This article contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
I think we can all admit that we could stand to use more happiness in our lives right now. Our students could use it more than ever.
With the last semester spent on remote learning and secluded from their friends and with the upcoming school year looking to be anything but normal, we need to start thinking about how to address their happiness.
Discovery Education has a great video about the 6 Key Components to Happiness, but here is a break down of the components and a few mini lessons to go with it.
Our brains can move a mile a minute and jump from one thought to the next. Rarely, do we stop to just breathe and take those deep breaths that fill our lungs up with air and settle our minds.
Our students can have a lot of fears, anxieties, and stressors affecting their lives right now. Starting the class with a mindfulness activity can set the mood for the remainder of the class and even the whole day.
Take 5-10 minutes to practice breathing exercises or to do a guided meditation (check out this list of Great Apps and Websites for Movement and Mindfulness in the Classroom). Remind students that, like anything else, mindfulness takes practice.
The first try they might find their minds wondering for four out of the five minutes. That’s okay. Tell them to allow those thoughts to creep in. Acknowledge them and then send them off on a drifting cloud.
The key is to build a habit of this. Implement it into your lessons 2-3 days a week. You will start to see results in your students’ attitudes and demeanor.
Research has found that people who practice gratitude are overall kinder humans, have stronger immune systems, and even sleep better.
Some easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your classroom is to have a Thankfulness Wall. Give students post-its and have them write two things for which they are thankful. Have them stick it on the wall.
Maybe on Fridays, students can share aloud if they want to. You can even just keep a pile of post-its near the wall and encourage students, whenever they are feeling thankful, to write it down and post on the wall. Another gratitude activity is to do thank you texts.
At random times, tell students to take out their phones (or if they don’t have devices, a piece of paper) and send a text to someone telling him or her that they are thankful for them.
Furthermore, students can start a gratitude journal and use it as a warm-up. They can list four things they are thankful for and why. That idea is a great way to get students in the right mindset for teaching and learning.
3. Positive Outlook
A positive outlook is very much associated with gratitude. The more gratitude you express, the more your outlook switches to a positive one.
The Mayo Clinic lists some ways to change negative thinking to positive thinking.
A good idea for the classroom is to hang an anchor chart of negative self-talk on one side and then how to change it to positive self-talk on the other side. In addition, get students journaling on what is going well in their lives.
A lot of times students focus a lot on the negative and drama in their lives but neglect to realize all of the positive in their lives. Invite students to share those good things more.
4. Generosity Generosity is all about science! When we help other people, our brains release oxytocin which naturally puts us in a good mood.
Generosity can be as simple as giving someone a compliment or holding a door open to as complex as building houses for other people. The possibilities are endless.
Teachers can give students a generosity bingo card and have students try to fill out as many as they can. Classrooms can do a 30-day Generosity Challenge with a new act of kindness a day.
Even still, classes can take on a class project for the semester in which everyone works together to do an act of good deeds. Some ideas include:
5. Human Connection
The human connection piece is so important. Even the most introvert of persons still wants to feel included and involved with other people. With social distances and the cancelation and shut-downs of many places, teachers have to get creative. Some ideas include:
6. Sense of Purpose
Lastly, we all like feeling like we matter. We want our lives to have meaning. Give students opportunities to explore their potential, showcase their strengths, and foster their talents. Do career-inventories. Do personality tests. Show them what kinds of jobs they can have. Highlight what they are good at doing by giving them that role in a group project. Take them to career and college fairs. Show them that they matter because they do.
I hope these help move your students along to happiness.