Social-Emotional Fitness

Strengthening personal resources that boost students’ self-concept, emotional wellbeing and quality relationships.

The subcategories (or wellbeing ‘constructs’) within each Knox Total Fitness pillar are informed by a rigorous review and meta-analysis conducted by the Science of Wellbeing researchers, and inform evidence-based interventions that staff and students can adopt to improve ‘fitness’ in each wellbeing domain.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand and manage one’s own emotions and those of others (Mayer & Saolovey, 1990) and more broadly includes adaptability, self-motivation and empathy. Emotional awareness skills, self-regulation, coping strategies, problem-solving and intrapersonal skills are positively linked to high quality relationships, prosocial behaviours, positive health behaviours and empathy (Zeidner et al., 2009).


Self-concept is the overall idea of who we are and includes both cognitive (thoughts) and affective (feelings) judgments about oneself (Bong & Clark, 1999). Self-concept is a multidimensional construct that develops mostly during childhood and adolescence and encompasses dimensions of self-efficacy (i.e., judgement of a task-specific ability), self-esteem (i.e., belief in general abilities), identity, awareness and utilisation of personal traits and character strengths, and self-worth.

Positive affect

Positive emotions are a key part of wellbeing. Positive Emotions researcher, Dr Barbara Fredrickson, describes positive affect as “feeling states and attitudes representing the pleasant end (e.g., feeling grateful, upbeat, expressing appreciation, liking)” (Fredrickson, 2005). According to Broaden-and-Build Theory, positive emotions drive us to be more open, engaged and willing to try new things – they widen our scope of attention, broaden our thoughts and increase our creativity (Fredrickson & Branigon, 2005).


Optimism can be understood as a disposition described as the general expectation that good things will occur (Peterson, 2000), or an explanatory style of how we describe an event or ourselves (Abramson et al., 1978). Optimism is related to positive cognitive appraisals, emotional regulation, improved intuition, realistic goals, motivation and hopefulness (Feldman & Kubota, 2015; Madar et al., 2019; Zotev et al., 2013).


Positive relationships are characterised by feeling supported, loved and valued (Seligman, 2012). The ability to relate to other people through identifying and appreciating the good in others, knowing the effect our words and actions have on others, supporting others when they struggle, cheering on others’ successes, being present and providing our focused attention all foster empathy and high-quality relationships.