When with working with children especially younger ones discussing the issue of mental health had a lot of them shouting ‘I’m not mental!’, so I started to use ‘happy juice’ to illustrate mental health and depression. It sounds daft, but go with it, it truly works and I worked with high school children! This is what I would say…...
Let me explain about happy juice, inside your body just under your ribs is a place which stores your happy juice; ask them to recall getting butterflies..... this is happy juice topping up! They will ask is it real, “yes of course”, most know it’s not, but no one to date has argued the point. The fuller the happy juice pot the happier you will feel.
When you do good things like; win at football, watch a good film, go on holiday basically anything positive, your happy juice is topped up. Impress the need to recognise all positives, the little ones top up a little but the bigger events top up more but we need all the happy juice we can get.
However, when anything bad happens it drains our happy juice; getting a bad result, falling out with friends or having a family member ill. All of these things drain your happy juice.
The next part is important, ask, “so what do you think happens when not enough goes in and too much goes out?” They will answer ‘it will be empty’.
Right – “what do you think happens when it is empty?” The answers we’re looking for are angry and sad and anything similar, they always know the answer.
It is a simplified way of explaining it but it works and kids can relate to it.
You can illustrate this more graphically by using a couple of jugs and show water being added and tipped away!
To illustrate the point further and to get them thinking about all of the possible positives, get them to do a ‘happy juice poster’. Making a list of everything they can think of, however big or small. A prize for the winner, they will come up with some amazing things like; spending time with their Nan or taking the dog for a walk to talking with my favourite teacher!
When they’ve done the posters, tell them the GLASS story. Fill a glass half full and ask the question ‘IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL’, discuss briefly their answers before going on to the next GLASS STORY. It illustrates how we as individuals see things, either positively or negatively.
Next hand the glass to one of students and ask them to hold it out in front of them, at arm’s length, ask ‘Is the glass heavy?’
The answer will be a quizzical noooo!
Then talk to the group about when you carry around worries, anxieties, problems and negative issues, it feels like the cup is manageable at first.
After a couple of minutes ask again ‘is the cup heavy now?’
The answer is normally ’Errrm its ok’.
Now talk about the longer you hold on to negatives the more impact that they have on your lives and they become too heavy to bear.
After another couple of minutes ask again ‘is the cup heavy now?
The answer now is likely to be ‘Yes its hurting my arm’.
Take the cup off the child saying ‘here let me help you out’; often in life we need help to tackle certain things!
This is another visual way to illustrate mental health and how it can affect us.
TO DO AT HOME
This is to reinforce the messages of the Happy juice session and begin to alter their focus; explain that if you watch a programme and half way through realise that the there is a man using sign language in the corner, you now focus on him rather than the programme you were watching or you watch a film and look for all its bad points you might rate it 6, however, if you were to watch looking for all the good points the chances are it would be an 8 or even a 9.
This week fill in a dairy each night and list all your happy juice moments, all positives nothing else. You have to find at least 5 each day, but you can put as many as you like there’s room!
In the top left corner of each box write a number to show how you are feeling before filling in the box; 1 is the worst ever and 10 is the best ever.
In the top right corner of each box write a number to show how you are feeling after filling in the box; 1 is the worst ever and 10 is the best ever.