Young women on college campus holding textbook

Which Bachelor’s Degree Will Make You Happiest?

Money doesn’t buy happiness — but the right college degree program can. Research into the mental health of students in different degree fields has uncovered that certain programs are almost certain to make you feel happier and more relaxed than other fields, and not just during a student’s time at school. If you are eager to invest in a degree that continues to improve your mood for the rest of your life, you might enroll in one of the following bachelor degree programs: Humanities Though humanities majors are often confronted with the irksome question, “What will you do for work?” it seems that students focused on humanities degrees are some of the happiest on campus. Humanities degrees encompass a variety of studies of the human world, from English language and literature to history and geography, philosophy and religion, law, archaeology and anthropology, arts, modern languages and more. Many humanities studies confront questions about what it means to be happy and how true happiness is achieved, which is perhaps why this degree field is the one most likely to bring joy to students now and into the future. Sports and Exercise Science The human body needs regular movement for proper regulation. In fact, one of the first and best treatments for mental disease is an exercise regimen. Thus, it makes sense that students committed to understanding the physical needs of the human body are often quite contended on college campuses. Certain exercises allow the body to release endorphins that elevate the mood immediately and improve emotional outlook in the long term. Students who are so committed to sports and exercise science that they pursue a degree in the field will likely maintain healthy physical habits, thus all but guaranteeing themselves happiness. Engineering Perhaps a surprising degree on this list, engineering consistently ranks among the happiest degrees — primarily for the job security and high salary awaiting students after graduation. There are all sorts of engineering disciplines for students to explore to find a field that they feel passionate about and capable in. Though engineering programs can be competitive and require exceedingly complex knowledge and skill, students who are committed to engineering are able to find happiness while they pursue their degrees and for decades after. Natural Sciences The natural sciences are a field of study focused on understanding phenomena of the natural world. Some examples of natural sciences include chemistry, physics, biology and geology, though each of these can be further divided into myriad disciplines and specializations. Often, students study the natural sciences because they already feel passionately about them, which means every course offers them more opportunities to explore their passion and refine a skill they know and enjoy. Like the humanities, there are not always clear career pathways for students in the natural sciences, but that does not stop them from experiencing happiness in their studies. Psychology It makes sense that one of the most popular degree programs is also among the most fascinating. A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides students with unique insight into the workings of the human mind, which remains one of the most powerful and mysterious organic tools in the universe. Psychology is a relatively young field, which means there is still plenty of opportunity for students to experiment and innovate new theories to explain human thought, emotion and behavior. When it comes to achieving happiness, psychology students have decades of research to utilize as blueprints, so they are more likely to develop healthy mental and emotional patterns during and after their degree program. Arts and Design Humans have been creating art for far longer than we have been practicing math, pursuing scientific inquiry or writing down histories and laws. There are many theories regarding humankind engages in artistic endeavors, but many art students have a clear and easy answer: joy. Making art involves expressing oneself, and that act can bring balance that leads to a profound and lasting happiness. What’s more, because creativity is often lacking in more career-oriented degree fields, there are plenty of opportunities for success in arts and design after graduation. Plenty of students in degree programs outside of these six experience happiness — just not to the extent of students pursuing degrees in the above fields. If you don’t know what you want to do but you do know you want to be happy, enrolling in one of the above degree programs is a safe choice.
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Back side view student graduation of graduates during commencement. Congratulation in University concept, Education concept.

Higher Education With a Higher Purpose

When Universidad TecMilenio was established in 2002, it touted an innovative educational model that allowed students to take a more customized approach. Students have the flexibility to study the topics most applicable to them in crafting their ideal careers. As a spinoff of the prestigious Monterrey Institute of Technology, the school found almost immediate success and grew quickly. Today, it serves 43,000 students at 29 campuses throughout Mexico and offers an online component. Yet university leaders believed there was more they could offer to enhance students’ lives. "One of the things we began thinking about was how a university should be in the 21st century,” says Hector Escamilla, rector at Universidad TecMilenio. “We analyzed what was important in life, and found it was to be happy. And we also found that the people who are happiest are those who have a purpose in life.” The school then implemented another cutting-edge approach to education in 2012. “We could see that we should be doing better in higher education to provide the tools for people to get what they think is important in life,” Hector says. “We declared our vision [to be] to prepare people for their purpose in life and provide the competence to achieve it.” With that in mind, they created a new model for education built on the principles of happiness and well-being. They identified well-being as feeling well, being satisfied and living a life with purpose. Using the PERMA model (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement) from positive psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and adding components of mindfulness and well-being, they developed what Hector calls a “happiness and well-being ecosystem.” Today more than 700 faculty members and school leaders are certified in positive psychology, and all students take positive psychology and positive organization courses. The emphasis for students is to find their purpose and meaning in life while they develop global competencies that allow them to compete and excel in their chosen professions. “We believe the way we live will make a difference in the well-being of students,” Hector says. “The most important thing we know is that happiness leads to success, but success does not lead to happiness. That is why we want to focus on happiness.” He says the key performance indicators at Universidad TecMilenio are the happiness of the students and the rate of employment—and results in both of those areas show that it’s working. Among first-semester students, 87 percent report a positive change in the definition of their life purpose since beginning school, and students overall report an increase in happiness and well-being. It’s also translating well in the more traditional goals of employability, as 80 percent are working upon graduation. “College is only 4 or 5 percent of your life, and the degree is only a small portion of what you will do with your life,” Hector says. “It seems too narrow to only be focusing on that.” This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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5 Focus and Energy Tips for Students

