DR ANTHONY SELDON, Master of Wellington College gave Church Times its Back Page interview this week.
… We started the “happiness classes” at Wellington in 2006, grounding them on the Positive Psychology of Professor Martin Seligman. He tried to move people from a sort of minus five state of fear and loneliness and unhappiness to a sort of OK state, and then to a plus-five kind of flourishing state. We try to build up children’s resilience, because you can’t stop bad things happening to them.
We try to change their mindset to one of being grateful — which involves things like thinking of three things to be grateful for before going to sleep. We encourage them to pay serious attention to their physical body because with a healthy body it’s easier to have a healthy mind. And we encourage young people to give to others, because the core of our model is looking after others …
Truly, there are some marvellous and extraordinary people in the world today. In the last few days alone (to keep this post brief) I’ve been awe-struck by the grace, ease and “possibilities” of – and advocated by – Benjamin Zander; by the prophetic imagination of Dee Hock and friend, David Herbert, who recognised it early; by the poetic inspiriting of the poets Rachel Mann, and Jo Shapcott and Daljit Nagra, (to whom Rachel brought my attention), and Sally Purcell (to whom Fr Roger Clarke brought my attention).
I’m still reeling from having delighted in the artistic majesty in The King’s Speech; and Maggi Dawn tweeted her friends in the direction of what will doubtless be a blockbuster, The Insatiable Moon, in British Cinemas from March. And I see, every day, the marvellous and the extraordinary in the family, friends, parishioners, fellow citizens all around me.
And today the Master of Wellington College speaks of happiness classes, of Martin Seligman and Lord Layard. Imagine: 9 English Lit; 9.45 Maths; 11 Double Happiness. Day after day there’s something new and glorious to get stuck into. As the old hymn has it: “New every morning is the love …”
When all is said and done, there’s yet more to be done and said. Some world-changing to be brought about, some world-creating to be engaged in, some justice and peace to be striven for, some hunger and thirst to be satisfied, some shelter to be provided, wells to be plumbed, and gardens to be raised up, good earth to roam, and seas and skies to be traversed; all that is really Real. Truly, it’s a wonderful life.