Is there a ‘Path to Happiness’ or is that a fairy tale?

17th April 2018

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By Bridget Sheehan –  eQe 

Who are the happiest people you know? Probably the youngest! Isn’t their sheer exuberance and love of life one of the things that attract us to work with younger children?  Where does that go? What happens to that spontaneous joy? I can hear you groan “Life happens!”  Is there a way to ‘lifeproof’ our little ones? Is there a way to bottle and hold onto that joy and to reconnect to it ourselves? We can’t prevent them from encountering the storms of life but we can develop their ability to weather the storms and to rebuild after catastrophes (resilience).

Welcome to “The Five Paths to Happiness”! It sounds like the title to a fairy tale (and we love fairytales), a little simplistic and idealistic, so what is it all about? The concept of the five paths/ways/steps to Wellbeing was developed by the New Economics Foundation and is currently being used by a wide range of organisations including the NHS. Research shows that there are five practices that we can engage in that will enhance our Wellbeing and as a consequence make us happier. These 5 practices are to:

  1. Connect to people
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice of your surroundings
  4. Learn something new
  5. Give to others

Sounds simple?! It is….and yet it is also quite complex and profound, but it empowers us to realise that it doesn’t work to sit and wait for happiness to arrive – it is our own actions and choices that will take us there.

So back to the children. ….Those of us with the privilege to live and/ or work with the youngest members of society hold an exciting, and yet terrifying responsibility – for those of you into the science we now know that the ‘plasticity’ of the brain means that we can develop new pathways in our brain. The younger we are the easier it is to develop and embed these new pathways – for better or for worse. Children can be damaged for life or equipped for life. If we can interweave these five practices into the experiences, opportunities and messages we provide for our kids then we can equip them for life.

A little secret to finish……you are probably already treading these 5 paths with the children in your care….you just may not be looking at what you are doing in this light. So start looking at what you already do in the light of these 5 practices, and then look at what you could start to do to fill in the gaps. Let’s walk the Paths alongside our children, and teach them that they hold the key to Happiness and Wellbeing within their own hands.

Bridget will be providing more information about the 5 pathways in the Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Area of the Health and Wellbeing Zone at Childcare Expo Manchester. Find out more here. 

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