I feel extremely happy! I’ve just finished reading a spectacular book called “The Little Book of Lykke – The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People“. It is like a breath of fresh mountain air. In our roles as Canadian educators, we strive to get students ready for the real world. We strive to give them the skills sets so that they can get a job, make a decent living and contribute to society in a meaningful way. All of these are noble endeavors to be sure. But. in the race to forge the mettle of these future citizens, do we really ever consider looking at teaching them to be happy? Do we think that is they have the skill sets to be successful in their work, earning a strong wage, that they will achieve happiness as the reward? Here’s where research may prove us a little off track.
While you may believe in the adage that “money can’t buy you happiness”, it’s not completely true. Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Lykke” and the chief executive at the International Happiness Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark has found 6 factors that contribute to happiness and one is money.
Money cannot make you happy on it’s own, it depends on other variables. How you spend your money is one of those variables. If money is spent on material goods, the happiness is fleeting. If however, the money is spent on experiences, these experiences add to a general sense of well being and accomplishment. You can go back to memories of the experience and you will achieve Lykke – happiness. So what are the other attributes?
People who spend time with other people are happier. Being with good friends and family can make you happier. That’s why so much of the holidays are spent with loved ones. It makes you happier. I love to ski but the experience is made that much richer if I can ski with a friend or one of my kids. We can laugh on the lift and share our stores of the last run. Afterwards, I have fond memories of sitting in the chalet with a warm drink and laughing. These are happy moments in my life and the memories I’ve made make me smile now.
Although I dread the thought of hitting the gym on most days, I know that it contributes to my sense of happiness overall. When Wiking talks about his Danish countrymen, he stresses the amount of bicycles on the road. The Danes are bikers. In biking to the store, to work, to friends, they get exercise which makes the body produce and release endorphins. Endorphins makes us happier. In fact, the best time to work out, is when you are in a bad mood. The endorphins kick in and having lasting effects for a full 12 hours.
When you have the ability to make choices and control your own life, it makes you happier. Wiking cites Portugal in this instance as an example of how freedom can cause happiness. Portuguese parents have a great deal of access to grandparents in their day to day life. They have built in babysitters! Because of this, young parents still have the freedom to socialize and spend time the way they choose. They do not begrudge being stuck at home. Because of this freedom, they are happier. Those of us who are parents, certainly understand this!
Often, we refer to the world as “dog eat dog”. The competition out there forces us to be tough, to be smart and to be aggressive. It forces us to not trust others in the race. It does not call on us to be happy. While competition can cause wealth and reward, it does not typically cause happiness. What does is trust and co-operation. When we work with others for a common cause we create bonds of friendship – bonds that make us feel safe and loved – bonds of trust. We feel happy.
Meik refers to the “helper’s high” in this chapter. We feel good by making others feel good. We all know from working with kids, that one of the lasting memories from school are those where we had our class help others. Whether that be a trip to a shelter to help cook for the less fortunate , a trip to the seniors home to sing or simply a walk to the Kindergarten room to read to the little ones, we cherish these times. These kindness episodes create in us a feeling of well-being. The smile on the face of others, makes us smile.
Schools are wonderful places. They are institutions based on making society better. As teachers we have a profound impact on our communities by how we prepare our students to meet the world. Academics are very important. Mindset is very important. Relationships are crucial. No one would argue any of that. Let’s be reminded however that having a happy community creates a better world. So, strive to be happy and design moments that can make your students happy too.
Keep on Learning.