Speaking at the Stonehage Fleming Next-Gen course in London, Jessica asks students “As our digital world becomes more entwined with our reality, are we in control of it, or is it in control of us?” Read more – https://bit.ly/2HwWoC7
At Dallington, we run private or group presentations and workshops for both parents and students to help understand the impact of digital engagement and social media interaction on personal health and wellbeing. We help our students to reflect on their digital habits and give them practical tools and methods to help maintain a balanced approach to social media and screen time.
Beware the Dopamine Loop
Doing Things Badly
In today’s fast-paced world, it can sometimes feel like being productive at all times is the only way to keep up. We may feel the need to streamline our lives, multi-tasking, optimising, and making the most out of every minute of our day. While there is of course nothing wrong with aiming for success in areas of our lives where we feel it matters, such as in academics or our careers, feeling the need to be productive and perform well at all times can be stressful.
This can make it difficult to enjoy or even engage in any activity that we do not perceive ourselves to be good at, or that does not seem to have any immediate gratification. However, it is important to remember that not everything we do needs to be productive. Acknowledging that we cannot and -more importantly- need not perform well on every activity we take part in allows us to truly enjoy and get the most out of these.
Some hobbies, in particular creative ones, may not even have any clearly defined markers of performing well. Taking part in activities without any demand to do well -either from ourselves or from others gives us the space to decompress and relax from otherwise stressful lives. Thinking back to childhood, when we played games because we enjoyed them, and not because they measured our performance: focusing on the process of something and how it makes us feel, rather than the value of an end result can be much more gratifying.
And even in areas in which performing well may matter to us, such as our jobs or studies, having an attitude that allows us to continue to pursue something even though we may initially not be very good at it can be incredibly helpful. We learn much more about the process and workings of any skill if we first do it badly.
In conclusion, learning to be okay with not being the best at everything can be incredibly freeing. So why not try a new hobby or activity with no expectations of an end result?. There is certainly value in doing things you enjoy, even, or maybe especially- if you do them ‘badly’.
Author: Teresa Ries, Student Care and Research Assistant
Doing Things Badly
Mindfulness has seen a surge in popularity in the past few decades. A number of scientific papers have drawn our attention to its benefits, which include dealing with stress, improving productivity, improving our wellbeing, and even boosting our physical health. University can be a stressful time for students who are trying to balance their studies, social life and often the pressure of being away from home and loved ones for the first time. Mindfulness practices have been suggested to help students by boosting levels of attention and concentration and reducing anxiety.
Despite the recent buzz, as a concept, mindfulness has actually been around for thousands of years as part of Zen Buddhist traditions and as an element of yoga. In its most basic form, mindfulness is ‘knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment’, says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
The benefits of mindfulness are compelling, but is our obsession with filling every minute of the day with purposeful activity becoming problematic? While we aim to be consciously aware of the world around us, do you sometimes just switch on autopilot? Is it okay to just be ‘mindless’?
Science shows we actually spend about 50% of our time being ‘mindless’ and letting our thoughts drift away from the present. In fact, the half of the time that we spend ‘mindlessly’ is essential for us to function in our daily lives. In today’s society, we often feel pressured to try and spend all of our time being productive – ‘mindlessness’ allows us to disengage from our stressful lives and have some downtime.
To be constantly mindful would require substantial cognitive processing power, which would be time consuming and draining. Sometimes, we just need to run on autopilot and make snap decisions. If we did mull over every micro-decision we made, nothing would ever get done! From a wellbeing standpoint, mindlessness allows for spontaneity and creativity. Allowing ourselves to switch off every once in a while and purse an activity for pure enjoyment is not only okay, but necessary for our mental and physical health.
Like almost everything in life, the key is balance. Whilst mindfulness has its clear benefits, we should not feel guilty for switching off and doing nothing when we need to. Combining mindfulness with mindlessness and being aware of the benefits of both allows us to work to our full potential without forgetting to put our wellbeing first.
Author: Lily Dottore, Team Assistant
The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty in all aspects of our lives. For students, whose studies have been impacted in the current term, there is continuing ambiguity on the nature of studying in the coming academic year. Those completing their courses this summer are graduating into a very different world than they had anticipated, and many may be facing uncertainty about further studies or career opportunities with their original plans in limbo.
