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Spanish university offers well-being courses

Lisa Bevill, Academic Director of the Center for Health, Well-being, and Happiness at IE University of Spain, talks with VietNamNet about the university’s “well-being courses” which set a foundation for students to find “the next best you”.
Ms. Lisa Bevill, Academic Director of the Center for Health, Well-being, and Happiness at IE University.


How do you define well-being and happiness?

The IE University created the center for health, well-being, and happiness in 2019. Before the pandemic, we focused on reinventing higher education on innovation because the sentiment was that we have an opportunity with students on campus. They are in classes, and we have time with them. We can focus on the human side of development from a holistic perspective. That was the mission of the center. 

We have worked very closely to say what well-being is because, during the post-pandemic period, well-being is everywhere. So what does that mean? We have created a definition around three core pillars: balance, appreciation, and perspective. 

Well-being is not the chasing of happiness, or we must be happy. No, it is a general state of deeper contentment. There are challenges, there are barriers to overcome or difficulties in life. That is normal. We look for a general balance in contentment, in our mental, emotional and physical health - overall balance. 

The second is appreciation. Appreciation for who we are, each one of us is unique and different. "Appreciation of our strength, appreciation of others, of the diversity". Each person brings an appreciation for the community in the world we live.

And finally, perspective, which is to recognize again that everything is not perfect. There is not a straight line, there are challenges. We can gain perspective at that moment to help relativize our path. We can gain perspective in terms of what is important to us. We can take a longer-term perspective that will allow us to achieve a greater positive impact.

A survey in Vietnam shows that 45 percent of students have been affected by COVID-19. How has pandemic affected your students?

What happens is that we have isolation. Isolation creates negative emotions, and the response is to withdraw, even yell. We then become out of practice, we become lacking those skills. 

A lot of our focus is on a well-being and practice course that we implemented for all year-one and master students. 

The core academic content is how to cultivate more positive emotions because that drives pro-social behaviors, connections, and perspectives.

IE University has recently launched a new vision called “The next best you”. How does this affect the humanity program at IE and how will you adjust the current program to match this new vision? 

Well-being in IE not only supports individual flourishing but also supports the core values of IE. When we are well with balance, appreciation, and perspective, coming in a good place with an abundance of positive emotions, a greater sense of resilience, a greater appreciation for who we are, our values, our journey, then we can continue on a path, we can aspire to greater excellence, we can dream bigger. 

Personal well-being allows for that flourishing and that vision of who we are. We have diversity. When I am in a good place, I am able to broaden my visual field, see different people, know their different perspectives, hear, listen, empathize, and then have a greater impact. 

Well-being, in some ways, is a foundation for the chasing of “The next best you”. It is recognizing the journey that we are all on, and feeling confident in our own abilities, recognizing that there are challenges. There is tension. It is not a straight line. But we have the capacity to keep learning. Even if there are setbacks or disappointments, we can relativize those and gain perspective, learn and keep moving forward.

How do you think the new program affects the international community of students with different backgrounds and approaches to happiness?

Because we bring together students from all over the world that come from different cultures, families, and values, what we love to cultivate is that there is an appreciation of diversity and difference. It is not just "having the diversity", but it is "being able to leverage that diversity". Well-being supports that in terms of giving that broader perspective. 

Also, to answer your question, there is no right answer of what is the next best you. That is going to be unique to who you are. What well-being can support is tapping into what is important to me, which could not be different for each person. 

We all have some common core values around that appreciation of diversity, around respect, around creating a community and a planet and having a positive impact. 

Yet, how we go about that is going to be very different. That is what we want to cultivate - that greater sense of authenticity. This is who I am, these are my values, this is my purpose, and I am going to be on my path forward. 

Each person cultivates that greater sense of confidence in their own journey, who they are and the positive impact that they are making. That is about how to be calm and comfortable with who we are. 

Lan Anh

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