Developing the right mindset for processing and absorbing information can help you launch and successfully pursue your academic goals for the year. Having spent most of my career helping people gain and sustain better daily energy and focus, I’d like to offer up a few simple techniques and thoughts that will set you on a path to achievement this year. No. 1: Be positive. I put positivity at the top of my list because its opposite, negativity, is a self-defeating mindset and will contaminate all efforts. The results are low energy, weakened performance and memory failure, physical and mental fatigue. Positivity fuels the reverse. It helps your mind flow freely, effortlessly—light and fluid like water. Create a positivity baseline. Catch yourself during a moment or time when you are feeling awesome, at the top of your game. Pay attention to how this feels physically and mentally: stressless, happy, flowing. If it helps, write down how you feel. It’s important to stop yourself and feel this so that you can remember it and measure how you’re feeling at various daily moments. Note what positive things you did that helped you get into this zone so that you will know how to create the mindset when you don’t have it. Make savoring, sustaining and protecting your positivity a priority. No. 2: Use a self-scan before you begin each class. This will immediately improve your focus, and you’ll like the results. At first the scan will take you a little while, but still it’s not much. Don’t worry about speed. You’ll develop that soon enough, and then you’ll just do it automatically. Here’s how. Take a few moments before classes and simply ask yourself: What is the day’s goal for this class and what are my responsibilities? For example, I am listening to a lecture on Edgar Allan Poe and taking notes for a test. How does this goal link to larger goals in my life? Example: I can use the information in another course for a term paper I am writing, and that will make life easier and better; I can ace my English class, qualify for higher level classes I want next year, graduate with honors, get into the college I desire, etc. On the scale of things, how important are these goals to your life? Often it is hard to get motivated unless we see how information matters to us personally and is linked to larger personal concerns. So splurge on your answers. What are the demands of my environment and my teacher’s expectations? Are there distractions? Are my questions and views welcomed and accepted and in what context? If the room is large, can I hear adequately? What have I done in the past to help me achieve these goals? What has interfered? No. 3: Restrict your mind from wandering. Keep participating no matter what.Just like when your coach is telling you, “Don’t stop now—pour it on.”Create words or phrases you can think to yourself during such moments to stay on task, such as:stay with it, be strong, or focus.Give yourself a slow, deep, good breath every now and then and relax your focus before narrowing it again. No. 4: Get a good night’s sleep. Make it a habit to turn lights off at the same time each night. You need sleep for higher-level thinking and to keep your mind flowing. No. 5: Each day, think of something nice to do for someone. Keep it simple. Plan who you will help, compliment or surprise, then do it! I encourage you to start this practice immediately. As your academic interests grow, time will move much faster, and your studies, in general, will become a lot more enjoyable. These skills will help your mind become more flowing, creative, energized, interesting and complex.And just like a “runner’s high,” these characteristics will feel good both mentally and physically.As such, you will feel rewarded. And this pattern of activity will begin to feed upon itself. Grades will come easier.You will feel more secure,confident and happy.The best news is that you will start transferring this mindset over to other areas of your life, deepening those connections as well.
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Schoolchildren carrying notebooks at school

