected to learn by osmosis and this report does a great job of highlighting that there are a good range of evidence based programmes now available for schools.
Early research suggests that there are some skills, that can be learnt that are useful in both treatment and prevention. These include resilience, emotional intelligence, CBT and mindfulness for example. They will not be a panacea for social ills but look like they could help many people and need to be tested with matching rigour. This can be seen from the wide range of organisations also looking at how to help people develop these skill sets including in the workplace, in schools and further education, in supporting later life transitions, in the criminal justice system and through our cultural and sporting activities for all ages.
This report is really helpful in adding to our collective learning across the UK as we start to make sense of the role of social and emotional skills in our wellbeing and the role of our wellbeing in a range of other outcomes that we care about as a country, including academic achievement. The report included consideration for how social and emotional skills can be reinforced outside of schools and it’s in that context that we welcome the call for a more systematic exploration of what schools can do but it is important that this is done in a way that the learning can be taken from, and shared with, other sectors looking to improve social and emotional skills.
Nancy Hey is the Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that aims to understand what governments, communities, business and individuals can do to improve wellbeing. Before setting up the Centre in 2014, Nancy worked in the UK Civil Service in eight departments and as a coach specialising in emotional intelligence.