Uncertainty can be very difficult to deal with. When we know what is coming, we are able to prepare for it. Not being able to do so can be a great source of anxiety. Coming to terms with uncertainty means acknowledging our inability to control certain things,
If anything, the current situation has shown just how dependent -and even fragile- many of the things we take for granted are…the ability to travel, and see our friends, or even move in public without being acutely aware of our proximity to others. Having to acknowledge, for some of us perhaps for the first time in our lives, that there is an innate uncertainty in everything can be an intimidating thought.
On the other hand, uncertainty is also freeing. It gives us an opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate. For those whose future plans are now up in the air, it is a chance to reconsider these, and either strengthens our conviction or allow us to explore other avenues. What is it that is actually important to us? What do we want to succeed in and why? Perhaps there are alternative choices, or paths we have not yet considered.
Kindness Matters: Mental Health Awareness Week 2020
Mental Health Awareness Week has chosen kindness as its theme this year, largely as a response and acknowledgement of the widespread kindness we are witnessing on a global-scale during the Covid-19 pandemic.
An Efficient Way of Boosting Wellbeing
Kindness, as a quality, has been researched and demonstrated to be linked to countless benefits; improving our mood, buffering against stress, even bolstering our immune system and heart health.
Most often kindness can be conceptualised as acts of service that are driven by warm, genuine feelings towards others. What really gives kindness its competitive edge, beyond other qualities, is how reciprocal these benefits for wellbeing can be. Simply put, kindness is contagious. It is one of the primary vehicles to strengthening our social connections.
Often overlooked however, is the importance of extending this kindness to ourselves. For our students, being kind to themselves acts as an important tool for navigating the transition to university, where their identity is often tested socially and academically.
Stallman, Ohan, and Chiera’s study reminds us of the reciprocity of kindness, as their findings suggest that university students are more likely to exercise self-kindness if they are receiving social support and kindness from others, and this plays a moderate role in contributing to wellbeing. There is a positive feedback loop; when we are kind to ourselves we are better equipped to provide support to others too.
So, how can we keep our vicious inner critics in ourselves at bay?
1. Our business is knowledge – knowledge is information acquired through experience or education.
2. With knowledge comes understanding and the ability to make better choices.
3. Everything is relative but don’t forget the wider perspective.
4. It’s always about the student. It’s never about us.
5. We call our clients ‘students’ because that is what they are. Regardless of whether or not they are in formal education, they are students of themselves.
6. Change is not progress, but progress requires change.
7. The path of progress is not always smooth, but it is the commitment to the progress that counts.
8. We are unapologetically relatable and real.
9. We will always do right by our students and tell them what they need to hear, even if it isn’t always what they want to hear.
10. Physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development are all important and connected.
These are our principles. We encourage our students to create their own.
Emotions During Lockdown
What are emotions? Why are we currently experiencing so many conflicting emotions? And how can we develop emotional agility?
Speaking at the Stonehage Fleming Next Generation WTF 2020 Conference, Jessica explains the common misconceptions around emotions, why lockdown feels similar to grief and how we can be more compassionate with ourselves.
To watch the presentation in full, please click here.
Emotions During Lockdown
Lockdown Screen Time
Should we be worried by the apparent surge in user screentime globally?
Yes and No. Despite the potential for overuse, screentime is currently providing many of us with an extremely helpful link to other people. It allows us to connect with friends and family we may not be able to see in the current circumstances and also to continue our studies or work which allows us to keep a sense of purpose during an uncertain time. Loneliness can be a big problem when self-isolating, in fact, 31% of those who self-quarantined during the SARS outbreak suffered from depression as a result of this, so it is vital to maintain social connections and friendships during this time.
However, if screentime is not monitored and being used (consciously or not) to further isolate and disconnect, the mental health repercussions could be dire. Some of the key symptoms of overuse are sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety, affective responses, a lack of focus and motivation and, negative self-image.
We encourage our students to design their own unique philosophy for living…
We say living instead of life because this is a process that will evolve and change as they do. The commitment to the process of building a philosophy is far more important than the finished outcome.
Why is this important? There are some challenges in life that can be avoided, like not being late by setting an alarm…or filling up your car with petrol when you are on the road so you don’t break down… but there are bigger challenges that we cannot avoid nor have control over.
Having a personal philosophy is like having your own personal WAZE or GPS built in. It’s a compass and a comfort. Ultimately, it can increase your happiness by ensuring your endeavours are aimed at an output you have designed.
So, how does one design their personal philosophy for living?