Celebrate Character Day on September 26

Join us for the fifth annual Character Day on September 26! Last year there were more than 133,000 Character Day events in 150 countries and all U.S. states. “In a world that seems to become more and more divided, it has never been more important to stop and recognize our own character strengths in ourselves and in others,” says Makenzie Darling, Let It Ripple director of strategic partnerships and engagement. “Character Day brings out the best in humanity and promotes happy lifestyles where people feel more interconnected.” Character Day is a free day and global initiative where school districts, individual classrooms, companies, organizations and families—groups of all sizes—screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives, dive into free printed discussion materials catered to different ages and join an online global Q&A conversation featuring prominent leaders discussing the importance of developing character strengths (resilience, grit, empathy, courage, kindness)—all rooted in evidence-based research. Character Day is one day. The resources are available year-round. Please watch the 1 minute trailer (also embedded below) and sign up today! How Character Day Works Character Day and all of the materials are supported by grants so there is no cost to participate. Your Character Day event(s) can look and feel any way you would like it to be...any time of the day, anywhere and any size. The Character Day team provides your group with films, the Periodic Table of Character Strengths Poster, printed discussion materials, a robust online hub of resources and an online conversation with leading experts on character education from multiple perspectives. Watch the Films You may watch the acclaimed films 30,000 Days (11 minutes), The Science of Character (8 minutes) and The Adaptable Mind (11 minutes) to get a better sense of what types of films will be shown on Character Day. A new feature length film, Connected, will be offered this year along with other curated resources from partner organizations. A poster of The Periodic Table of Character Strengths is included in the free hands-on discussion kit. Also included in the kits: a deck of 44 conversation cards with discussion guides, questions for all ages and quotes related to the poster. 2018 Character Day Invitation from Let it Ripple on Vimeo.
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Positive Education double helix

Youth Mental Health Issues Raise Need for Solutions

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States and awareness is becoming critical given the alarming rates of mental health issues in this country. Currently, anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of American children between 13 and 18 years old, and reports of loneliness and social isolation are higher than ever, especially for the youngest generation. In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, suicide attempts among school-aged children have more than doubled since 2008. For the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), the most striking of these statistics is that mental health is getting worse for young people, with depression rates moving from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 11.1 percent in 2014. Research shows that when mental health issues go untreated, young people are more at risk to perform poorly in school, withdraw socially and engage in substance abuse. Many of these issues require immediate professional attention, which often is not available, so the problem worsens. The Opportunity It’s extremely important to encourage attention and support for open conversations about mental health challenges and solutions so those struggling know they are not alone and can easily seek the help they need. Despite the startling statistics, IPEN sees an opportunity in schools for building resilience and mental health. Positive education is a preventive approach that promotes teaching a double helix model of education with one strand being academics and the other character and well-being. Research shows there is no trade-off between academic learning and well-being, rather these strands are mutually reinforcing. Taking Action To bring the idea of positive education to a global audience, IPEN is partnering with the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry to host the World Positive Education Accelerator June 25–28 in Fort Worth, Texas. World leaders in psychology, education and policy will convene in one place to have a united conversation about the growing problem of mental health and well-being and how together we might add one solution through positive education. This event will be part inspiring keynotes, workshops and panel presentations as well as part appreciative inquiry summit. The summit, led by David Cooperrider, Ph.D., encourages the audience’s interactive participation in identifying and acting on solutions. Attendees will engage in critical dialogue around these issues and build an action plan that will last beyond the event. It is our hope that we can accelerate the conversation on prevention in mental health by equipping students around the world with the tools they need to build a flourishing life. To get involved, learn more at If you are interested in bringing a group, email for a discount code. Student Scholarships It is critical that this event include the voices of a diverse range of stakeholders and, most importantly, young people. Live Happy is offering 20 scholarships to students ages 15 to 21 from around the world to contribute their valuable voices. If you are interested in attending on a scholarship, please apply to by June 1.
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medical students art

Teaching Medical Students Compassion

What does viewing works of art by Degas have to do with medicine? How can discussing Caravaggio’s paintings help doctors learnempathy? More universities are trying to find out. For many years, medical schools such as Yale and Harvard have used the visual arts to help teach prospective doctors better observation skills. Now a class at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas is using art—including painting, sculpture and design objects—not only to augment the students’ diagnostic skills, but also to grow and engage their sense of empathy and compassion. The Art of Examination, now being taught in its fourth year, is the brainchild of Bonnie Pitman, who is a distinguished scholar in residence at the University of Texas at Dallas. She’s also director of art-brain innovations at the Center for BrainHealth at the university and former director of the Dallas Museum of Art. Bonnie’s interest in combining art with medicine stems from her own experience of navigating doctors and hospitals since 2008, when she contracted a chronic respiratory illness. Now, as part of the class, developed with Heather Wickless, M.D., a UT Southwestern assistant professor, and Amanda Blake of the Dallas Museum of Art, she shepherds groups of medical students through Dallas museums, highlighting objects selected to evoke creative thinking and elicit feelings of empathy. At the Dallas Museum of Art, “we look at a Buddha sculpture, which is a symbol of compassion; we put on chanting and walk around it,” says Bonnie. After 10 minutes, she says, you can hear their breathing slow down into a “group breath,” as they hold the posture of the Buddha. “We compare him to another sculpture, an African power figure from the Congo with nails forced into him, absorbing all the pain and suffering of his community. I ask [the students] to take on his posture as well to feel the difference.” The students then stop to consider the difference in a patient’s perception depending on what posture a doctor holds as he or she approaches, to consider “awareness of being present with another humanbeing.” Later, the students gather around a gruesome death scene from Greek mythology. First they decide who in the painting they would sendto the emergency room first. Then they pair up to write letters to the depicted grieving mother who has just lost several of her children, and the results are often poetic and moving. The response to the class has been outstanding, says Bonnie, because caregiving and mindfulness are “not formally taught in medical schools. Things like, how to deal with patients in times of critical illness and death. How do you deliver that message, how do you absorb that into your body?” “The gift of this course is that I know it will make a difference for these doctors, that these powerful works of art will change them as individuals and asphysicians.”
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Visit Miami for World Happiness Summit

