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Be You

Headlines present mixed messages on happiness among teenagers. Based on international and national surveys, it is claimed UK teenagers are mostly happy with life[1] and that 16 is one of the happiest years of our lives.[2] In contrast, some reports find young people have never been so unhappy[3] or least satisfied, suffering high levels of stress in addition to worries about their health.[4]

The BeYou series of books might therefore offer teenagers some help and advice.

Be You is a four book series encouraging young people to develop positive qualities of calmness, courage, kindness and happiness. This is an interesting positive focus on teenager well-being as opposed its more commonly addressed negative flip-side: managing stress, overcoming fear and tackling unkindness, such as bullying and dealing with sadness. The sheer positivity is exemplified in the series subtitle and intention: ‘Be your best self every day’. This is an inspiring and perhaps Aristolelian or Buddhist approach to developing a person’s character by changing the everyday behaviour that will then become habitual.

Moreover, the Be You books are intended to be pocket-sized life guides. Although the books might not fit into a pocket -- the books are 191mm x 140mm -- the series is case bound, so more robust than a paperback, but not quite as heavy as a hardback. Readers can carry these books around and regularly refer to them. The contents page lists the title of each chapter and usefully includes a short description of what it covers, so readers can select the most helpful advice for a specific situation. Individual chapters are short - mostly two to four pages -including illustrations, making the text accessible and appealing. Alternatively, it is a book someone could pick up daily and in a spare five minutes to read a chapter or two.

Furthermore, the books are written by the team behind Breathe, a mindfulness magazine promoting a happier and healthier life and Teen Breathe, a teenage edition examining issues more pertinent to teenagers based on the latest research. The books are therefore informative and authoritative. By way of introduction each book begins with a short discussion on the meaning of bravery, calmness, happiness or kindness. The majority of the content however present teenagers with practical steps on how to develop these positive qualities in their everyday life.

Be Brave promotes self-belief and self-assurance, preparing young people to assert themselves in the outside world. There are chapters on tackling frenemies, bullying, anxiety and awkward situations - but also on asking questions, public speaking and starting conversations.

Be Calm explores how to achieve calmness by developing strategies to manage stress as well as practical hints and tips on reducing the amount of stress in a teenager’s life. This book includes the importance of physical well-being - exercising and getting a goodnight sleep - as well as the emotional and mental benefits of relaxation.

Be Happy examines how to experience a deep sense of contentment by celebrating what is good in a young person’s life and dealing with issues that might make someone sad. There is repeated advice on showing gratitude, specifically appreciating and spending time with those that mean the most to them: family, friends and pets.

Be Kind reflects on the simple acts that demonstrate caring that can make a difference to someone’s day. This book is perhaps the most introspective, encouraging teenagers to reflect on their motivations and changing their attitudes - forgiveness, for example - as well as recognising the need to spend time caring for themselves.

In addition, the books provides a breadth of help and advice. It includes practical tools to make a simple diagnosis, such as using HALT (hungry, angry, lonely and tired) to decide whether a young person is in the right state of mind to make a good decision. There are numerous quick guides or ‘to do’ lists, for example, how to avoid and, if necessary, handle arguments online. There are also constructive suggestions on how young people could spend time when relaxing, such as developing interests and enjoying physical exercise.

Whilst individual titles in the series may be more relevant to a particular individual, the series offers a holistic approach to well-being. The four qualities of bravery, calmness, happiness and kindness are interconnected and a more confident, calm, happy and kind young person will continually reaffirm and develop these same qualities. The series is well-planned; there is little repetition between books. Moreover, these books promote the importance of emotional, mental and physical well-being as a key to a happier and healthier life.

The Be You series is aspirational and gives young people the advice and guidance on how to achieve their goals in everyday life. It is certainly a series of books I will be keeping in my secondary school classroom, although I suspect it is a series that will be frequently ‘borrowed’.

Simon Barrett


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