Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Understanding Wellbeing Theory and Practice

ListenLink opens in a new window to Elena talking about wellbeing at University, students creating wellbeing-positive solutions and more for the Warwick Enterprise Student Innovation Podcast. Hear all about the module Understanding Wellbeing and the work of former students (from min 5.33)!


gAs reported in several national studies (‘Student mental wellbeing in higher education. Good practice guide, Universities UK, MWBHE, 2015’; ‘Poppy Brown, The invisible problem? Improving students’ mental health, HEPI Report 88, 2016’; ‘10 steps to address the student mental health crisis’, etc.), we are observing a crisis, which is growing each year, in student mental health and wellbeing in the UK universities, including the University of Warwick.

The main aim of this module is therefore to engage students to look at a global, timely and relevant topic such as wellbeing in its complexity, discovering the potential of an interdisciplinary approach to the matter.

The module will analyse the concept of wellbeing from the perspective of several disciplines (Biomedical disciplines, Sociology, Economics and Arts & Humanities) and will help students to understand the complexity of this crucial topic and the relevance of a holistic approach in order to solve the issues related to it.

Read about the experience of being part of this module from former Economics student Qurratuain Amir Ihsan (Class 2020)!Link opens in a new window


Weekly topics 2020-21 (May be subject to change)

In general, the first part of the session will be an interactive lecture given by the subject expert with the second part being a workshop, led by the module leader together with the disciplinary expert, to facilitate the learning experience of the students. During the sessions, students will work in groups and individually.

1. Module introduction (Elena Riva and Janet Winter, Wellbeing Adviser, Wellbeing Services): the session will cover (a) the scaffolding themes of the module, i.e. measuring and monitoring wellbeing, factors that influence wellbeing, interventions to promote wellbeing, (b) student’s personal experiences and reflections, (c) module’s organisation, learning outcomes and assessment, (d) students that desire, will have the opportunity to use the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) for positively assessing their wellbeing.

2. Introduction to Wellbeing (Elena and Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, WMS): Sarah will introduce students to the different perspectives on wellbeing favoured by the different disciplines and discuss the way these influence the measurement of wellbeing, research methodologies and approaches to improving wellbeing at the personal and population levels.

3. The Biology of Wellbeing (Elena and Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, WMS): In this session we will explore how individual genetic differences may impact on wellbeing and how an understanding of these differences may provide the blueprint for ensuring optimal wellbeing. In the second half of the session, we will consider what we can each do as individuals to enrich the environment and thus maximise our own wellbeing and maximise our capacity to fulfil our own innate potential.

4. Economics of wellbeing (Elena and Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee, WBS): In this session, we will explore whether money buys happiness (and if not, why not?). We will also explore what matters more to our wellbeing between economics and non-economics factors, and how we could spend our money wisely to boost wellbeing.

5. Wellbeing and Failure (Elena and Dr Jonathan Heron, IATL) : This session will take the form of a participatory workshop which will enable students to reflect upon issues of mental and physical health in relation to the interdisciplinary subject of failure. We will consider critiques of the wellbeing agenda and challenge conventional narratives of success and wellness. Case studies will draw upon the creative arts as well as medical and social models of disability in order to consider ‘failing better’ as a strategy for wellbeing.

6. Self-maintenance (Elena and Jaeda Goodman, Psychological Therapist, Wellbeing Support Services): In this session we will explore some of the challenges of maintaining wellbeing in modern westernised society and consider some of the evidence based strategies for optimal wellbeing. In the second half of the session, students will be involved in ‘out of the classroom’ activities that will allow them to discover and reflect on the relationships between the theories presented by Jaeda and the daily life on campus (e.g. reflective visit to a campus canteen/café, the Library, etc.).

7. Mindfulness and wellbeing (Elena and Dean Howes, CLL): Following an initial experiential practice, the theoretical underpinnings of modern mindfulness will be introduced. This will then lead to a deeper exploration of how mindfulness could support and cultivate wellbeing and the different meditative and “in-the-moment” practices available. Learner reflection and personal application will be encouraged throughout the session.

8. Sport and wellbeing (Elena and Jina Tanton, Wellbeing and Health Coordinator, Warwick Sport): In this session, students will explore the role of sport and physical activity in relation to wellbeing. Before analysing the theoretical underpinning, students will take part in a simple mood rating task before and after participating in an ‘out of the classroom’ ‘mindful’ physical activity (e.g. Yoga and/or Tai Chi) and a higher intensity physical activity (i.e. circuits, boxercise). Students will use this experience to reflect on the immediate and short-term impact of physical activity on mood and the role of regular physical activity for promoting wellbeing and the relationships between wellbeing and physical activity, exercise and sport.

9. Can Art help Wellbeing? (Elena and Emma O'Brien, Warwick Arts Centre): Emma will be looking at ways that creativity and visual arts can be used as an outlet for everyone to create a positive mental attitude, and mental wellbeing on a day to day basis. At the beginning of the session, students will be directly involved in a practical workshop that will help them to understand this particular relationship while also reflecting on their personal experience.

10. Module recap (Elena): It will be an interactive lecture that students will find useful as a recap for their learning process. There will be space for delivering feedback to students (including peer-feedback) and for self-reflecting on the learning journey. Sarah Stewart-Brown will be present at this final session and support students in their reflective practice.
Students that desire, will have the opportunity to use again the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) for positively assessing their wellbeing at the end of the courseLink opens in a new window.


    1- 1500 (15 CATS) word academic writing piece OR 2-4 minute video plus 400 word commentary. Traditional style essays, as well as essays that reflect scientific writing (i.e. scientific article style), will be welcome. (50%)

    2- Student Devised Assessment (SDA). Form of assessment method designed by you with the full support of the tutor whereby you will create a piece of work (an article, a short film, a talk, a play, a workshop, a painting, a podcast and so on) that offers a solution to a controversial topic or a question that has arisen during the module. You will be free to select your preferred topic/question and subsequently, you will undertake your own research utilising the methodologies and the holistic approach presented throughout the course. You must demonstrate and communicate the themes and topics presented in the module in your piece and provide a critical description of the theories underpinning your SDA main piece in an accompanying piece. You will be given full tutor support both when planning your devised assessment and when bringing it to fruition. This will include some one-on-one time with a module tutor. (15 CATS; 50%) Here the link to a page which contains an explanation of what an SDA is and example from another module.Link opens in a new window


    Module Convenors

    2022-23: Dr Elena Riva


    Dr Lorenzo Serini


    With the contribution of Members of the Wellbeing Services

    Class Time 2022-23

    Term 1 (Autumn)
    Friday 10.00am -12:00 pm


    OC1.03 (Oculus)


    15 CATS

    1) Student Devised Assessment (50%)
    2) 1500 word academic writing piece
    2-4 minute video plus 400 word commentary (50%)