What is Happiness - can it be learned and taught to students?
Let’s take a moment and reflect on “What makes you feel happy”? It could be anything from laughing at a joke, eating your favorite food, going for holidays, attending parties, feel excited at a new gift, completing assignments, getting acknowledgement, talking to friends, buying something new. Now let’s think about how long we are able to sustain our happiness? Is it momentary or sustainable? These, are forms of ‘momentary happiness’.
If we were to further reflect, we would understand that our happiness is always dependent on something so we are always in the process of seeking or striving for our happiness. So for example,” If I get a promotion then I will be happy”, “If my children score good marks then I will be happy”, “If I get my dream car then I will be happy”, “If I get admission in this university then I will happy” all these are conditional statements talking about a time in the future so we are always postponing our happiness. The constant striving, struggling, wanting, achieving, planning, regretting, disappointments, anticipation all these lead to stress.
In the pursuit of happiness we are actually becoming unhappy.
This poses a significant challenge for schools, families and communities on how children should be nurtured and prepared. Lack of trust, insecurity, impulsivity, social comparison, over achievements, lack of sense of identity and low self esteem can lead to skewed and imbalanced growth, the repercussions of which could be dreadful and far-reaching.
What we all are actually looking for is a form of well-being that goes deep—not just a fleeting sensation of pleasure or a temporary ego boost. This is what we call ‘Sustainable happiness’, which is “happiness that contributes to the individual, community and/or global well-being without exploiting other people, the environment or future generations” (O'Brien, 2010) We are looking for inner peace, balance and equanimity.
And this is what we want to teach our children - Sustainable happiness. Do we?
Seligman, a positive psychologist, conducted a quiz with thousands of parents with two simple questions. The first was ‘what do you most want for your children?’ Majority of responses were ‘Happiness, Balance, Fulfillment, Confidence, Contentment’ - all falling under the realm of well-being. The next question was ‘what do schools teach?’ Responses were ‘literacy, math, achievement, success, thinking skills’ - all falling under the factors for excelling at the workplace.
Several studies demonstrate that teaching sustainable happiness and promoting student well being leads to success and stability in all domains of life. The question now is how?
Now that we have understood Happiness, let’s talk about the Science behind it. When we are born, our genetics provide us with a happiness set-point that accounts for about 40% of our happiness. Having our basic needs - food, shelter, and safety make up for 10%. While the 50% is entirely up to us.
Our brains are designed for happiness. In the brain, there are caregiving systems in place for eye contact, touch and vocalizations to let others know we are trustworthy and secure.
Training our brain through attention and awareness exercises takes it possible for us to think in a happier, more optimistic, and more resilient way.
New discoveries in the field of positive psychology show that physical health, psychological well-being and physiological functioning are all improved by how we learn to “feel good”. (Fredrickson B. L. 2000)
It could not be more sure that this gives one more, if not many reasons to add the ‘Happiness’ effect to your school and become one of the first few schools in the country to set a happiness-centric curriculum in place! Here is eduExcellence, in association with nurtr, presenting first of its kind online course on implementing happiness curriculum in school.
5 simple ways to bring Happiness to your classroom
- Short Mindfulness Practices in class: Begin and end the school day by doing a short 3-min Mindfulness practice in class with your students. Mindfulness is a skill that enables one to pay attention to one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.
- Create a gratitude tree with your students: In class, engage and encourage your students to reflect and write down the little things they were grateful for in the day and add to your gratitude tree in the class.
- Random Acts of Kindness: Encourage students in your class to perform 3 acts of kindness everyday while motivating them to document the same in a journal.
- Build in Student choice: Once a fortnight, give your students the flexibility to decide how they would like to approach a particular topic in a subject, how they would like to learn it and with whom. Giving the students this choice promotes happy learning thus enabling them to grasp a concept better. It also forces students to take responsibility for their own learning and establish self-directed practices that will assist them in the long-term.
- Teacher-student connect time: Once a fortnight, class teachers may allocate one class where they communicate and connect with their students on interests, dislikes, what makes them happy/sad/angry. This strengthens the teacher-student connection and makes students feel heard and important.