Happy Vs Flourishing episode 11 is with Frederika Roberts who has travelled the world speaking at international positive psychology and positive education conferences. She is a speaker, trainer, lecturer and published author, she supports individuals and organisations to practise, promote and embed wellbeing practices into everyday life and we talk about that in this episode.
- Positive psychology and positive education
- Character education and the character toolkit for children
- Gross national happiness measurement
- How COVID-19 is effecting education and changes that might evolve
- Blended Learning
- Home schooling
- Gratitude journalling and the Gratitude Jar
- Barbara Fredrickson’s research into positive emotions
Frederika holds an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology, is European Representative of IPPAed (the Education Division of the International Positive Psychology Association) and is currently undertaking a Doctorate in Education.
Book recommendation: “Love 2.0” by Barbara Fredrickson
“Choose your attitude” – Debra Searle
Photos of Frederika supplied by Hubert Hung http://www.h2portraitphotography.co.uk/
I mentioned about the site “Beautiful News” which you can find at:
Happy Vs Flourishing links:
Tony Winyard 0:01
Happy versus flourishing Episode 11. Today's guest has travelled the world speaking at international positive psychology and positive education conferences. She's a speaker, trainer, lecturer and a published author and she supports individuals and organisations to practice promotes and embed well being practices into everyday life. And so we're going to hear from today's guest, Frederika Roberts in just a few minutes. This is the podcast where we try to give you a ideas on how to have a more meaningful life had to have a better quality of life. Just small things that we can small changes we can make to implement that. Why not subscribe to the episode, or to the podcast? Share the episode with anyone who you feel may get some benefit, and it would be great if you could leave a review. Right now. It is time for this week's show. Happiness versus flourishing. My guest today is Frederika Roberts. How are you? Frederika
Frederika Roberts 1:06
I'm very well. Thank you. How are you, Tony?
Tony Winyard 1:08
I'm pretty good. Thanks. Considering this is a Monday morning and I'm a night person. I'm doing quite well.
Frederika Roberts 1:19
I'm like that as well. I'm definitely not a morning person. And Monday morning, especially when it's set as it is at the moment as we're recording this. It's autumn and it's quite grey. And I like sunshine. So with Yeah, all things considered pretty good.
Tony Winyard 1:33
You like sunshine and you live in Yorkshire?
Frederika Roberts 1:35
Frederika Roberts 1:37
How did that happen? I'm Italian and I live in the UK. And I love sunshine. You know, how did that happen? I'm not sure. But I do know how it happened. I fell in love at university. That's what happened. All the best laid plans and all that.
Tony Winyard 1:51
Did you come over here to study?
Frederika Roberts 1:53
Yes. Although I wasn't exactly living in sunny climes before, although I'm Italian. I'm Italian and German, actually. But I grew up in Luxembourg. We moved there when I was two years old. And the climate in Luxembourg really isn't much better than it is over here. Although in the summers tend to be a bit nicer. But you know, winters were pretty dreary growing up. And I came over to the UK in 1992 to go to university and actually went to university in Yorkshire in Bradford. And I met my husband who's not from Yorkshire, but he was also University there. And we met in the first year and that was it. And I never went back. I actually had plans to potentially move to Italy after I'd graduated and make a career for myself over there. And then I was thinking further study in the US maybe at some point. None of that happened. I stayed in Yorkshire. I never never moved away from Yorkshire. So
Tony Winyard 2:47
Your original studies, is that connected to what you do now?
Frederika Roberts 2:51
No, not at all? No, my original my first degree was a Bachelor of Science. In a way it was a Bachelor of Science, but it was Business and Management. After that, I took a year out and then I did a PGC. So postgraduate certificate in education, so qualified as a teacher. And I didn't actually go into teaching them for a few years. Because trying to teach Business Studies at the time, you know, I kept being knocked back and told Well, you've never actually worked in business, you've only ever been in school and university go and work and then come back into education. So I went and worked for a bit and and then actually realised that I spoke six languages and I could actually teach languages. And it never occurred to me because I didn't think that having not done a teacher training course in language teaching. I didn't think that I could teach languages even though actually in the meantime, I had qualified to teach English as a foreign language. But then yes, I taught I ended up after I'd had my two daughters ended up teaching part time French and German in secondary schools for a couple of years. And that kind of nearly destroyed me really left through stress. Which is one of the reasons why I do so much work in education now to support well being and then went and did lots of other things worked in recruitment for for well over a decade ran a recruitment business, I also run a small food business for a while and eventually kind of decided that I needed to pick something that I was really passionate about when I fell out of love with recruitment. And that was well being because it was something that from my personal life experience and my family's experience of dealing with setbacks and and lots of sort of roller coaster emotions, because both my daughters have congenital heart conditions. I wanted to look into what it was that I was doing that was keeping me happy and keeping me mentally well and discovered positive psychology and that's kind of the journey that I've been on for nearly the last decade now. So I graduated with a master's in applied positive psychology last year. And now I'm, for my sins I'm have embarked on a Doctorate of education, which I've done the first year, I've got another five years at least, to do. And that's kind of again, putting well being into the heart of education. So my research is focusing around a model that I developed during my master's for my dissertation, and I'm now focusing on on doing some further research into that. So yeah, very different to what I originally set my sights on when I was 18. But then life is like that.
Tony Winyard 5:37
For the people who heard you mention about doing positive psychology. Could you give a description of what that is?
