Learning logs for happiness?

25 February 2015

An article in the popular women’s magazine ‘Psychologies’ made me think about learning logs differently. At this time of year there are a plethora of features and blogs about how to have a happier 2015. These usually involve some element of healthy eating and exercise, and this year there is a smattering of mindfulness suggestions too.

The article I read explored these and other assumptions that we all make about what makes up happy. Paul Dolan, professor at the London School of Economics, and author of Happiness by Design, suggests a different approach.

“You can trust your own experiences more than your desires,” says Dolan. In order to find out what’s really bringing you joy and misery on a daily basis, he advocates logging what you do and how you feel…Do it by constructing a chart that breaks up your days by ‘episode’. Who were you with, what were you doing, how did you feel? You’ll soon have a clear – and perhaps surprising picture….”

Does that sound like a learning log to you? Michael Smull developed learning logs with colleagues from OTAC in Oregon. He tells the story of Amy, who hated medical appointments. A nurse who worked with Amy was supporting her to a medical appointment. Rather than have Amy wait in the doctor’s office, she took her through a drive-through car wash. Amy, who did not communicate with words, was happier and more excited in the car wash than anyone had ever seen before. The creative and skilful way that this nurse supported Amy was not part of her nursing notes, until learning logs were developed. The learning log is a process to learn about new activities or situations. Staff notes and records confirm what activities have taken place but rarely record what was learned. People who support someone on a day-to-day basis are learning important information about what works for the person. Usually this gets lost as it not expected to be recorded and the learning log changes this.

Gill Bailey started to introduce learning logs to support people living with dementia, to help learn more about what matters to each person and how they want to be supported, when people cannot tell us directly themselves. She particularly uses them to develop detailed one-page profiles in home care and care homes.

So what about using learning logs in relation to happiness? The Care Act (2014) requires care and support planning to include the person’s own outcomes as well as assessed need.

Not many people call how they want their lives to be different at the end of 2015 their ‘outcomes’ but it is in the same playing field. Great outcomes describe how the person’s life will be different in the future. Including people’s personal outcomes in planning (for example, in care and support planning or as part of the Care Programme Approach in mental health services), means that we have to know how people want to be happier with their life and service. We have to know how people want their life to be different, better, happier, not just what professionals think is required. Perhaps for some people, learning logs, could be a way to explore what makes them happy, to start a different conversation about outcomes and change.

I want to check out my assumptions about what makes me happier in 2015, in the way that the article suggests. I will let you know how I get on in a blog next month.

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