Habits of Happiness

November 28, 2017

As we emerge from our Thanksgiving break and this intentional time of gratitude, I commend highly to our community my all-time favorite TED Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. In his magnificent message, Louie Schwartzberg provides a peek into his work “Happiness Revealed.” I have watched “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” countless times, and I emerge after each viewing with my soul smiling. It evokes in me awe and wonder and joy and wow. In short, it makes me happy.

When I meet a prospective family, I often ask what their greatest hope is for their child. Many ultimately respond with some form of “I want him/her to be happy.” If offered behind door number one a lifetime of happiness, my sense is that few of us would take a pass in exchange for what may be behind door number two or three! So, if happiness is a desirable and attainable aim, what makes us happy, and how can we teach our children to be happy?

Recently TIME magazine published a special edition issue on the science of happiness. TIME’s representation of the research reveals that approximately 50% of human’s happiness is rooted in our genetic makeup—some of us are simply more inclined to happiness than others. Only 10% of our happiness is impacted by circumstances in our lives, positive or negative. The remaining 40% is up to us, rooted in certain practices we can choose to embrace and employ every day.

According to TIME’s distillation of the research on happiness, the 40% left to our agency comes in the form of adequate sleep (10-13 hours a night for our youngest Eagles, 9-11 hours for our upper elementary and middle school students, and at least 8 for the rest of us!), regular exercise (thank you, Mr. Betts!), and time spent outdoors (we in Colorado have a distinct advantage in embracing this ingredient to happiness…). In addition to sleep, exercise, and time spent outdoors, TIME asserts that gratitude also increases happiness levels. We benefit from being grateful for all of life’s gifts and especially when we express our gratitude to others. How to be more grateful? TIME shares that a universal recommendation of psychologists is to keep a gratitude journal. In fact, according to TIME, research shows that people who regularly contribute to a gratitude journal are up to 25% happier than those who don’t.

With 60% of our happiness and our students’ happiness out of our control, as a community we are compelled to manage well the 40% that is up to us. We can honor bedtimes to ensure sufficient sleep. We can make daily exercise and ample time outdoors a part of our lifestyles. And we can commit to practice gratitude with our children in meaningful ways. In so doing we will be instilling into our young Eagles (and ourselves!) the habits of happiness. For that, they will be forever grateful.