Parent Wellbeing Blog | Reflections on Spirit and Community

We are delighted to welcome new pupils to the MCM campus in person this Summer Term with warm, smiling (masked) faces. As the situation regarding COVID-19 in Malaysia continues to improve, we continue to uphold our guiding principles around hygiene and distancing as these have proven to keep our community safe.

 

Community & Spirit are themes that the lower years are exploring during this term in well-being lessons while the 6th Form are upholding these values in practice through their CAS projects. Over the next two weeks, different groups of students will be running projects like a charity sale for the UNIC Care Activity Centre (to support people who are struggling to afford healthcare services), and a charity car wash to raise money for the Kechara Soup Kitchens. Both are engaging initiatives established by pupils to support communities that need it most.

 

The COMMUNITY dimension is a part of our infinity model because we recognise that the school is a community first and research shows there is a collective element of well-being within communities that is distinct from the individual. People have responsibility over their own well-being, but groups can (and should) also create systems and practices that enable the different people within the group to thrive. Such practices like inclusivity, belonging, giving everyone a voice, and altruistic group action can really solidify a community, increasing the collective well-being for all. In a divided world burdened by concurrent threats – pandemics, war, inequality, we need more than individuals looking out for their own well-being. We need collective action.

 

Research also supports the idea that group action, (especially when the beneficiaries are outside of the group) can increase feelings of self-esteem and belonging. In a study on volunteering conducted in the UK, it was found that “sharing an identity with other volunteers promoted feelings of belonging, which in turn impacted upon the participants’ wellbeing.” (Gray & Stevenson, 2019). We know this from lived experiences too. When we are living a shared experience with a group of people we tend to bond with them. When that shared experience revolves around a community project or positively impacting others in some way, this effect can be compounded.

 

COVID-19 has kept us separated for far too long. While many people found ways to keep helping, and other types of virtual communities arose, there is something special about being in the physical presence of other people. Barabara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, names the good feeling we get from being around others “positivity resonance”. She’s found in her research that three things are required in order to get these beneficial effects – eye contact, vocal acoustics, and synchronized facial expressions & body movements (Fredrickson, 2016). Now that we are able to gather safely, we can once again benefit from these group effects while working together to serve the communities around us.

 

There are many things happening around the world currently that we cannot change. But we can start small, where we are, and work together to make a difference in the immediate world around us. We will continue to explore the topics of social and community well-being throughout this term so more to come on this.

 

Diane Trif | Graduate Researcher in Residence, Head of  Wellbeing Senior School

 

Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Love: Positivity resonance as a fresh, evidence-based perspective on an age-old topic. In Barrett, L. F., Haviland, J. M. (Eds.), Handbook of emotions, 4th edition (pp. 847-858). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Gray, Debra & Stevenson, Clifford. (2019). How can ‘we’ help? Exploring the role of shared social identity in the experiences and benefits of volunteering.

Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 30. 10.1002/casp.2448.

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