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Beat Sadness with Random Acts of Kindness

With World Mental Health day just past, Bryony Jewell writes about the beauty ideals of society and about the work Dr Andy Cope has done in trying to improve the happiness among children with his project ‘Most Random Acts of Kindness in a Day’.

It’s no surprise to anyone that the pressure to look good is real. However, what is more surprising is just how young this pressure can be felt. In a recent report by the Children’s society it was announced that English children rank 14th out of 15 countries for life satisfaction and have the lowest levels of self confidence. For a first world country, this is a shocking result. Children in the UK surely should have some of the best opportunities and prospects for the future. So whats changed in recent years to create this hostile, uninspiring environment?

Social media

One blaring answer is the phenomenal rise of social media and the amount of children who are signing up for profiles at young ages. It feels like everyone you know has an Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/profile and is constantly updating their feed. These platforms are presently particularly on the rise among younger teenagers. Some of the platforms now also apply the love/hate buttons; a feature which adds another level of constant communication. Further they encourage teenagers to try and look “better” by adding filters and effects to their uploads.

Couple this with every other post showing a beautiful girl, living the picture perfect lifestyle of sunny beaches with gorgeous clothes, or glowing girl cliques with their enviable eyebrows, and it isn’t a massive leap to see where the confidence issues may come from. It’s even enough to make a grown woman jealous.

This considered it doesn’t come as a massive shock that 34% of teenage girls are unhappy with their appearance in 2016, and 14% of them with their lives in general.

The ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ Philosophy

Dr Andy Cope, who is a positive psychology expert, has taken these disturbing figures seriously and initiated the project to attempt a ‘World record in Happiness’. Running his project in Bristol and most recently Derby, Cope has tried to improve the happiness ratings of children by helping them to perform random acts of kindness on the public. Teaching them the philosophy that ‘the quickest way to feel happy is to do a good deed for someone else’. The local school children have ran with the idea and seem to be loving their new roles as kindness givers in the community. In the Bristol project the children took to the streets, armed with stickers, chocolates and flowers to give out to strangers along with a compliment or two. Although the public look confused at first, everyone ended up smiling and loving the unusual attention.

Cope is also introducing a new initiative to try and improve happiness in schools. This ‘wellbeing Ofsted’ is designed to reinforce the importance of confidence and wellbeing in pupils, not just concentration on curriculum and grades. Which, lets be honest, sounds amazing! Schooling should have students mental health and happiness at their heart, and be less focused on exam grades as it is the experience that will last much longer in the memory than that B in Maths GCSE.

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