Try It Tuesday: Promote Happiness

One of the best ways to engage teens is by inspiring positive emotions. When they are focused on the positive, they are more curious, more involved and more eager to learn. Promoting happiness also increases resilience and confidence and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

In this week's Try It Tuesday, we explore 4 different strategies for building in happiness, helping young people to focus on what's positive and inspiring, rather than on challenges and obstacles.

1. Express Gratitude

A simple way to start promoting happiness is by having students share 1-3 things they are grateful for in their lives. This could be an exercise to start the day or as a closing to each class. As a class closer, this can be a powerful way for students to share positive information about  experiences they had during the day or interactions they had with their classmates or with staff. 

Another idea is to have students keep a gratitude journal. This could be a regular section they include in a class journal, or a separate journal they keep just for expressing gratitude. 

2. Use Positive Questions

The quality of our questions creates the quality of our life. By intentionally adding in more positive questions, we can start to focus on the more positive aspects of our experiences and increase our sense of happiness. 

Here are some positive questions that you can start asking your students on a regular basis:

  • What are you happy about in your life right now? What about that makes you happy?
  • What are you excited about in your life right now? What about that makes you excited?
  • What are you proud of in your life right now? What about that makes you proud?
  • What are you enjoying the most in your life right now? What makes that enjoyable?
  • What are you committed to in your life right now? Why are you committed to it? How does that make you feel?
  • How can you use today as an investment in your future
  • What's one thing you could do today, no matter how small, that would create happiness for you?
  • Think of something you feel you handled particularly well today. What did you do that made it a success and how could you apply that going forward?
  • How is your life getting better? 

3. 15-Minute Weekly Assessment

A great way to end the week is by having students take a few minutes to reflect on their experiences. Have them first write their own responses to these questions:
  • What is working really well in class for you that you want to build on or continue doing?
  • What changes could we make, no matter how small, that would make the class experience more enjoyable, interesting or effective for you?
  • What has been most interesting or surprising to you this week? What made it interesting or surprising?
Then have students share their thoughts with each other in pairs or small groups. Finally, have each student share their biggest "aha" moment from the discussion with the class. 

Note--If they have ideas for how to make class more interesting or enjoyable, look for ways to incorporate those into class the following week. This builds that sense of autonomy so critical to motivation that we discussed in the Introductory webinar 

4. Secret Coaches

Doing nice things for other people--practicing kindness--is one of the best ways to feel good about yourself and your life. The Secret Coaching strategy is a way to integrate regular acts of giving into your classroom. Here's how you do it.
  1. Put all student names into a hat and have students draw out a name at random. This is their "protege.
  2. During class, each student's goal is to find ways to coach or support their protege. Maybe they compliment the protege on an idea or they mention a protege's strength. As much as possible, they look for ways to support that person in class. 
  3. At the end of class, students try to identify their Secret Coach. The whole idea is to NOT be spotted as the Coach, so this means that students will need to compliment and support other students as well so that their protege doesn't figure it out. 
After students try to guess who their coach is, take a few minutes to discuss the experience:
  • How did students feel being a secret coach? How did it feel to be a protege?
  • What were some of the best compliments or coaching supports they received? 
  • What did they learn from this experience that they could carry forward into future classes? 

We'd love to hear about your experiences with these 4 ideas for building happiness in class, as well as any other strategies you use. Drop us a note in the comments section below!

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