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Sixth Form
December 14, 2023

What is your definition of happiness?

Many think that happiness is excitement, top-of-the range positivity or adrenaline pumping satisfaction. Well it turns out that happiness is simply a state of wellbeing and contentment. Everything is OK. Things feel comfortable and satisfactory.

In this world of Instagram, snapchat and Tiktok we see people living their best lives – holiday sunsets, bikini bodies, dancing and partying, living the dream. No-one can have this as their constant life – no matter how much money you earn or how famous you are. Everyone has highs and lows and very few people share their lows. How many Tiktoks or Instagrams have you seen of people who haven’t perfected their hair and make-up, who are reporting on things going wrong – tests failed, sharing how they have embarrassed themselves or made mistakes – very few.

In a world of perfectionism in magazines, filters on Tiktok and AI in films we never see what real, calm contentment looks like – only a fake giggling excitement about a makeup brand or a drink or a dance craze.

Happiness is inner contentment – everything is OK, your heart is at peace and you feel some sense of control in that moment. For me, my happy place is in a wood. Cycling through it, walking through it, looking up at the sun coming through the branches, hearing the wind rustle the leaves, smelling the bark and feeling the dew.

It is a privilege to work with older children and young adults who are at a key point in their life where they are starting to design how they are going to be as an adult. These are really important years – a chance to start practising who they are going to be for the rest of their lives.

And the thing is that positivity and happiness are a choice. I could choose to say ‘I’m really disappointed that the sixth form space isn’t completely finished yet’ or I can choose to say ‘we are so lucky to have a university-styled space and we are still designing it now’. I could choose to say ‘I am so tired from all the fun and activities on the Sixth Form trip to Amsterdam and I am so far behind with my work now that it just wasn’t worth it’ or I can say ‘we had such a great time with fantastic people and exciting adventures; it was a real highlight of the year and I would do it all over again next year’. It is a choice how you approach things – it’s up to you which TV channel in your head you are going to choose.

So how can you help yourself be happy? I’ve got 2 suggestions.

One way is to always try and see the good in people. When people don’t act in a way you’d like – think about what could have happened to them that day that has made them act that way, what could be going on in their lives that you know nothing about.

The other is to use your memories – On our Sixth Form trip to Amsterdam we climbed to the top of a skyscraper, clambered onto a swing and then swung over the edge of the building. It was not a happy experience (!) however looking back I’m proud that Mrs Frere and I did it and it fills me with happiness that we didn’t bottle out and we experienced something that few people ever will.

The vast majority of my happy memories were not that great at the time but were happy in hindsight. Camping in Africa for 3 months in a tent and cooking over a fire; travelling by myself for a year with no good friend or companion for company; travelling in a campervan for 6 weeks around Europe with 2 small children…… all of these things were full of hard work and miserable moments and yet these are some of my happiest memories.

So to conclude, you have the power to choose. You have the power to choose happiness – to look after yourself with sleep, nutrition, exercise, fresh air and friendship. You have the power to use your positivity and happiness to improve the lives of people around you. Simply by smiling and having a positive outlook you will improve other peoples’ day.

And if I am going to leave you with one key happiness thought – look out for each other. Be kind. Look for the best in the people around you. Support each other. Be there for each other. Give people a hug when they need it. Listen to them when they need to vent. Smile in the corridor no matter how you are feeling – fake it till you make it! Let’s work together to create a beacon of happiness shining out from St. Francis’ College!