Frederika Roberts 5:46
Yes, of course. So positive psychology is really the science of well being it's applying scientific research methods to actually give people techniques, tools, practices to look after their well being and it's, it's had a lot of sort of misconceptions, quite often sort of known as, you know, happy ology, and I remember my first essay at university was actually looking at the critiques of positive psychology. And a lot of that was around the sort of almost what people call the tyranny of positivity, you know, and I hate the phrase positive thinking, you know, because it's, that's not what positive psychology is. So positive psychology is really about human flourishing. And it's about not just individual flourishing, but societal flourishing as well. When you look at the very, very early writings of the the the researchers that came up with the concept of positive psychology, people like Martin Seligman, who's known as the founding father of positive psychology, you know, the very, very early writings. And in fact, there were there was a group of psychologists that got together in about, I think it was either 1999 or 2000. And they wrote a positive psychology manifesto, and it's only about two pages of a4. And it's, it's called the Akumal Manifesto, because that's where they met. And, in that very early manifesto actually talks about flourishing societies, it talks about positive institutions. So you know, positive schools that focus on well being and positive psychology, etc. So it's about taking the very best that we know and that we've researched in terms of what makes humans be well and flourish. And one of the ways that it's quite often explained is if you think about your mental health and your overall mental well being on a scale of say, minus 10, to plus 10. Then psychology of old used to deal with all of that. And then primarily, after World War Two, actually, it seemed to shift really and only deal with a minus 10 to zero. So it was dealing with the disease model, it was dealing with treating mental illness. And that was partially because after after two world wars, there was so much trauma to deal with that psychologists who wanted to earn a living pragmaticlly, the only way they were actually going to earn a living was to deal with trauma and mental illness, because there was just nobody willing to pay for them. That lovely ideal of going from the nought to the plus 10. You know, it was all about dealing with the here and now and what what was happening at the time. And then when when Martin Seligman and other researchers really looked at this toward the end of last century, they went, well hang on a minute, you know, what, what's happened to this notion of flourishing and of Being Well, why are we only dealing with disease, why we aren't interested in bringing people to a zero, when actually we could be looking at somebody who's a plus two could maybe become a plus eight, you know, in terms of their, their well being, and that's where positive psychology really began. And that's what it's all about.
Tony Winyard 8:54
When you were deciding what you were going to study and what it was you wanted to do, were there many sort of different areas to go in within positive psychology?
Frederika Roberts 9:07
Yes, one of the things I've really enjoyed about my Masters is that you had a lot of choice in the modules that you did. And even within those modules, you could really choose the direction that you wanted to go in when it came to your assignments. So the first module the introduction to positive psychology, we had five topics as you often have, you know, when you're doing a university course and, and we chose one topic to do an assignment on but that was because it was a broad overview to give us a grounding, but then after that, we had a broad choice of module. So some people, for example, went down the route of positive psychology and coaching for example, and performance positive psychology, looking at, you know, athletes, for example, other people like me looked at things like positive education, I did a module on positive neuroscience as well, for example. So looking at all the neuroscience research into flourishing and well being and how that's linked to positive psychology, I did a module on positive relationships, that was absolutely fascinating in terms of just how much of everything that that affects our well being is underpinned really by our connection to others. Then there were modules on child development for those that wanted that modules on flourishing societies. So there were a lot of directions. And then within each of those, so for example, I did the positive neuroscience module. But the assignment I did, I still did, based on education, because that's where I do a lot of my work. I work a lot with with schools, not just with children, but with teachers as well, occasionally with parents, on giving them all these sorts of research backed evidence based tools and techniques for well being. And when I did the neuroscience module, we have to kind of do a research proposal, even though we weren't actually going to be doing the research, I wish, I wish they'd let us lose some your science equipment, not something you get to do in a one year Master's in positive psychology, but so you could choose what you wanted to do. And so I did a research proposal based on the idea that there's, there's a lot of studies that you can do on measuring cortisol levels, so stress hormone levels in people's saliva. And so my proposed research theoretically, was on on testing children's cortisol levels, before days on which they had tests at school. And then doing a control group control, you know, a control group experiment, where you'd have one group doing nothing. And just going into the test, and the group would be doing a just a random activity, just so that you know, there was an activity that wasn't the one I was testing. And then the test activity was to actually do some, some mindfulness techniques before they went into their tests. And basically, you'd measure their, their saliva, cortisol levels before each of those, and you'd measure them afterwards as well. And be able to see whether they're actually doing mindfulness techniques before a test actually helps to reduce the cortisol levels of children and reduce their stress and stress levels. So there are a lot of things that you can do within positive psychology that takes you in all sorts of different directions, in terms of where your interest is. So if you are somebody, for example, who coaches, business people, or coaches, sports people, you can really go into the positive psychology of coaching and performance as well. And use that to support people in their performance. So yeah, it's a fascinating topic, and very, very far reaching.
Tony Winyard 12:48
I think my listeners would strangle me if I didn't bring you back about that test that school just about cortison levels. So what was the results of it?
Frederika Roberts 12:57
Well, because I never did it, wouldn't be able to tell you it was just a hypothetical exercise for us was the in the actual writing of the research proposal. I wish I could run that test, these kinds of things are very expensive to run. So and that's not where I'm taking my doctorate. I'm my doctorate is more on sort of whole school systems for well being and embedding well being into education. So the term positive education isn't necessarily widely understood, but it's about combining education for academic success with education for well being and education for character development. So during my master's, I developed a model for school positive education based on existing models and where some of the gaps were. And so I want to do some more research into that in my doctorate, because otherwise, doing some neuroscience type stuff around cortisol levels would be a fascinating thing to do. But I think I would really struggle unless I found someone to actually fund a PhD in it, I think, I'd struggle to do that kind of study as a as an independent doctorate where I have to fund it less, unfortunately. Right?
Tony Winyard 14:05
What is it you're doing on a day to day basis?
