Tuesday 9 January 2024

The Power of Healthy Relationships

 Submitted by: Leah Yardley, Healthy Schools, Alberta Health Services 

When it comes to physical activity and movement, we tend to think about the power our bodies give us as we move and play. However, we don’t often think about how relationships can positively influence our physical activity experiences. Relationships have benefits extending far beyond the walls of the school gym, play area, or outdoor space. They’re like a superpower, that can fuel feelings of belonging and connectedness, and get the brain ready to learn.

Neuroscience tells us that as humans, our brains are wired to connect with other humans. When we build strong, positive, healthy relationships, we activate our lower brain (the part that’s involved in emotional regulation and safety). The lower brain acts as a gatekeeper for the upper brain (the part that’s involved in learning). When we feel cared for, safe, and are emotionally regulated, the lower brain opens the door to the upper brain and – voilà – we’ve unlocked the learning brain!

But it takes time to build relationships and feelings of connection, belonging, and safety. It’s the small things: a smile, some words of encouragement, a check-in on how someone is doing. These are all examples of small actions with big impact. They show we care and feed the lower brain. And we’re not just talking about relationships between students – relationships matter between you and your students, your colleagues, and even your relationship with yourself. All types of relationships have a part to play when creating a school community where both students and staff thrive.

Physical education classes offer great opportunities to foster healthy relationships. When you make social connection and relationship building an intentional part of lessons, you help students develop social emotional skills while also supporting positive physical activity experiences. In fact, opportunities to build social connection during physical education can increase participation for all students and boost physical and mental health outcomes. It’s a winning formula!

As you move into the new year, be sure to make self-care a priority, share a laugh with a colleague, and take time to connect. Focus on building relationships with your students and create opportunities for them to connect with each other.  A little goes a long way.

Looking for ideas that work? Check out:

·       Amplify student voice

·       Develop social emotional skills

·       Promote staff wellness

·       Support healthy relationships

·       Welcome everyone