Saturday, October 22, 2016

21 Days to Happiness

Two years ago, this blog was started in response to a challenge from a college friend.  It was supposed to be a 30 day challenge, answering prompts about education, provided by the folks at Te@chthought.  After a month, I was hooked, and realized that reflecting upon the goodness of my day made every single day better.  I'd like to say it changed my perspective, but that's not true.  I love teaching, and implying that my perspective benefited from changing somehow implies an attitude adjustment with some sort of negative connotations.   The blogging continued for 390 straight days before I was sidelined by the concussion.

Suffice it to say, it is easier to fall out of a routine than it is to maintain, and only slightly less easy than slipping on banana pudding

Happiness Returns.... though it never really left.

 Happiness is back, officially, in my classroom this year.  I'm speaking about curricular content here, and not the love my students have for the green chairs or the occasional indulgence of the Keurig, or a trip to the mystery van;  I'm talking about the unit on
Happiness.  This semester's topic is a focus on Positive Psychology, with an intensive introspective focus.  Noted psychologist, Shawn Achor, motivated me to write this entire curriculum after viewing his TED Talk  entitled "The Happy Secret to Better Work."      

This is the second time I have taught this class, and buried deep in my closet are letters containing the secret to happiness (from the perspective of a high school student) that I will mail to the very first class of happy people in six more years.  Meanwhile, I'm cultivating a whole new group of happy people, one class at a time.   The reality is, in my opinion, that we need to go big on this quest for happiness, and the gauntlet has been thrown to my students with their most recent assignment:

21 Consecutive Days of Intentional Positivity

Shawn Achor, mentioned above, has research that proves that the intentional and practiced use of positive psychology will increase mood, demeanor, and reported happiness levels.  Establishing routines and practices for humans requires repetition to train the brain to accept the "new normal."  Want to exercise?  Establish a routine, and do it for 21 days straight.  Looking for a better diet?  Try cooking healthy for 3 straight weeks. Interested in reflecting on your life through blog entries?  Try it -- you'll be hooked before 30 days has passed.  

On Thursday and Friday of this week, each of the three classes were assigned to choose one mode to explore during the next three weeks:

Exercise for 20 minutes
Meditate for 20 minutes
Journal
Engage in intentional Random Acts of Kindness
Express Gratitude 
(send a positive email or handwritten note expressing gratitude to someone)

Join us.  Make a list of what you accomplish each day, every day for 21 days.  No fair in doing your normal 20 minutes of exercise and trying to count it for this project.  This is about research and changing your happiness level.   You have to intentionally practice something you are not currently doing on a regular basis to see a change in your life.

On Thursday night, I posted about this project on my Facebook page, and a bunch of adults and former students have shared the post, challenging others to catch the spirit of happiness:

Dear Friends: Tomorrow, my Themes in Lit students will be starting their 21 Days to Happiness Project. Spend 15 minutes each day, for 21 straight days, adding one of the following options to your schedule: Journaling, Meditating, Exercising, Random Acts of Kindness, Gratitude. (For the last one, intentionally send one positive email to someone in appreciation of their efforts.) Keep a list of things completed each day, and be prepared to report about your overall change in attitude on day 21. (Bonus Hint: If you DECLARE your mode tomorrow, and start on Saturday, you will hit day #21 on Veteran's Day, November 11th.)
No fair reporting on something you ALREADY do. Add something new. Make a change. Get happier. Survive election season.
Are you game? (Share away)

So if you're dreading the next 2 weeks of political advertising, (my vote, I wish, could go to Kid President), seem to want to kick the wall more than a few times a day, or generally just realize you could use an attitude adjustment, why not join us in the quest?  

To share you progress, join the support group on Facebook.  Together we can start a revolution.