Unit 1: Conditions & Connections

No results found.

Unit 2: Physical Well-Being
Unit 3: Social Well-Being
Unit 4: Emotional Well-Being
Unit 5: Mental Well-Being
Unit 6: Academic Well-Being
Unit 7: Character

No results found.

Unit 8: Citizenship

No results found.

Unit 9: Supplemental Lessons

No results found.

Lesson 16: Habits of Happiness & Gratitude

Chart paper and markers

7 Ways to Be Happier:


The Science of Gratitude:


Robert Emmons: The Power of Gratitude:


Want to be happy? Be grateful:


  • I engage in habits that make me happy. 
  • When difficult things happen, I have the resources to manage them.
  • In general, I have more good days than bad days.
  • I take a moment to be grateful each day.
  • I acknowledge and appreciate the kindness of others. 
  • I am aware of the unique opportunities I have.

Parent Guide

The purpose of this lesson is to help participants explore habits of happiness and how they can deliberately put into practice these habits to establish a lifestyle of happiness, which includes incorporating gratitude into their perspectives.

Research has shown that the behaviors and habits we engage in do matter—from gratitude to kindness to mindfulness—and that they can lead to an enduring happiness boost. There are specific things that increase one’s own happiness, and they aren’t always what people think.  Having money, a good job, perfect body, or true love may be nice, but they don’t bring nearly the happiness people think they will. 

The research from The How of Happiness states (in general terms) that genetics count for 50% of our happiness. 40% is from our own thoughts and actions, and 10% are circumstances, so a good percentage is within our control. (Sonja Lyubomirsky)

(Image Source:  The Science of Well-Being Coursera course & The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky)


Invite participants to assess their current levels of happiness. Use one of the following self-assessments:

  • The Authentic Happiness Inventory, a Yale Survey Tool designed by Christopher Peterson.
  • Self-assessment. Ask yourself: On a scale of 1–5, how happy are you with your life right now?

Have teachers take 5 minutes to write about what they believe makes people happy. You can have a couple interested people share their thoughts. 

Activity 2: (15 minutes) HAPPINESS IMAGES

Start by clicking the link to make your own copy of the vision board powerpoint slides. Then share your copy of the slides with the participating teachers. 

Invite participants to pull out their phones or computers. They will find an empty slide, label it with their name, and add 57 images to their slide that represent what happiness looks like for them. 

Invite each participant to share their slide with others in a large or small group depending on the number of participants. 

Activity 3: (10 minutes) BE HAPPIER TQE

Pass out the Happiness TQE handout. Give teachers time to fill out the first column labeled “thoughts.”

Then watch the video, “7 Ways to Be Happier,” by Yale professor of psychology Laurie Santos interviewed by Now This News. As teachers watch, they will fill out the “questions” column. Then directly after the video, they can complete the “epiphanies” column. Have a quick debrief and invite a few people to share some thoughts that they wrote down.

As a group, review the 7 things that help people to be happier, as described in the video. Then brainstorm a short list of things that people mistakenly believe will bring them happiness. 

Next, divide into groups of 5-6 people and pass out a chart paper to each group. Invite participants to write down their favorite strategies for happiness as you continue through the lesson.

Have a discussion: 

  • What did you like about the video? What do you dislike?
  • What surprised you? 
  • What imagery interested you? Why? 
  • What questions do you have? 
  • What notes did you take during the video?
  • What was your favorite quote or idea from the video? 
  • Why do we mistakenly believe certain things will bring us happiness?

Activity 4:  (10 minutes) ARTICLE & PLANNING

Pass out the article, “12 Steps to Happiness” by Greater Good Magazine (digital link). Read, annotate, and create a plan focused on using 1 or 2 of the strategies listed in the article.

Invite participants to add happiness strategies to their group chart paper. 

Activity 5: (20 minutes) PARTNER SHARE & GROUP DEBRIEF

Invite teachers to think back to an experience that made them happy. As they explain that experience to a partner, have them state specific reasons about why it brought them happiness. Then they will compare those reasons with the happiness strategies discussed in the lesson so far. Finally, have them discuss the following questions:

  • What commonalities did you hear?  
  • Were they similar to those shared in the article?  
  • Were there some that weren’t mentioned?  
  • Do you have others you would add?  

Debrief as a whole group, looking for patterns and strengthening your understanding of the strategies.  

Invite participants to add happiness strategies to their group chart paper. 

Activity 6: (10 minutes) QUOTE & DISCUSSION

Share the following quote by Jimmy Carter: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” As a class, answer the follow-up questions: 

  • Do you agree or disagree?
  • Does the historical context of the quote change its meaning? Think about the time we live in while still looking to the past or future. How does the meaning of the quote change with time? 
  • How does this quote apply to your current perspective of gratitude?