Frederika Roberts 14:09
My work is quite varied. So I train primarily, so I work mostly in schools. And that can take a number of forms. So it can be from going to deliver a workshop to children of all ages of saying all ages, I've done very, very little with the youngest kids, but I've worked with children from age eight, all the way up to 18. In schools, so it can be you know, workshops as part of a series of workshops to give them tools for well being. It could be a 20 minute assembly in a school where I just go and talk to them about some some well being stuff. It could be some teacher training anything from a twilight session after school for half an hour to spending a whole day in school, working with teachers and other staff. And one of the things that I've been doing quite a lot of recently through the I've run a community interest company that I set up last year. And one of the things that that we do is to actually go into schools or groups of schools Academy trusts, for example, and work with our staff, to support them to set up their own action research project. So research that's based on their practice, and that they do as part of their everyday work as teachers. And so we give them support on understanding positive education and character education. So some some positive psychology grounding, some character education, grounding. And then we give them some basics on how to set up a research project where to find literature to back up their ideas. And then they they go off and they do projects based in their classrooms. And we kind of guide them through that with a few sessions in between, and then the write that up and we end up with the booklet produced by the school or group of schools with all of their research projects in that they can then share and disseminate more widely. So that's kind of the bulk of the work but I've also started doing some lecturing and positive education. So the I'm very lucky that my dissertation supervisor, Dr. Ilona Boniwell. At Anglia Ruskin University, where I did my masters, she is one of the most eminent names in positive education. And she's actually booked me on a number of occasions now to do some teaching on the on the very same masters that I completed last year actually taught on the positive education module for that in February. And then she also did some teaching at the Singapore School of positive psychology. So I did some teaching in the positive education model at postgraduate level there for her in the summer. And so there's a bit of that going on. And I'm also talking to another university at the moment who are wanting to bring in more positive education into their positive to their positive psychology teaching. So we're, we're having conversations about how I might be involved with that. I do a little bit of speaking at conferences, so mostly education conferences, so I get brought in again, by schools and Academy trusts, etc. Occasionally, organisations such as, for example, I spoke at a conference for the society of heads a couple of years ago. So mostly where teachers and educators hang out. And I'll speak at those conferences or run workshops at those conferences, and also at international positive psychology and positive education conferences. They tend to be more academic, but very, very fascinating to talk at those events as well. So I've been lucky to, to speak at conferences in, in in Texas, and in
Frederika Roberts 17:49
where else have I spoken in Australia, I was in Melbourne last summer, or winter as it was there. And in Germany as well. And most recently, I spoke at a conference that's run every year by a government department in Luxembourg. It's an organisation called seapass, which is the salto polar companion, more a psychosocial scholar or something like that. It's basically psychosocial support and guidance for schools and its team of psychologists, many of whom are school based, as well as the kind of core team that's office based that advises schools. That's a part of the Department of Education for Luxembourg. And I spoke at their annual conference earlier on this year about positive education because they're keen to bring more of that in. So that's the other side of what I do. And then I write as well. So I've written three books to date. My first one was recipe for happiness. I wrote that in 2013. And that was really as I was starting my journey into positive psychology. And a lot of what I discovered was as part of the research I did for that book. And then in 2018, I co wrote a book aimed at primary school teachers to give them lots of practical tools. It's called character toolkit for teachers. And I co wrote that with another fabulous lady called Elizabeth Wright, whom I was doing a lot of work with at the time as well. And we've since actually launched a companion product as well through the same publishers called character toolkit strength cards. So there are a lot of packs of strength cards out there that people can use for with adults for, for developing awareness of character strengths and working with those from a sort of well being and positive psychology perspective. But whenever we went to schools, people are asking us for ones that were particularly aimed at sort of the younger children so we developed a set of those which also came out this summer. And then also this summer my latest book came out which is aimed primarily at school leaders but all age phases because it shows examples from around the world in settings from independent high end schools to very strapped for cash statements. Hundred schools from all the way from nursery and infant schools and even some examples from higher education. And so that book is really showing the science and the research behind my sort of positive education model for whole schools but underpinned with lots and lots of case studies from interviewing and well being leads school leaders and teachers around the world. So that's kind of and on top of that, recently, I started working part time for a small mental health charity as well based in in the northwest and Cheshire here in the UK. It's a charity called chapter and I'm there well being training facilitator, so very much doing what I do in my own work anyway. So but just in a more localised area for a charity and with more of a mental health perspective, as well. So training in businesses, and potentially in schools as well, now that I'm on board, as that's my area of expertise as well. So yeah, that's what I do.
Tony Winyard 20:58
You mentioned about your involvement in schools. One of the things that I started thinking of, as you were talking is the the impact that the whole COVID situation must be having on schoolchildren, especially from a fear anxiety side of things. Have you been asked to help much with that side of things in any schools?
