Lifestyle medicine

Wellbeing a focus for life

Thursday, May 5, 2016
New class helping students at Avondale teach others to live more happy

An innovative class may not only increase the emotional intelligence and wellbeing of students at Avondale but also of those whom the students will teach.

Foundations of Wellbeing is a core unit for students in the first and second years of all undergraduate education courses at the college of higher education. The lecturers, Dr Darren Morton of the Lifestyle Research Centre and Jason Hinze from the Discipline of Education, are encouraging the students to self-experiment with evidence-based strategies for increasing their emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

The students complete challenges each week. One, Gratitude Visit, asks students to write about a person who has made a meaningful impact on their life and then to share the piece of writing with that person. Another, MasterChef Me, asks students to prepare a plant-based, wholefood dish to share with others in the class. Other challenges include: Night by Firelight, where students spend a night without artificial light; Live Love, where students identify the love languages of those within their circles of influence and then express those languages; and RAK, where students participate in random acts of kindness.

Lectures begin with an activity called Think Share Pair, a reflective discussion on the previous week’s challenge. A short lecture follows where Morton and Hinze introduce a new wellbeing concept and show evidence—from neuroscience, physiology and psychology—for why it works. Another activity puts the concept into practice. Morton and Hinze reinforce the concept and then introduce the next challenge.

“The classes are fun,” says Hinze, “but our aim is to get the students to understand the science behind wellbeing, to experience a sense of wellbeing and then to reflect on their experience.”

Morton and his team of co-investigators will measure the wellbeing of the students at the beginning and at the end of the semester. These Live More scores will help Morton determine whether or not the unit led to any change in the wellbeing of the students.

“Designed for life; that’s how Avondale promotes its courses,” says Morton. “To prepare a student for life, our courses have to extend beyond just offering training for professional competency.” He notes the growing body of research showing the contribution emotional intelligence and wellbeing make to so-called life success. “Emotional intelligence and wellbeing is far more important than intellectual intelligence in determining life success.”

Morton and Hinze are recording video and providing running sheets of the lectures for students in the new Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Lifestyle Medicine courses. These postgraduate students then use the material in their professional practices—one is training his staff at a health retreat, another training members in a church-based group.

The experience may extend further beyond the classroom when, later in their course, the undergraduate education students develop curriculum packages for their practicums that include information about emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

“All the signs are that the next big health concern will be emotional and mental health,” says Morton. “This is our way of encouraging our pre-service teachers and our lifestyle medicine practitioners to take this part of their life seriously and to share what they’ve experienced and learnt with others.”

Morton and his team plan to publish the results of their research.

Join a Foundations of Wellbeing class at the beach

Watch Dr Darren Morton present a lecture called “Immerse in an uplifting (physical) environment” from the beach at Catherine Hill Bay as part of the Foundations of Wellbeing unit at Avondale College of Higher Education.

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Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale College of Higher Education’s Public Relations Officer. He brings to the role a decade’s experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities. He is also co-convenor of Manifest, an Avondale-led movement exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.