Published on June 25, 2019
The field of positive psychology has dedicated itself to researching the science of happiness, with evidence suggesting that happiness can improve physical health and overall wellbeing. It’s been said that happier people enjoy less stressful lives, are protected against some forms of chronic illnesses, and they tend to live longer.
At HVGS student happiness is an important educational goal because happy children experience more frequent positive emotions and an enduring sense of wellbeing. When students are happy at school, they generally show more appropriate classroom behaviour, achieve better academic results, have more positive relationships, better physical health, and greater participation in classroom and extracurricular activities.
But what exactly is happiness?
More than merely a positive mood, or state of contentment, happiness is understood to be a state of wellbeing that encompasses living a good life, with a sense of purpose, meaning and deep satisfaction. Happiness is not a stable, unchangeable trait but something flexible that we all can work on and strive towards.
Feeling happy is less about smiling through the day, but more about developing the capacity to regulate the human range of emotion effectively. Experiencing and negotiating a variety of feeling states – the positive (joy, contentment, fulfilment, pleasure, excitement) and the more challenging (sadness, fear, anger, guilt, blame), ultimately allows us to feel alive and reach our potential.
Happiness and our School Values
Student happiness and wellbeing go hand in hand and are fostered through our School Values, which are deeply embedded into the overall HVGS experience.
Five of our School Values – gratitude, optimism, responsibility, courage and compassion – mirror and promote several known cognitive-motivation factors considered to be the strongest determinants of student happiness. In broad terms, our School Values are positively linked to positive self-concepts and the fulfillment of a satisfying life – the building blocks of happiness.
How exactly does HVGS go about addressing student happiness?
There are many ways we seek to foster happiness at school:
Our HVGS School Psychology Team and our Junior School and Senior School Wellbeing teams are increasingly using a range of simple screening tools to assess, understand and address student wellbeing and happiness.
Promotion of student happiness
The recent Happiness Day and Kindness Day initiatives in the Junior School are two great examples of how we actively encourage and foster student happiness. These activities are thoughtfully and carefully undertaken and are perfectly positioned to promote happiness within the student body.
Our school culture offers consistent, continuity of care, enduring Mentor relationships, and a perpetual evaluation of student needs. We keep our students safe from harm through our wellbeing programs, and collaborate with them to develop their goals and individual interests. We work together cooperatively, and collaboratively to promote deep engagement and joy in learning so they can reach their full potential.
The key to greater happiness and wellbeing is being open to emotional experiences, new challenges, and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort, with the suggestion that it is how we respond to circumstance, rather than the circumstance itself, that influences our happiness.
We promote student strengths such as gratitude, optimism, prosocial behaviour, positive goal-setting, problem-focused coping, and physical wellbeing support, which assists them to regulate the full range of their emotions when circumstances do arise.
We support our students to develop an overall enduring sense that life is OK, despite the ups and downs, and they can manage the setbacks and challenges they might experience in the course of day-to-day life.
The great philosopher Aristotle posited that happiness depends on ourselves. So, the good news is that individual action really makes a difference and we all can work on and develop moments of greater joy in our lives.
Actions for Happiness
A number of known factors impact positively on human wellbeing and may be considered actions for happiness.
The first five centre upon how we interact with the outside world in the course of daily activities, the second five have more to do with our inner experiences and attitudes to life.
Why not try integrating some of these actions into your life:
- Find time to lose yourself in something you love
- Do have goals to look forward to
- Keep learning new things
- If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it
- See life as it is, but focus on the good bits
- Be part of something bigger
- Be active, relax, rest and repeat
- Live life mindfully
- Connect with others in meaningful ways
- If you want to feel good, do good.