Frederika Roberts 21:24
Well, at the moment, schools are very much trying to firefight, I think and kind of get through the everyday. So I know that the demand is there. And I've been working with a lot of other educators who are very busy in the state of well being field in education. And between us, we can see that as we talk to teachers. And we talked to school leaders, you know, the need is there. But they're not at the moment finding much room to actually bring people in to do an awful lot. But there's a few things bubbling. So the government have brought in a grant and a programme to support return to education. While being here in the UK, it's a little bit confusing how different councils because the grant is awarded to councils, and then they have to kind of distribute that training to schools. So there is potentially some stuff happening with that. And I'm talking to one such council at the moment about potentially getting involved with that, which would then help, you know, quite a large number of schools as well. And, again, I'm talking to a council about potentially working with them to look at the bigger picture as well. So, you know, not just looking at education in isolation, but actually, we need to look at well being from a whole family and whole community perspective and how I might be able to help with that. But But certainly, I think this isn't going away, I'm actually at the moment working with. So I'm part of something an informal group of educators that got together at the beginning of the lockdown way back in in sort of March, April time. And we call ourselves education while being collective. And between us, we have safeguarding leads from schools and local authorities, we have teachers, head teachers, consultants, trainers, you know, it's quite an eclectic mix of people all over the country, that the focus on well being in education, and because we could see the need was, was so vast, we've actually decided to get together and co write a book. And I'm one of the four co editors of this book. And then there's about 25 authors that are going to be contributing content to this book. It's very early stages yet, but we've been talking to three publishing houses. And at the moment, watch this space, because there's one publisher who's very keen to potentially offer us a deal and then meeting today to discuss it. But so, you know, so there's different ways of helping schools, even if it's not immediately necessarily going in and doing the training at the moment. But yeah, the need is definitely there. And I think it's something that as the situation evolves, and keeps going, you know, that there's going to be more and more requirements. And it's interesting to see how much more awareness actually the covid situation has raised into well being. Interestingly, probably, I mean, yes, for the children, but for the vast majority of children, probably they're not the ones that are suffering quite as much as potentially the adults. It depends what their circumstances are. And of course, for some children, it's been very difficult because not everybody's been, you know, on lovely walks and doing lots of baking and colouring of rainbows. You know, for some children, it's been a very, very traumatic experience being at home during this time. And then the return to school and everything that comes with that and obviously, for children with pre existing health conditions, who are very worried about being back at school, etc. But actually, everything I'm seeing is that the ones that are struggling the most are probably actually the the teachers And all of the staff in schools, and obviously the parents as well. So probably the adults and and to some extent, probably the older kids. So you know, the younger ones just taking their stride really, I mean, I have nieces who are in nursery and year one. So you know, they're that, that three and five. And they're completely unconcerned.
Frederika Roberts 25:24
Because they're just life is just different, but they just crack on with it. And they just, you know, go on, but the older you get, the more you become aware, I suppose, of what's going on. And yes, for teachers, it's been particularly I think it's the teachers that are really suffering from the strain, because not only do they have the worries, but they have the organisational nightmare of making it work. And so for them, it's been very, very stressful. And of course, a lot of teachers not just in the UK, but in many countries haven't really had a proper break for a very long time. Because even over summer, they've been busy planning and trying to work out how they're going to return to school in September. So yeah, there is definitely a need. And this has highlighted that actually, you know, we might be in a much better position mentally, emotionally, if if there was a lot more widespread work done in schools on well being because then we'd be better equipped mentally to deal with it. So it's, hopefully we're taking some lessons forward for that into what's happening in education, it would be nice to see some real change.
Tony Winyard 26:30
I get the impression from some of the things you've been saying that you're very well aware of, of how things are happening in many other areas around the world? And in terms of education and well being and so on. Are there any countries that are dealing with this particularly well?
Frederika Roberts 26:47
Well, certainly the mental health and well being in schools and the work that's being done in that and has been done for a long time, there are certain places that do Lead the Way To some extent, there are parts, I want to say Australia, but it's not all of Australia, really, it's it's parts of Australia that are particularly very good on positive education and really world leaders. And in fact, the for the words, positive education, that phrase came about at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, Melbourne. Now, that is a very, very high end independent school. And a lot of this work has, unfortunately, emanated from from very high end independent schools, which is problematic in itself in terms of, you know, again, giving access to everybody, but actually, they might be the ones that initially have the kind of resources to start doing a lot of the research and look into this and then disseminate it more widely. And certainly delong has done a lot to disseminate that. And there's a lot of work going on at the University of Melbourne, and also the University of Adelaide in Australia into well being in education. So positive education, bringing positive psychology and having said that, in the UK, we've got some fantastic work happening, particularly in terms of character education. So at the University of Birmingham, there's the Jubilee centre of character and virtues, which has a brilliant output in terms of research into character development in education. And in fact, they actually set up a free school, the University of Birmingham School, which is based on the university grounds and is a fantastic school to look at in terms of everything that they're doing. So there are pockets. In terms of Europe, probably the UK is actually even though I get very, very frustrated at how seemingly little we're doing in the UK on on positive education, others that live and work in different countries and education telling me that actually, you know, we're quite way ahead, compared to a lot of Europe when it comes to positive education. And this some interesting stuff coming out of the US as well, character education that does have quite a strong hold, but it tends to be slightly different slant on character education. But but there is, you know, I've been speaking to a lot of educators from US schools, in terms of amazing stuff that they're doing, and also a lot of schools that have, you know, really switched on school psychologists that do a lot of stuff on well being preventatively. And another place in the world that's that's really at the forefront of a lot of this stuff in education is Dubai actually. So I mentioned Dr. Luna Boniwell before and she's done a lot of work with the Dubai government, for example. And there are a lot of eminent researchers that have. So that's one of the countries where there's a lot of work being done on positive education, and then a lot of people would probably have heard of Bhutan, and their gross national happiness measure and the government of Bhutan commission Some work so one of the big researchers in positive psychology in education. So in positive education is a researcher called Dr. Alhamdulilah Adler. And he did his PhD under Martin Seligman, who as I mentioned earlier, is known as the founding father of positive psychology. And his PhD research started by implementing a resilience well being programme in schools across Bhutan on request of the Bhutan government. And then he replicated this study in Peru and in Mexico. And each time he just went bigger and bigger and bigger. So this study covered many thousands of children and teachers. And actually, what he did through that study is to show quite clearly that if you put in a lot of well being and resilience measures, then actually you get higher academic attainment. So it's a really important piece of research, actually. So those are countries again, where there's been some really interesting developments. So wherever you look around the world, there's some really interesting pockets of stuff happening. And it's it's spreading, with people like me, who won't shut up about it
Tony Winyard 31:13
You touched upon there about the whole COVID situation. And you mentioned about how actually, it's the teachers and so on probably more stressed than the children, this is maybe an impossible possible question to answer. But say for example, by next summer, this whole COVID situation does blowover, and then we've become completely out of lockdown. And things are back to "normal". Whatever that is, I'm wondering where you think the biggest problems might lay, from what you've seen of how this has played out so far?
