How can we explain to our students what can truly make them happy? Read on to find out! 

Last year my students and I had the pleasure of attending One Day University, a day of lectures on a variety of topics by the world’s best college professors. One of the presenters that day was Catherine Sanderson, Professor of Psychology at Amherst College, who spoke on the topic of “What Makes Us Happy?” In today’s fast moving world, where students are bombarded with messages about material goods that are sure to make them ecstatic, or status-climbing activities that are guaranteed to bring joy, I felt that the information culled from Professor Sanderson’s lecture would be very valuable for my students, and I adapted it especially for them.

Here are the 10 Ways to be Happy, according to Professor Sanderson:

1. Things don’t make you happy; experiences do. The iPhone 6 is great – until the iPhone 7 comes out. So rather than buying that fancy new Apple Watch, go out and experience life. Go to an amusement park, a football game, or hang out with your friends at the beach. And there’s an added bonus: anticipation of an experience is a major way of increasing happiness. Planning and thinking about a trip, for example, can bring you as much happiness as taking the actual trip.

2. Do things you find meaningful in life. It’s long been proven that money doesn’t make you happy. But finding ways to do something important and meaningful in your life will. Volunteer to visit the elderly. Participate in a neighborhood cleanup, babysit, go to lectures, read great books. If you find it meaningful, do it – because it will make you happy.

3. Find out what you do well, and then find ways to do it. Maybe you are a good basketball player, or a decent painter, or a powerful writer. Maybe you can put the rap gods to shame. Practice your craft and find as opportunities to engage in it as you can – it will bring you great pleasure.

4. Exercise. Medical research has proven that people who exercise are not just healthier – they’re happier, as well. And having exercised also makes you very happy! So put down that video game controller and get out there and MOVE.

5. Go shopping. A caveat here – don’t go shopping to acquire things for yourself; acquiring things doesn’t make you happy. The key to happiness is buying something for someone else. So find that perfect little gift for your parents, sibling, or best friend. That can make you blissful.

6. Practice your religion if you have one. It doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are; religion can help give you some sort of control over the world, and religious institutions can provide a social support network, including a social connection. So remember your religious links if you are seeking to be content.

7. Cultivate quality relationships – not a quantity of relationships. Don’t worry about how many Instagram or Twitter followers you have. What really matters are the close friends with whom you share experiences. Friends who truly understand you can make you quite happy.

8. Have Happy Friends. While you’re choosing those close friends, remember this: happiness is contagious. A Framingham Massachusetts study showed that having a friend who is happy increases your own happiness about 15-16%. Keep in mind that having a happy friend is very important in terms of increasing your own happiness.

9. Having meaningful conversations. Put away the technology. Studies show that even having a cell phone on the table at a restaurant decreases the quality of conversation. Make the decision to actively engage with your family and friends.

10. Experience Nature. Communing with nature has been found to benefit human beings both physically and psychologically. Where we live in Massachusetts, we are able to walk to the beach and see the ocean. For others, visit the local park or even just look outside your window to see the beautiful fall foliage. Enjoying the beauty of nature can truly make you cheerful.

Remember that happiness is a choice, and it’s one that you should choose to make every day. And here’s one more great thing – these work for teachers, too! Thank you, Professor Sanderson for this most valuable information!

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