I loved school. I was one of those weird people that actually really enjoyed getting up in the morning to go and learn...and I learnt many useful things in my time at school. Yet thinking back, it seems as though there were a few very crucial areas where our UK curriculum falls short. There are some things that I wish I had learnt at school because they would have transformed the state of my mental and physical health over the long-term. Here are a few things that I wish I had learnt at school:
How My Brain Works
I never learnt how my brain works. Now maybe it is a bit ridiculous to expect neuroscience to be on the school curriculum - but perhaps some basic understanding of what the different parts of my brain are and how they work would have been beneficial. In my experience, even many adults have no idea how their wonderful brains work - and yet by understanding what our brain can do, we are able to train our brain, manage our emotions and even change our habits/patterns of behaviour. Understanding how my brain works helps me to understand why I am more anxious when I am tired, why I am less rational about situations when I feel emotional and how stress can affect my willpower. I think that we should all learn more about this amazing brain of ours.
How to Manage My Thoughts and in Turn My Mental Health
I never learnt what mental health was - or that I had the power to train my thoughts and in turn feel much better day-to-day. I used to think that my thoughts were my personality, without realising that thoughts are often just the result of my childhood and previous life experiences. I had no idea that my belief systems affected everything about the way I viewed the world and even how I perceived myself... or that there was anything that I could do to change these thoughts or these beliefs. I now help many of my clients to completely change their thinking patterns and belief systems and in turn feel much better every day - optimising both their mental and physical health. However I wish that this was something that I had learnt about at school. We know that most mental illness begins before the age of 18 and that most mental illnesses are preventable - so equipping children with tools to manage their mental health could stop mental illnesses from ever developing.
The Dangers of Comparisons
Fortunately I grew up in a time before social media made it big. Yet even before social media - it was very normal at school and university for people to compare themselves to each other or to some celebrity that they had just seen on the TV. Yet nobody ever told me how toxic making these comparisons is for the state of my mental health. You think that someone else is happier/healthier/smarter/funnier/more attractive etc. - but when you meet someone you only get a very small part of who they are or what their life is like. Now children are even comparing themselves to people on social media - air-brushed, filtered, “perfect” showreels of individuals and it is easy for them to feel inadequate. It is important to communicate to children and young adults regularly that what makes them special is all of the wonderful things that makes them uniquely who they are - and that social media does not represent real life.
That Dieting is Dangerous
Having gone to a girls school - there was always someone on a diet. Information on the next new diet is EVERYWHERE. Yet we know that diets are never effective long term - with around 95% of dieters regaining all of the weight they have lost within 5 years. We also know that dieting can lead to eating disorders. Everyone that I have worked with that has bulimia, binge-eating disorder or anorexia - went on a diet before these conditions developed. The message of “eat less and exercise more” is thrown around for young people to hear and absorb and yet it is an incredibly dangerous message to be giving to these young, vulnerable individuals. Young people should not be allowed to see people “dieting” on TV or in their family/friendship groups - because this is something that can lead to them developing a very dysfunctional relationship with food over the long-term.
The Importance Of Sleep
I have always been someone that loves sleep. I have always prioritised sleep. Even when I was working long hours in a law firm, I made sure that I lived right next door to the law firm just so that I could make sure I got enough sleep - it is REALLY important to me. I had an inkling that sleep made me feel mentally and physically much better - but nobody formally ever told me just HOW important is actually is. Nobody taught me that sleep deprivation makes you much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Or that even just one night of getting less than 7 hours of sleep can do this damage to my body and brain. I didn’t know just how crucial sleep was in allowing me to process emotions, store information and take care of my brain and body in every way. Nobody told me that instead of pulling an all-nighter studying, I was much better off just going to sleep early - because we can only retain information if we have had enough sleep in a night. Nobody also taught me what I could do to optimise the quality of my sleep - to feel good and to manage my mental and physical health over the long-term.
To Enjoy the Journey
A lot of the focus at school was on achievement - getting the grades, passing the exam, getting into uni. Success was defined to me in terms of reaching these huge milestones. Nobody however told me that I should focus on doing things that I enjoy - that make me feel alive - not just things that other people perceive are good. Nobody told me that I should be enjoying the journey and not just focusing on the goal. I mean fortunately, I did enjoy many of my days at school (remember I was that weird person that just liked learning anyway) - but I do feel that with many children out there the focus is too much on grades, exams and reaching the next milestone -rather than on savouring each day, embracing every moment and finding joy in everything that comes with being young.
I run workshops for schools, universities and corporates in which I equip individuals with the information that I wish I had learnt at school together with a range of tools/techniques that individuals can use to manage their mental and physical health over the long-term. In my one-on-one sessions I also empower individuals to challenge their belief systems and thoughts - enabling them to think about things in a different way and in turn achieve everything they have always wanted to and feel happier day-to-day. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book in a free telephone consultation to find out more about how I can help you or your organisation.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” — Amy March