Frederika Roberts 31:57
That is a really difficult question to answer really, I'd need a bit of a crystal ball for that one wouldn't. I mean, I suppose the first premise is that I think likelihood of by next summer, all of this having blown over is sadly quite, quite low. I think by next summer, we may have learned to live with it a bit better and have perhaps more therapeutic options, etc, and maybe even a vaccine, who knows, but I doubt very much that it'll have gone away. And I really do hope actually, that we don't just go back to normal because, you know, not just in education, but in life in general, I think there was a lot wrong with normal, I think there's some really good stuff that has come out of this. So maybe rather than look at where the problems might be, if I may twist your question and turn it around, I'd like to look at where the opportunities might be. Because I think this not just in education, but actually in the way that we work, for example, is a massive opportunity. You know, if you if you look at, you know, the reduction in greenhouse gases and all of that, you know, the carbon footprint that we all leave behind that there's been a massive reduction because of how we've, we've changed the way we work. And whilst obviously we want to be able to start travelling again, etc. What this has shown is that actually, there is a lot of travel for business purposes, that is not necessary. And there's a lot that can be done remotely. The whole remote working now I've been working for myself and working from home for 10 years now. And so for me, it's made absolutely no difference in that respect. But for so many businesses, it's been a fundamental change. And actually, if you think about businesses that traditionally are office based, but have massive office spaces, so call centres and places like that, where you would think Well, you can't just suddenly uproot a call centre, you know, you need all the equipment, you need all of that, and yet they've done it, you know, very quickly, they've been able to have vast call centres that now operate from people's homes, and what that means in terms of flexible working in terms of people being able to return to work, whether they have health conditions, whether they have young families that they need to work around, and all of that, if you think about what that means in terms of commuting costs, in terms of quality of life, you know, I've done the commute, you know, I did that for many years, spending an hour and a half each way in the car on the way to the office. And, and, you know, some of my most productive days were days when I was snowed in and couldn't get to the office and have to work from home because you're not exhausted by the time you get to the office from having sat mindlessly in a car for an hour and a half. And so that there is all of that. And then from the perspective of where I work, you know, in education, as I say, there is an opportunity to really rethink how we run schools and whether, you know, do we really want to focus on testing, testing, testing and grades as the be all and end all and just comparing schools on grades as if they're just cut some kind of number factory, or do we want to actually look at, you know, that the fact that we need to bring whole human beings out at the other end capable of withstanding challenges and overcoming those challenges and that are adaptable in a world that is changing so rapidly. And I know it's a cliche, but you know, I'm, I'm in my late 40s. Now, and if I think of, you know, from the day I started University where I, you know, I had an electronic typewriter at home, and that was the height of technology. And I came to university and remember the first time I saved some work on a computer, and I then went to a different computer and couldn't work out why couldn't find my work, because I just saved to the local machine, and I had no idea of the concept of, you know, whether you saved to a network or to the machine, you happen to have satta, I didn't know how to use the equipment to now we're doing everything, you know, remotely via internet, etc. And I've taught myself an awful lot of stuff along the way, and I've designed my own websites, etc, it's, it's a massive journey in the course of just 30 years, for kids that are at school now, you know, that that change is exponential. So actually, you know, that the focus, in my opinion needs to be on very much that kind of adaptability and thinking skills and creativity and, and how do we find solutions to problems? And how do we innovate and all of that kind of thing, and actually, enabling them to retain what they naturally have, actually, I mean, so. So Ken Robinson, died very recently, and he was very well known for a fantastic TED talk on, on how schools were killing creativity. And, you know, children are innately creative and curious and really good at problem solving. It's just if there weren't, they wouldn't learn to walk and talk. And, you know, and, and somehow, and it's not just our education system in the UK, or the US, or Australia, or Canada, or whatever, it seems to be a pretty widespread problem that, you know, we seem to knock that out of them in favour of kind of a learning by rote system, etc. And actually, I see this as an opportunity to change that, which is something that many of us have been banging drum about for a long time. And I don't, I don't mean that exams don't matter. The academic subjects that matter. You know, we need doctors, we need lawyers, we need engineers. And for that, you do need to learn specific content as well. But it's, it's about balancing that out about learning content, as well as learning how to use the content. And, and my husband is a chemical engineer, he's run chemical plants. And he gets very frustrated, you know, when he's recruited people, quite often that actually, the first thing they have to learn as new engineers on the job, they have the knowledge, technically, but the application of that knowledge is where the challenge is. And that's what so often is actually lacking. And quite a quite a lot of universities, when they're teaching those technical degrees, the first thing they have to do is actually teach those 18 year olds how to think critically.