1) Identify your key values. Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. They describe the personal qualities that we choose to embody to guide our thoughts, decisions and actions. They are our unique codes of conduct.
2) Test these values by putting them into practice. We are what we repeatedly do, therefore, if you are repeatedly practicing your values (i.e. kindness, respect, humour, cooperation, gratitude and loyalty etc.) then these are most likely your real values. In addition to this, be honest about your values. Sometimes we place some values above others because we have been indoctrinated to or because we feel embarrassed about them. If one of your values is status or wealth, that’s OK.
3) Get inspired by the schools of Philosophy: You might want to choose a type of Philosophy for your foundation, for example; Logic, Stoicism, Ethics, Ontology, Aesthetics, Metaphysics etc… Read up on the basic principles of each and build on these to develop your own unique Philosophy.
4) Talk to others, challenge and be challenged on your values and ideals. The best education we get isn’t always the one we get in the classroom but from our interactions with others (and we say this as people who have collectively spent decades in formal academic education).
5) Accept that we can only win at the game we’re actually playing, not the one we say we are playing or the one we’d like to be playing. What does this mean? It means we have to be really honest with ourselves about what our values are and putting them into practice. It makes no sense to live someone else’s philosophy for living.
Philosophy for Living
How to Build Resilience
How may we get reacquainted with our inner resilience? Why do we need to get comfortable with, and celebrate the importance of failure?
As a part of Dallington’s Spring 2020 Curriculum, Farah held a workshop for our students on building resilience. It addressed understanding why we have more to take from our failures than our success, and how we can train ourselves to welcome, rather than shy away from, criticism. Through exploring the key traits of resilience, actionable strategies were provided for students to reflect on and build a personal model of their resilience.
For information on upcoming personal development workshops, please contact us.
How to Build Resilience
It is far easier to be busy and distracted than it is to be bored…but it’s worth getting bored because that’s where our creativity lives.
When we’re bored our minds turn to a ‘seeking state’ but unfortunately we are so used to external stimulation that we have forgotten how to tap into our internal neural stimulation.
Training yourself to not just tolerate but embrace boredom is also the best way of getting in touch with the authentic you. As such, the creative ideas that come from this state are also authentic.
If we can’t tolerate boredom and distract ourselves by watching tv or scrolling through Instagram, we end up unconsciously regurgitating other people’s ideas.
This isn’t helped by digital and social media companies who spend millions every year on working out how to keep you online for as long as possible. They exploit the same neuropathways that other addictive activities do to drive and maintain your engagement with their app.
In addition to this, for some of us, it is potentially daunting to be bored because our minds will go to places we are not comfortable with and bring up memories or emotions that we are not ready to deal with – but it doesn’t mean they’re not there.
By practicing the art of boredom we are giving ourselves the chance to know ourselves a bit better. Yes, there is the risk that something bubbles up we weren’t expecting but we also run the risk of creating something wonderful.
The Benefits of Meditation
It is more important than ever to look after and boost our immune system.
Stress makes our immune system function at a suboptimal level because it triggers the production of cortisol, the main stress hormone and one of the biggest immunosuppressants. Meditation combats stress: as we create more internal space, we calm the nervous system, it is no longer in fight or flight mode, it is at peace. Therefore, anxiety is reduced and a sense of calm is induced in the mind.
For our students, this can be especially helpful during times of stress…
such as exam periods and waiting on application results. Reducing anxiety through meditation can help us perform at our best while maintaining our mental health. Meditation de-excites the nervous system and allows the body to rest and heal itself. Other health benefits include blood pressure reduction and reduced heart rate.
Visualizations can help us reprogram old fight-or-flight stress reactions…
and move into a “stay and play” mindset. When we were children, we always used our imaginations in our creative play, as adults we often forget how to do this. Visualization encourages this playful aspect of the self.
This report provides a snapshot of global high net worth (HNW) and ultra-high net worth education trends and assesses where the UK fits in. A survey and in-depth interviews with HNW advisers inform the report. The publication includes insight into the connection between property and education choices, a review of current visas available for students coming to the UK, a guide to university choices and a look at special educational considerations in educating the next generation of wealthy families.
Preparing for University – Achieving Peace of Mind
Last September, the Obama’s helped their eldest daughter, Malia, move to Harvard to begin her university career. Upon leaving her dorm, Barack likened the experience to “open-heart surgery”, reminding us that the transition from school to University is a significant one for both the student and parent.