Teaching Young People About Happiness
I had a heated debate once with an acquaintance who told me I ought to be happy. Just like that. I should be happy. "What, all the time?" I asked. This person thought, yes, I should be at all times. It was almost like this happiness thing was a physical something that a person could simply obtain and keep. Maybe if I searched in my handbag, I'd find it with the tissues and the crumbs? I'm sure I had it the other day..
I explained to this person that after many years of searching, I have come to the realisation that happiness is not a destination or a thing to be kept and stored away. I don't believe it to be a permanent state of mind. I don't believe in telling people that they ought to feel any one emotion all day every day. In my experience, that is not how we human beings roll. I finished the debate by explaining that once I had realised this and accepted that it was OK to go through a whole rainbow of emotions or states of mind (sometimes in very short period of time), that is when I stopped searching and stopped being so hard on myself. Indeed I would actually go as far as to say that when I do eventually come to the end of my life, I would hope that I had felt every last one of the whole range of such feelings or else I might not really have lived.
However, I do think that we can deliberately and actively seek to fill our lives with positive things that can influence our state of mind. With this in mind, I started 'The Happiness Project' a year ago in the small school that I teach in. The pupils that I teach often display challenging behaviours; they sometimes find it hard to positively function in our communities and more often than not they are unhappy.
I found the Action For Happiness website and planned weekly lessons surrounding the 10 Keys. I always start by telling them the story that I started with here. That way, the pressure's off. They do not feel got at or told off if they feel any thing other than happy. They think, "It's alright, Miss doesn't feel happy all the time either!"
I taught the pupils some of the theory and science and then carried out activities. We kept a diary, took photos and had lengthy discussions about the results. The young people invoked in the first project benefited hugely. They built better relationships with peers, family and staff. They marveled at the beautiful place that we live in. They took pride in the gifts they made for others and felt the warm glow of saying thanks. I could go on!
I saw in the new Happiness Club's featured in Psychologies Magazine and thought it seemed to cover some of the aspects in the project I had set up at school. So, this year, armed with the success of the first project, I started again. I'll keep you posted :)