Frederika Roberts 37:52
So I think there is an opportunity when we look, for example, at blended learning, etc, you know, that rather than just looking at how can you find ways to get the teacher to stand in front of a class of children that aren't physically in the room, and give them knowledge? How can you actually use technology, to empower children to find out a lot more information for themselves and to learn more independently, because that's actually probably going to be a lot more useful to them. And that's something that COVID could give us the opportunity. And as I say, the same thing is for the world of working. Now, for a lot of entrepreneurs, this might not be that different, because a lot of them probably do work from home. But what that does change is that the the organisations that as entrepreneurs we work with, might be working differently. And so that impacts on the way that we work with them and the opportunities that this opens up. And even things like I mentioned, I work for a charity that's based in a small area in Cheshire in, in the northwest of England, you know, because all the training that we can offer we can now do remotely. That actually means that although we're a Cheshire based charity, in terms of the local support that we offer, people that we're funded for that is local, but in terms of the trading income that we get as a charity, from delivering training, we can do that anywhere. So it's a real opportunity for businesses of any size. And I've spoken to many people who since the lockdown, you know, I've gone international when they weren't before. I myself mentioned, you know, I was I was teaching in Singapore earlier in the summer. Now, if I'd had to travel over there, maybe they would have chosen somebody who was more more local, but I was somebody who had the skills and the experience that could deliver it and because it was remote and made absolutely no difference where I was. That of course has other impacts. As we start doing that and working more globally that we need to look after our well being in terms of considering the hours that we work and, you know, if we're having to work on sociable hours, because we're working with a different part of the world, then we need to consider how we adjust our working week to compensate for that so that we're not burning the candle at both ends and wearing ourselves out as well. So there's a lot of adjustments and and I think the next few years if I'm going to predict anything is that it's going to be a lot of adjustment for everybody and, and sitting with that discomfort of having to make changes in our lives and changes in the way that we work. But one of the ways of sitting with that discomfort is to look for the opportunities, you know, and look at what we can learn and what we can enhance and, and how we can get better at doing stuff, which is exciting.
Tony Winyard 40:23
From a well being perspective; obviously, there's lots of people listening to this who have been for the last few months homeschooling their children, if the lockdown does tighten up again. from a well being perspective for people who are trying to juggle their business, their work, and also school their children. Are there any tips that you'd give parents on that?
Frederika Roberts 40:52
Well, the first thing I'll do is, you know, acknowledge that it is a real challenge. And you know, I've said many times over the last few months, how lucky I consider myself to be that my daughters are adults, and I haven't had to do that I have friends and family who have and I understand how challenging it is. So there is no easy fix. I mean, sometimes, you know, you go through stages in life, when stuff happens that unfortunately, you just have to get through it. And there is no easy answer to make it easier. From a practical perspective, the one thing I can say, you know, is to remember, as a parent that if your child is at school for 5, 6, 7 hours a day, they're not actually being actively taught for all of those hours, there is plenty of downtime, there are play times there is interaction, social interaction, and all of that. So actually, if you can spend two or three hours a day maximum, doing productive teaching activities with your children, that is actually a lot. So you shouldn't be putting pressure on yourself thinking that you have to be actively teaching your child all day every day. That's not realistic. And it's not what actually happens in schools either. So I would say, break it up a little and often, and you can do a lot of learning through play and through everyday activities. So it doesn't all have to be directed school style learning. You know, if you look, there can be a lot to be learned from home educators, and I've not home educated, but our friends who have and, you know, their learning was very much project based around stuff they would do around the house around, okay, not so irrelevant when you're locked down, but around days out, and that kind of thing. And, and a friend of mine that springs to mind had three children are very different ages in different stages in education, and she would home educate them all. And they would work on projects around the same themes, but they would all get different learning out of it. So there's lots of different ways that you can do that. And setting your child stuff in small chunks that they can do independently, and then come back to you and go through so that you can actually get on and do some work in that time as well. If you're fortunate enough to have a partner living with you, and you can spread the load, maybe if there is a way that you can actually work slightly different hours and spread it between you so that you know, particularly if you're very young children that need a lot of supervision physically, then that would be one way. But you know, there are no easy practical answers. Oh, absolutely acknowledge that. So the only other advice I can give is to look after your well being in addition to doing that, and that doesn't have to take a lot of time. But doing things like simple, one minute breaks to do a breathing meditation where you just count your breaths in and out and focus on your breath can be really therapeutic and and you can do that multiple times a day. And it just takes one minute, or a really simple awareness meditation where you just for a minute or so just sit still and look around you and focus on three things you can hear three things you can see and three things you can feel and you know, feeling could be things like feeling that your bum on the chair, you know, if you've got a bit of an achy, stiff shoulder, then just being aware of that, that's all you need to do. It's no judgement, it's no you know, it's just oh, okay, I can feel that stiffness, that's something you've noticed. So it's really basic stuff. But it's just bringing that awareness to the moment and just generally trying to avoid and I'm often guilty of that myself and then I have to remind myself, you know, just because I do this work doesn't mean that I'm I don't fall prey to the same worries as everybody else. But, you know, we tend to kind of look into the future and and worrying I can't remember who said this, but somebody recently said, you know, the mind is a time traveller. It lives in the future and in catastrophizing and projects and it lives in the past and lives on the memories and, and actually one of the things that we can do when everything around us is so chaotic and so challenging is to just live in the very, very present moment. And sometimes that can be the very minute you are in, you know, and just right now in this moment I'm okay, my family's here, we're okay. You know, and that's it. And you just focus on that. And sometimes that's the best thing you can do for yourself to just try to not look at the future and not look at the past and think, Oh, I wish, you know, because it's just not where we're at at the moment. It's just right here right now, where am I at? And, and how am I, and just trying to really focus on the little good moments. So you know, it's very easy even without lockdown when you're raising kids, particularly when they're young, to to focus very much on the the nightmares, the challenge, you know, the screaming matches all of that we've all been there.
