The faculty of arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University is offering a new course called “The Science and Practice of Wellness” over the next semester, which is intended to encourage students to partake in activities that contribute to wellness and wellbeing.
Jocelyn Lymburner, a registered psychologist and a member of KPU’s psychology department, will be teaching the course. She says she wants to include elements of hands-on learning where students can participate in various wellness practices for themselves.
Lymburner came up with the idea for the course after learning about a course at Yale University that looks at the overall science of students and their wellness.
“The course is designed to really help students learn some wellness practices as a preventative measure and help them recognize some aspects of themselves,” she says.
The course took around a year and a half to develop, and during spring 2020, a pilot for the course was implemented as ARTS 1100. Now the course has been approved to be taught in the spring 2022 semester as ARTS 2000.
Lymburner says 70 per cent of mental health problems begin before the age of 25, and those in that age group experience an amount of mental distress. Post-secondary students face disproportionally higher rates of depression and hopelessness and experience more frequent thoughts of suicide.
Mental health-related issues have reportedly been rising among post-secondary students in Canada, according to several studies, including a recent one conducted by Dr. Brooke Linden, assistant professor at Queen’s University. Some of the mental health-related issues have been listed as “stress and psychological distress.”
Over the duration of the course, students will participate in activities proven to have positive effects on mental health, Lymburner says. These activities include nature walks, gratitude practices, yoga, and participating in informed discussions on emotional intelligence and self-compassion.
She plans to start off the course with an hour discussion and then break students off into smaller groups to work on reflections and self-assessments with classmates.
“The goal here really is to introduce students to a whole bunch of different practices, with the idea that, far beyond the end of this class, they’ll be able to integrate one or two of those practices into their own lives permanently,” she says.
The plan is to make the course affordable to students so textbooks are not required, and Lymburner is planning to acquire funding for a sustainable happiness journal that students will be expected to use inside and outside of class.
There won’t be exams in this course, and the work comes from a student’s participation with the exercises and wellness practices. Lymburner says it’s designed to “contribute to wellness, as opposed to contributing to stress.”
Lymburner says this course is beneficial for life. She chose to make it an art course instead of a psychology course because she wanted to make it easily accessible to KPU students without multiple prerequisites.
She’s hoping the course receives full enrollment, as the plan is to have more faculty members teach the course and offer two or three sections of it in a year.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to connect with one another, connect with faculty, and to learn the types of strategies that can benefit them outside school,” says Lymburner.