Gratitude is considered to be one of the most overlooked strategies for happiness. Studies have shown that taking time to be grateful is so powerful it can even rewire your brain to have greater, consistent well-being. 

Activity 7: (25 minutes) VIDEOS & DISCUSSION

Divide the group up into three groups. Give each group a video to watch. 

  • Group 1: Watch the video, “The Science of Gratitude,” by Tremendousness
  • Group 2: Watch the video, “Robert Emmons: The Power of Gratitude,” from the Greater Good Science Center
  • Group 3: Watch the video, “Want to be happy? Be grateful,” by TED.

After watching the clip, have groups review the main points of the video. Then, they can discuss the questions as a group:

  • How does gratitude help us live a better life?
  • What does the author (and research) show are the benefits of gratitude? 
  • What result of having gratitude is the most powerful?
  • Why do you think gratitude is so powerful?
  • How is gratitude connected to happiness? 


Invite each group to design a gratitude/happiness program for the school. This might include activities, goals, and overall purpose of the program. If needed, have the participants consider the following prompts: 

  • Who in our school is struggling with being happy and grateful? 
  • How could a happiness/gratitude program acknowledge that issue?
  • By creating a happiness/gratitude program, what other issues could be acknowledged/addressed?

Activity 9: (25 minutes) EXPRESS GRATITUDE

Share a story from your own life about someone that has mentored you or made a difference for you. Invite participants to think about someone who has done the same in their own life. Tell them you are going to give them 15 minutes to connect with that person. They can write them a note, or step into the hallway to give them a call. Invite participants to be specific about what they are grateful for in thanking their person. 

As small groups, have a class discussion: 

  • What did you learn through this experience? 
  • What surprised you the most? 
  • How do you feel? 

Activity 10: (10 minutes) REVISIT GROUP CHARTS

Invite groups to review the different strategies they wrote down on their group charts. Invite them to share their strategies with the larger group. Invite each group to add additional strategies that haven’t been mentioned previously. 

Review the list of strategies included in this lesson as possibilities if you see they aren’t being addressed on the group charts. 

Invite each participant to reflect and choose 2-3 strategies that they are going to incorporate into their lives this upcoming week.

  • What is happiness? 
  • What are some specific ways to increase happiness? decrease?
  • How does happiness impact your overall well-being? 
  • What is something you can do or create to bring some happiness to yourself and others? 
  • How do you show you are grateful?
  • What are you most grateful for today?
  • When is it important to be grateful? Why?
  • Why is gratitude hard to maintain?
  • Let go of grudges and forgive.
  • Practice acts of kindness.
  • Invest in relationships.
  • Cultivate optimism for the future.
  • Avoid overthinking and social comparison.
  • Develop strategies for stress.
  • Count your blessings and create a focus on gratitude.
  • Take care of your body by exercising, meditating, smiling,and laughing.
  • Engage in something creative. 
  • Acknowledge the kindness of others. 
  • Have an attitude of gratitude. Each day, for an entire week, write down what you’re grateful for. One way to do this is to identify a shared space at school such as the office or faculty lounge. Invite teachers to write down what they are grateful for and write it down on a sticky note on the board. 
  • During the next faculty meeting or next reflection prompt activity, invite teachers/staff to share what they learned about gratitude and happiness.  
  • For 7 days, keep a list of 3 things you’re grateful for and why they happened each day. 
  • Create some “Notice Notes” and put a pile in your workroom. Send a few yourself to get the flow started. Invite faculty/staff to write and deliver them this week. 
  • Write your own “Book of Awesome”—little things that you appreciate. It’s the little things. But why?
  • Download a gratitude app and keep track for a period of time of things that make you grateful and happy. (https://365gratitudejournal.com/
  • Watch the TED Talk “Getting Stuck in the Negatives (And How to Get Unstuck)” by Alison Ledgerwood
  • Further Reading
    • Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
    • Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness by James Baraz
    • Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman
    • Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation by Mike Robbins
    • Grateful Organizations. The Greater Good. Berkeley. 
    • Gratitude Quiz. The Greater Good. Berkeley. 
    • Happiness at Work Quiz. The Greater Good. Berkeley.
    • Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson
    • How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People–Their Secrets, Their Stories by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks 
    • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
    • Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmo
    • The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People by Dan Buettner
    • The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha 
    • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown 
    • The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan
    • The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
    • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
    • The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
    • The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does by Sonja Lyubomirsky