Frederika Roberts 45:43
But actually, one of the great things about positive psychology, for example, is is the practice of gratitude and just ending the day by thinking about three good things that have happened that day. And gratitude is a wonderful thing, because if we practice it deliberately like that, what it actually does, our mind has a negativity bias, it's, you know, as human beings, we've had to in order to evolve and to stay alive over the centuries millennia, that the way we've done that is that our brains are fine tune to danger. And, and therefore we have a negativity bias. And that's what keeps us alive as a species. And it's very difficult to overcome that, because our brain can't possibly take in every single stimulus that comes its way every second of every day. So it has to filter stuff out. And because we have a negativity bias tends to filter out the good so that it focuses on the bad. So right by practising gratitude deliberately just sitting down at the end of the day, and writing down three good things, and they can be really tiny, tiny, tiny, good things, you know, if you're struggling with a child, and home educating and juggling work and everything, it could be that for five minutes, your child sat still and did some work. And you could just read an email, you know, write that down. Remember that one good thing, you know, it can be as minute as that it can be, you know, one smile that somebody gave you that day that just lit up your world for that moment, you know, and you just write that down. And the more you do that, the more your brain starts to focus in on and look for positives. And it doesn't mean that you ignore the bad, it just means that you overcome a little bit of that negativity bias. So that's what I would advise
Tony Winyard 47:20
Based on what you were just saying, on keeping a record of doing three things you're grateful for on a daily basis. I remember hearing once about, I think it was a gratitude jar, and you get very tiny post it notes. And every day, you think about something that's happened, it doesn't necessarily need to be within that last hour, it could be a memory from a few years ago. But you write down things on these different post it notes about good things that have happened to you, maybe good things that you've done for other people, things that you're good at. And you just keep putting these notes into this jar. And then it could be in, say, three weeks time, you're feeling down for whatever reason. And you just dip your hand into that jar and start pulling out some of those notes. And it just changes you. You start reading all these great things that you've done, or you've been a part of in some way.
Frederika Roberts 48:20
Absolutely, that's a really good activity to do. I mean, I'd love to see if there's been some research done into that, because I know a lot of people have done the gratitude jar. And some people do it for a year and then you know, kind of open it up for Christmas time or whatever, as a family, it's whichever way you want to do it. I think in the moment where we're having to live a lot sort of day to day is probably a good idea to do it over a shorter period of time and pack it full every single day. So yeah, I mean, it's, it's a great thing to do. And the mere act of actually writing them down, even if you are never going to read them again is going to help you anyway because of overcoming the negativity bias. But obviously can be really helpful, I sometimes go back and read over some of my gratitude journal stuff that I've written, you know, and it's the same thing, if you just dip into the jar and pick up some of those positive things, then it can be really a positive reminder. The downside when we're living quite tricky times like now is that maybe you know, in three weeks time, you could be in a much worse situation that you're in now and you pick something out that reminds you of just how great things were three weeks ago, and it might make you feel even more upset. So there is potentially a bit of a danger with that when things are quite fraught, but it is a lovely activity to do and definitely something worth doing. And another thing that's really worthwhile is, you know, we mustn't lose sight of connection with other people, even if we can't see them face to face. And so whether it's writing letters, whether it's emails, whether it's phone calls, zoom calls, you know, sharing pub quizzes together, whatever you're doing online, etc. But one of the things and even our interactions on social media is that You know, amongst all of the stuff, and I do it too, you know, sharing of upsetting news and little ramps, and all of that kind of stuff, remember to also share positive stories and try and share more positive stuff than negative and that it's not artificially looking for positive stories. But it's when you notice something good happening, and those things that you would put into your gratitude stuff, you know, you can share those with other people as well. And sharing positive stories is a very powerful thing to do. Because if you share a positive story, not only you're reliving it by telling somebody else about it, but you're and you're experiencing positive emotions by doing that, but also you're lifting somebody else's positive emotions as well, because they're reading a positive story. And the ripple effect can be phenomenal from that. And actually, there have been studies done over time into sort of what spreads more on social media negative stuff, or positive stuff. And actually, the positive stuff, even though we seem to see a lot of the negative, but it's the positive stuff that actually really spreads massively. And you only need to look at, you know, how many cute cat videos, that kind of thing, you know, how they spread like wildfire, because people like to see the stuff that lifts them up, and it spreads and spreads and spreads. So actually, when when you're sharing a positive story, if you don't know how that little thing that you're saying somebody could have a massive ripple effect further down the line on somebody else, that's really helpful to that person. So it's always worth doing. And the research done by Barbara Fredrickson into positive emotions is phenomenal in terms of, you know, if we experiencing more and more positive emotions, how it can enable us to be better at problem solving better critical thinkers, better, having positive relationships, achieving more in our work, and in our academic lives, as well as being much more resilient as a result. So all of these things, and it also has the effect of undoing some of the negative physical effects of stress. So buildup of cortisol that can affect our immune system, for example. So all of these things are really important things to bear in mind, particularly as we're going through a pandemic, if we think about stress levels, if we think about how we do need to be really creative, and really good at problem solving, and find better ways of communicating and connecting and all of that. One of the ways to do that is to boost up positive emotions. And again, one of the ways to do that is through gratitude and other ways sharing stories. But it can be something as simple as sharing, you know, even if you're outside wearing a mask and you go into a shop, you can still smile, people can still see a genuine smile in your eyes. And just making eye contact with the checkout assistant, you know, as as you pay for your food as you leave the supermarket. And just smiling, that in itself can can be a really great moment of connection with another human being. And as you're trying to avoid people and not get too close, you know, as you're walking along the pavement, or as you're out on your walk or in a shop or something. Again, if you just make eye contact with somebody and smile at each other in That awkward moment. That's another way to kind of boost positive relations through connection. There's lots of little ways we can do that.
Tony Winyard 53:06
There's a website called beautiful news. The website address is https://informationisbeautiful.net/beautifulnews/ It has great stories from all around the world. I often share stories from that site, because it's it's a really nice site.
