True Happiness is Giving it Away
My name is Caroline and I create and deliver creative positive psychology projects for teenage girls. The aims of these projects are to improve motivation, increase self esteem, develop emotional intelligence and build resilience. My idea for Happy Club is to extend this kind of approach beyond the classroom and into the staffroom by working directly with teachers.
Meet the members
Ask anyone currently working in education in the UK what their most precious commodity is and after the obligatory eye roll and sigh at the general state of play, they will undoubtedly say, time. There are not enough minutes in a lesson, enough hours in the day or days in a week to fulfill what is demanded of a teacher – /social worker/psychologist/counselor.
Now cut to me asking a group of educators to share some of their non-existent spare time to come and take part in the Happiness Club initiative delivered through Psychologies magazine and Action for Happiness… I’m not going to lie I was hesitant to do so and wary of responses.
Here she comes waving her happy jazz hands around whilst I’ve got a millions essays to mark and a data sheet to complete!
Pleasingly however, we had some takers.
“We don’t need to call it happy club,” I said. “It’s not all about jazz hands. It’s about positive psychologies, adjusting our…’ For some reason I found myself rambling on trying to find an alternative to the word happy.
“No, no, we like it, happy is good, happy club is good”.
First key to happier living – Giving
Its Friday afternoon after a busy week at work; lessons, teenage dramas, parents, observations, meetings, paperwork, more paperwork and now Happy Club. I couldn’t seem to shake off the idea these people giving up their precious time and feel somewhat pressured that I better deliver something worthwhile.
There are 7 of us this week. We meet in a local coffee shop. I had rang ahead and explained the concept of the meetings and this week’s theme and they had kindly offered a free meeting room and free coffees. (caffeine + teachers = happy teachers!)
We are off to a head start given the theme. A few weeks ago I arranged a Kindness Week at school as part of the positive psychology project for the pupils. We sent balloons with messages around the school between staff and teachers, had free compliment and positive thoughts around the building, made cupcakes for a local children’s hospice and volunteered at the city food bank.
We began by sharing our thoughts and feelings about the week. The kindness message tags attached to the balloons were read again and given out to keep. We discussed what made Kindness Week successful and how it made both pupils and staff feel. I shared the fact our images were shared worldwide via some social media giants and seen around the world – confirmation for all of us that no matter how small the act, kindness was evidently contagious.
The conversation flowed. We told stories, compared upbringings and opinions, listened, laughed and connected. We read the article and discussed the questions: How does giving make us feel? When have you felt resentful for giving? When has someone given to you unconditionally? How often do you ask for help? The questions gave us the structure and also the ability to reflect on the answers.
Towards the end everyone thought of what they could do to give easily to others in the next few weeks. To spend more time with friends, to return the phone calls they’d ignored, to show more gratitude to those closest to them were the common threads.
There was an over riding theme to our first meeting. And that was ironically, time. Time was agreed to be the most effective way for someone to show true acts of kindness. Taking shortcuts through materialism were seen as token, where as giving time was a true act of selflessness. So why was this? Because we feel we have so little of it? Don’t we simply just prioritise in which direction it goes? Was it going the right directions?
A teacher’s career is about being motivating, optimistic and giving to young people in order for them to reach their potential. Sometimes all that giving can be exhausting. Patience, kindness and giving quotas can feel maxed out by the time you get home and there is nothing left for those closest to you including yourself. We all get bogged down in the have to, the routines and expectations of our ‘roles’. We forget our own wants, the things that truly make us feel good and we stop paying attention.
Having an opportunity to step out of the routine, to look from a different perspective, to listen to others who may think or do differently, can create an opportunity for a change. To think ‘I should do more or less of that and I reckon I could feel a little less negative, less stressed, less frustrated.’ In order to make that step out of the routine, we need to give ourselves time to do so. So, maybe this meeting, the meeting that I worried about stealing time away, maybe it’s actually created that time? Time to reflect and adapt, to adjust or shift some thinking, even if ever so slightly, we just might end up feeling a little more……happy?
Each month I am designing postcards and prints inspired by the themes discussed.