Dear Parents and Girls,

I was asked this week to contribute to an article on raising girls’ self-esteem. I have always believed that an essential part of building self-esteem is to encourage students to look outwards and away from the introspection that can often play too large a part in adolescence. This is why our Guild and other fund-raising activities are so important to us at BHHS. The Sixth Formers ran a wonderfully successful Fashion Show last night and we are all looking forward to dancing for Sports Relief next Friday. In the summer we’ll celebrate our 140th Birthday with a Race for Life. Involvement in these kinds of activities, raising money for, and awareness of, other less fortunate people makes us all feel good.

But benefits to our self-esteem don’t just come from giving generously. Recently the concept of gratitude has been the focus of research studies in psychology and neuroscience. The results are surprising: although expressing gratitude often means thanking someone else, the real benefit of feeling and expressing gratitude is gained by the person expressing gratitude. Even when expressed to no one in particular, expression of gratitude has some real and measurable benefits.

Among the benefits described by academic studies of the subject are increased happiness, better connections with others, and general improvement of one’s relationships. Feeling grateful activates areas of the brain associated with the neuron- transmitter dopamine.  An increase in dopamine makes us feel good and want to be more positive with others in order to keep that good feeling going.  Thus we are happier, feel less depressed, and are kinder when we consistently practise the habit of feeling grateful.

I shall take this opportunity, then, to say to all our outward-looking girls (and their extremely generous parents) how grateful we are for everything you do to support our school’s charity and fund-raising activities throughout the year.