Access the student reflection APP which provides an opportunity for students and teachers to reflect and respond to topic-specific prompts.
“Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction,” according to Kendra Cherry at Verywell Mind.
Some signs of happiness may include:
Overall happiness does not mean that every moment will be bursting with pleasure and enjoyment. Rather, you seem to experience more positive emotions than negative emotions. Expecting constant euphoria may cause people to be sorely disappointed when it does not happen. It is important to set appropriate expectations.
Happiness doesn’t always come naturally. Often, we focus on external things like money, things, or fun experiences to make us happy. But true, lasting happiness is better found internally, by utilizing good emotional habits.
A habit is a behavior that is repeated regularly and, over time, with deliberate practice, can become automatic. Habits of happiness are things we deliberately do to be happy that bring satisfaction and joy into our lives over time. There are many habits that can help to secure happiness:
Happiness can improve our overall well-being. It can increase our satisfaction with life. Happy people tend to be more resilient and cope better in stressful situations. Positive emotions lead to better physical health and living a long life. In fact, happy people tend to choose healthier behaviors more often, such as exercising and eating fruits and vegetables. Happiness may also help you get sick less often and have a stronger immune system.
There are clearly many benefits of striving to live a happy life. Another term that psychologists have associated with happiness is “subjective well-being.” Clearly, well-being and feelings of happiness are strongly connected.
Activity 1: (15 minutes) EXPECTATIONS FOR HAPPINESS
Have a discussion:
“Everyone experiences both positive and negative emotions, feelings, and moods. Happiness is generally linked to experiencing more positive feelings than negative.
“Happy people still feel the whole range of human emotions—anger, frustration, boredom, loneliness, and even sadness—from time to time. But even when faced with discomfort, they have an underlying sense of optimism that things will get better, that they can deal with what is happening, and that they will be able to feel happy again.” (Kendra Cherry)
Sometimes we misunderstand what makes us happy. Pass out the Happiness or Mistaken Happiness handout to each student. In small groups, have students sort the following cards into the 2 categories: “Things we may MISTAKENLY BELIEVE bring us happiness” and “ACTUALLY bring us happiness.”
Have a discussion:
“While perceptions of happiness may be different from one person to the next, there are some key signs that psychologists look for when measuring and assessing happiness.” (Kendra Cherry, Verywell Mind)
Some key signs of happiness include:
There are several habits that increase our chance of greater happiness. The following activities will each cover a different habit of happiness.
Activity 2: (30 minutes) PURSUE INTRINSIC GOALS AND DISCOVER PURPOSE (HABIT #1)
Ask students how they would define intrinsic and extrinsic. Then define as a class.
“Extrinsic motivation is when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity because we want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. You will engage in behavior not because you enjoy it or because you find it satisfying, but because you expect to get something in return or avoid something unpleasant.” (Kendra Cherry)
“Intrinsic motivation is when you engage in a behavior because you find it rewarding. You are performing an activity for its own sake rather than from the desire for some external reward. The behavior itself is its own reward.” (Kendra Cherry)
Pass out the Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivation handout. Have students fill in the blanks to show the difference in intrinsic and extrinsic thinking that surprisingly results in the same action. If they finish early, have students compare answers with a neighbor. Have a discussion:
Have students return to their handout to answer the questions:
Activity 3: (10 minutes) ENJOY THE MOMENT
Read the quote:
“Most of us have a tendency to live in the past or the future. How often do you find yourself thinking about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow? How does this affect your life and well-being?” (Arlin Cuncic)
Have a discussion:
Extension: Go on a “Noticing Walk.” Take notebooks (or paper and
clipboards) and pencils with you, and go on a walk inside or outside the
school and have the students write down things they notice. Encourage
them to look for things they might not normally pay attention to. Back in
the classroom, have students share what they wrote and find the most
unique things. Students can also notice acts of service that might benefit the school.
As a class, practice slowing down with this slow motion video, “Slow Motion Ink In Water–Relaxing Music,” by Vela Productions. Have a discussion:
Here are some other ways to slow down:
Extension: Have students pick a favorite craft or art project to work on
silently for 5–10 minutes. Ask them to notice how their body feels and try to
enjoy the present sensations (e.g., the sound of the pencil, smell of paper).
Activity 4: (15 minutes) REFRAME NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Watch the video, “Your Brain is Wired for Negative Thoughts. Here’s How to Change It.”
Have students stand up and move to a line down the middle of the room. You will read short messages to the class and they need to decide if they are negative or positive comments. If the comment is negative, they walk to the left side of the room. If the comment is positive, they walk to the right. This is a quick kinesthetic assessment. To push their thinking deeper, ask students these 2 questions after every comment:
Activity 5: (15 minutes) DO HEALTHY ACTIVITIES THAT YOU ENJOY
Read the quote about exercise and happiness:
“Exercise is good for both your body and mind. Physical activity is linked to a range of physical and psychological benefits, including improved mood. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise may play a role in warding off symptoms of depression, but evidence also suggests that it may also help make people happier, too.
“In one analysis of past research on the connection between physical activity and happiness, researchers found a consistent positive link.
“Even a little bit of exercise produces a happiness boost—people who were physically active for as little as 10 minutes a day or who worked out only once a week had higher levels of happiness than people who never exercised.” (Kendra Cherry)
Instruct students to use the Activities for Happiness handout and fill in different activities that they know make them happy in each of the categories. Try to include exercise anywhere they can.
Fast finishers can share with a neighbor.
Activity 6: (15 minutes) SHOW GRATITUDE
We all have a lot to be thankful for. Sometimes, it is hard to see what we have and should appreciate. Taking the time each day to be aware of and thankful for what we have can make us more optimistic and satisfied with our lives.
Tell students the following story: Carrie was in a funk. She seemed to be grumpy every day. Nothing ever went right for her and she never got what she wanted. Her sister, Melissa, always seemed to get her way and had everything Carrie wanted. Carrie was miserable.
One day, her mom suggested that instead of dwelling on what she didn’t have, Carrie should write down something every day that she did have and was grateful for. Carrie decided to give it a try. For a whole month, she wrote down something she was thankful for every day. Sometimes, it was something really specific, like being thankful that her dad made her a sandwich. Other times, it was something general, like good weather. No matter what, though, she wrote something down every day.
At the end of the month, Carrie couldn’t believe how much better she felt. Yes, there were still hard things in her life, and she didn’t always get everything she wanted. But she had made a habit of gratitude, and instead of focusing on what she didn’t have, she found herself always looking for things she was grateful she did have. She was more satisfied with her life, and even her relationship with Melissa improved. Carrie was lots happier.
Pass out strips of colored paper (3 per student) and have them write/draw something they are grateful for. Encourage them to be as specific as possible. Staple the strips of paper together in links to create a gratitude paper chain. Display in the classroom.