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Wellbeing and academic success

This article examines the links between inclusion, belonging, wellbeing and academic success.
Silhouettes facing each other with thought bubbles inside their heads
© University of York

Inclusion, belonging and wellbeing

This article examines the links between inclusion, belonging and wellbeing. We also think about the impact that these factors can have on academic success in higher education.

Inclusion is about making sure that anyone in society who may be considered different (for example, those with disabilities or members of minority groups) are not only told they are included but also feel like they are, and that their differences are valued.

How a sense of belonging helps us academically and socially

When we include everyone, we develop a strong sense of community and belonging in respect to our peers, our campus and our teaching. This feeling can be extraordinarily powerful, helping to drastically reduce feelings of social anxiety and uncertainty. As such, we’re often more comfortable contributing in a group.

By bringing ideas forward, we’re also offering a particular perspective, which stems from a completely unique background. We begin to learn from each other, and start to view the world from a variety of perspectives, allowing us to notice and embrace the differences that the world has to offer. This also makes space for further inclusivity and creates a cycle of growth and acceptance.

Ultimately, by practising inclusivity, we offer a sense of belonging and feeling supported to all of our students. Which is a great first step in looking after our wellbeing.

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing is an intricate combination of our physical health, psychological health, social lives and relationships. It includes factors such as our sense of belonging, work/life balance, our relationship with ourselves and others, and has been defined as ‘the combination of feeling good and functioning well.’

Wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction. In short, wellbeing could be described as how you feel about yourself and your life.

Therefore, by looking after ourselves on an individual level as well as in our community, we can give ourselves the best chance at academic success.

How improving wellbeing can promote academic success

Wellbeing has been researched extensively over the last few decades, and although studies differ, the outcomes agree that improving wellbeing also:

  • Increases commitment and productivity
  • Reduces sickness and the need to take time off from studies
  • Improves resilience
  • Reduces stress and stress related problems and behaviour.
  • Improves focus

The importance of balance

A healthy work-life balance will mean different things to us all. It’s not so much about splitting your time 50/50 between work and leisure but making sure you feel fulfilled and content in both areas of your life. A healthy balance might look like:

  • Meeting your deadlines, while still having time for friends and hobbies
  • Having enough time to sleep properly and eat well
  • Not worrying about university when you’re engaging socially.

This can be challenging if, for example, we also have other responsibilities, health difficulties or we struggle with self-criticism.

Self-compassion

It’s easy to be tough on ourselves, we tend to do it much more than we realise. However, when we forgive ourselves, accept our perceived flaws, and show ourselves kindness, we practice self-compassion. Yet it’s often a lot harder than it sounds.

When giving advice to friends, it’s easy to say things like: “take a break,” or “you’re not a machine.” Yet, when it’s time to give ourselves the same permissions, we rarely do. Here are a couple of tips that might help:

  • Notice the baby steps and praise them.We tend to get so wrapped up in the destination, that we don’t focus on the steps we’re making along the way. By giving yourself permission to celebrate your small wins, you’re reinforcing that you are enough.
  • Make flexibility your friend.When managing health conditions, often, what works one day, may not the next. Practice changing things up, set yourself guidelines instead of rules, and set rough time scales instead of rigid ones.

Improving wellbeing

Using these new found permissions, you can start to:

  • Relax and reduce stress
  • Find ways to learn and be creative
  • Connect with others
  • Look after your physical health
  • Try to get enough sleep
  • Keep in touch with your university or institution

Some students find it easier to look after their well being than others. That’s why it’s important to use the support available at your university or institution. Universities understand that you may need some support and are set up to help you, so there is no shame in seeking help if you need it.

There is also lots of information available for students from many different sources besides your university. You might want to take a look at:

© University of York
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