Frederika Roberts 53:30
Oh, wonderful. I've just jotted that down.
Tony Winyard 53:40
If people want to find out more about you, and the work you do, where should they go to?
Frederika Roberts 53:44
Okay, well, the easiest is probably if they come to my personal website, because all the links go from that. So my my speaker website is http://happiness-speaker.co.uk If they're specifically interested in the work that I do with my CIC, then they can also have a look at educate to flourish.org.uk. And that's the work that we do as an organisation with schools that's http://educatetoflourish.org.uk And all my social media links are found from there, so I won't go through them because there are plenty, and I'll give you some obviously to put into the show notes. But those are the two main points that they can look at. Obviously, I've got three books out there. Recipe for happiness is more aimed at everybody looking after their own well being. Character toolkit for teachers is, well being practical activities aimed at primary school teachers, but to be honest, I've used it in a lot of adult training. So there's a lot of stuff that we can do as adults in there and that parents could use with their kids at home as well. And then For Flourishing Sake is more about the bigger picture for education and how we can improve things in education if people wanted to find out a bit more about that as well.
Tony Winyard 54:59
And that last book, would that be useful for parents as well,
Frederika Roberts 55:02
For Flourishing Sake, probably not as much because that's really more about how to embed well being in education. So for parents, I would say Recipe For Happiness and Character Toolkit for Teachers, because even though it says it's for teachers, like I say, the activities, a lot of them, we can adapt and do at home. And also Character Toolkit Strengths Cards are ideal for parents as well, because using them in schools might be a bit problematic at the moment with people not being able to share resources, but obviously, within your family, you can use them. And there's a booklet in there, that gives you some suggested activities to do with the cards to just get you started. And then obviously, it's down to your own imagination, what else you do with them, but there's lots you can do. And there's a really nice little activities there to get you started as well.
Tony Winyard 55:46
I'm guessing they're available on Amazon, are they also available on your website?
Frederika Roberts 55:52
They're not available via my website. Now they're available on Amazon, but also on all of the major online retailer book retailers, so and not just in the UK either. So they're available in Australia and Canada all over the place. We even saw character toolkit for teachers on Amazon Japan. They are not translated at the moment, I will say, but they are available in English language, but all over the place, and not just on Amazon. So for those that either don't have access to Amazon, because I believe in Australia, for example, they don't have Amazon, but the book is available from things as demux and all the other major sort of book, retailers, and also from certainly For Flourishing Sake and Character Toolkit, the book and the cards. They're available from the publisher as well, which is www.jkp.com. But yeah, they're available on most, most online book retailers.
Tony Winyard 56:48
And speaking of books, is there a book that you particularly like that you recommend to people?
Frederika Roberts 56:54
Yeah, I mean, there, there are so many, but I think right now, because I think connection is so so important. One that I would really recommend. It's a beautiful book to read. It's Barbara Fredrickson, who I've mentioned before, who's done some great research into positive emotions. And it's a book called Love 2.0. And it's not about romantic love, but it's about the the positive emotion of love, which she describes as a supreme positive emotion. And she talks about lots of ways that we can have those what she calls micro moments of connection to boost our positive emotions, and boy do we need those right now. So about half the book is about all the research into it and fantastic, really fascinating stories into all this stuff and the power of human connection. And and all the stuff that's happening, you know, neurochemical, etc, that's really interesting. And all the studies that she's done are supervised on this. And then the second half of the book is actually practical activities. So it's, it's a really nice book to get.
Tony Winyard 57:54
Yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about that book. And finally, Federika, is there a quotation that you like?
Frederika Roberts 58:03
Yes, there is a lovely lady called Deborah Searle who she was the very first professional speaker I ever saw on stage back when I worked in recruitment, and she spoke at our annual conference when I worked for a big recruitment company. And she she became famous for single handedly rowing across the Atlantic when her husband, who was a champion rower, actually discovered he had a phobia of the open ocean. And she decided to carry on on her own. And it's a fascinating story. And if you get a chance to watch her TEDx talk on line, it's a really good talk to look at. And one of the things that has stuck with me ever since I saw her and I saw her back in, I think, or what about 2004, or something like that. So it's been a little while, was the phrase "Choose your attitude", which was actually a phrase that her twin sister told her? While she was stuck on that boat when she was thinking of giving up? And she was like, Well, you know, do you want us to come and get you? And she said, No. And that sister said to her, "Well, in that case, choose your attitude". And that's what she's been doing ever since. And as she says, In her TEDx talk, you know, she doesn't always choose a very positive attitude. But at least it's a choice rather than being kind of dragged along by a mood or whatever, choose what attitude you're going to have and, and live it with gusto for that day. And I think when we're going through really challenging times, at the moment, choosing our attitude is really important, because we can't always choose the circumstances that we're in, but we can choose how we respond to their circumstances and how we manage ourselves in those circumstances.
Tony Winyard 59:36
Absolutely. Thank you for your time and for the great suggestions and stories that you've given the listeners. Thank you very much.
Frederika Roberts 59:46
It's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you this morning, Tony.
Tony Winyard 59:51
Next week is Episode 12. And it is with Rian Doris. He recently did a TED talk called "Why hustle doesn't lead to success". And he's going to talk a lot about the science of flow states and coaching techniques for flow and peak performance. So we're going to hear a lot more from Rian Doris. That's in next week's episode. Hope you enjoyed this week's show with Federika Roberts. If you did enjoy some of the things that she discussed and you know, anyone who may be would benefit from listening to some of the things that Federika talked about, why not share the episode with them? It'd be great if you could leave a review for the show. And why not subscribe while you're at it as well and hope you have a great week.
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