How you and your students can put the skills into practice
LG and Discovery Education want to help you discover your happy. Through a series of guest blog posts, we’ll cover topics from the science behind happiness to how to make the most of the Discover Your Happy resources. This month, Brook Dorff from Project Happiness will share how she puts the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills into action.
By Brook Dorff, Project Happiness
The debate is settled, and science has spoken: happiness is a skill that you can learn and cultivate. But what does this mean, and how can these principles be applied to you, and your classroom? You might be thinking skills all sound lovely, but are they really practical?
Focusing on simple ways to cultivate the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills, both for your own life and for your classroom, will infuse your classroom with energy, with more empathy, and will create better learners. In fact, CASEL has found that students who participate in developing these skills did “better than their peers on a number of indicators: positive social behaviors and attitudes, skills such as empathy and teamwork, and academics.”
So, what’s the best way to cultivate the happiness skills? The same way you cultivate all skills! Varying studies show habits take anywhere from 21 days to over 200 days to cultivate, but the key is daily practice, and an intentional focus.
Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve worked these happiness skills into my own life:
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be scary! Once I figured that out, I started to realize that mindfulness was something that I could use in every moment of every day. One quick way to survey mindfulness? Ask yourself: what am I currently thinking? Then pay attention, without judgment. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself!
There are so many ways to cultivate connection. Everywhere from taking an extra moment to understand why someone might be having a bad day, to making eye contact and smiling to strangers, physical touch, to even asking better questions. I went from “How are you?” to “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?”
We’ve all heard of gratitude journals, but in my busy life, that just wasn’t practical. I started listing at least one thing I was grateful for on my drive to work. The first thing I thought of? My car! Other simple ways to cultivate gratitude? If you think something nice of someone, speak it! Text them, or let them know right in the moment you think it.
Have you ever found that once you focus on something, it grows? The same thing happens with a positive outlook! Look for the good, and you will see it. Pause, and ask yourself, “What’s the BEST case scenario?” Once I began to think this way, everything changed. It didn’t mean that I was without negative external circumstances happening to me. It just meant that I could hold on through them, being present, but knowing that it was much bigger than a mere negative moment.
Often, purpose can be an overwhelming idea, but it can be much smaller, much more digestible. They say purpose is the intersection of skills and passions; I used this formula, and started looking for ways to create purpose for the day ahead – nothing more. I would tell myself, for example, today’s purpose – the way I will find meaning today, right now – is by updating and reviewing a friend’s resume. Simple ways to give back can be a theme in your classroom, using your student’s strengths and passions.
Look for easy ways to help someone else in your day-to-day life. This can be as simple as smiling at a stranger, holding the door open for someone, or taking someone’s grocery cart back for them. The possibilities are endless, and can move from small day-to-day service, to larger commitments of time. Either way, notice how this makes you feel when you’re done.
Put the skills to action
Soon you’ll start to see all of the sustainable happiness skills bleed into each other. You’ll see that your outlook changes positively when someone smiles back at you (positive outlook, mindfulness, generosity), and you find a sense of purpose in making someone’s day brighter, which in turn makes you feel grateful and more connected. Wow!
We would love to hear the ways you’re incorporating the skills into your classroom, and into your daily life! Share how you put the skills in action on social media using #DiscoverYourHappy.
Coming up next month: Three Things I Learned from Teaching Happiness, by Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director of the Greater Good Science Center. Sign up for updates to be notified of the release of our next Discover Your Happy blog post.