University of Miami to Host World Happiness Summit

If you’d love to reduce stress, increase your productivity, maximize your potential and learn the tools for a happier life, the World Happiness Summit (WOHASU) at the University of Miami (UM) March 16–18 is the event for you. Marking the second year of this global summit, happiness and well-being experts will unite in a three-day experiential forum to advance human happiness through science-based tools and daily practices. Expert speakers include U.N. advisers, business and civic leaders, and positive psychology researchers, professors and coaches. Featured speaker Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., created two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history, Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership. Explore the full list of speakers. Creating a Culture of Belonging According to UM professor and Vice Provost for Institutional Culture Isaac Prilleltensky, Ph.D., the university is a natural fit for the summit. “It is very important to us to create a culture of belonging where everyone feels valued and has the opportunity to add value—to themselves and others,” he says. “We are always looking for opportunity to learn about well-being and create a culture where everyone matters,” Isaac says. “It is not enough to make a declaration of intent; we have to pursue the skills and training that are aligned with our purpose at the University of Miami. We transform lives through education, research and service. Bringing a happiness forum to the campus helps transform lives.” UM interviewed 7,000 students as part of its cultural transformation project to define values and behaviors to promote inclusivity and belonging. “Now we have an Office of Institutional Culture that I lead,” Isaac says. “We have intergroup dialogue classes—where students learn how to communicate with each other in respectful ways. The university also measures how well its culture is doing—both with Gallup’s workplace tools and its own culture of well-being index.” These strategic initiatives “catapulted the University of Miami,” Isaac says. “We showed up as one of the best places to work in Forbes, best in our industry.” The university is now in talks to create an institute to focus on and promote meaning, well-being and quality of life. Another piece to the natural fit for the summit is that CEO Karen Guggenheim is a UM graduate, and her son attends the university as well, says Isaac, a speaker and contributor to the academic portion of the summit. Walking the Walk Isaac—whose The Laughing Guide series of books, including The Laughing Guide to Well-Being, combine science and humor to help people live healthier and happier lives—is planning to give out dozens of free passes for students to attend the summit. As part of the partnership, UM has made its app, an online intervention tool using humor and science to improve quality of life, available to the public. Each day of the summit begins with yoga and meditation, and each night concludes with live music and dancing. The summit includes workshops, group work, meditation, films, yoga classes and music programming. For more information, visit the summit website. For a 20 percent discount on passes, enter code LIVEHAPPY2018. Daniel M Ernst/Shutterstock
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World Happiness Fest: Summit Promises Inspiration, Relaxation

Luis Gallardo, an author and entrepreneur, created the organization bé and the World Happiness Fest to help build a community of more than 1 billion happy people within 10 years. On March 16-18, Luis invites all happiness seekers to join him in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for hands-on learning sessions, music and meaningful studies. Live Happy: What makes the World Happiness Festival stand out? Luis Gallardo: This festival focuses on creating an experiential learning community. Science, technology, music, art, gastronomy, intention, reflection and movement are all ingredients of a unique experience with happiness and well-being at its heart. All the senses will be activated with experiences that range from heart coherence to positive education, from mindful eating to the impact of music and frequencies on our emotions. How did you choose San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as the location, and what will the city add to the event? San Miguel has been ranked as one of the best small cities in the world. It combines the roots and cultural heritage of ancient civilizations with a vibrant artistic community. We are creating the World Happiness Fest as a permanent retreat center called “The Happiness Academy,” where we’ll have monthly gatherings focused on experiencing the roots of happiness and well-being with the top masters in the world. Why is it important for happiness to be developed at all levels of society? Thomas Jefferson once said, “Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.”Individual happinesshas extensive benefits, including improving a person’s physical health, providing more motivation to accomplish goals, and increased determination and energy to achieve tasks throughout the day. However, when happy individuals unite, that group will produce robust results. Who are some of the highlighted speakers at the festival? Saamdu Chetri, Raj Raghunathan, Maureen Healy, Khedrup Rinpoche, Gaby Vargas plus more than 40 international guides and masters from more than 20 countries. What else would you like us to know about the event? Society moves at such a fast pace. We all have long to-do lists and the pressure to do more in less time. When we become so caught up in those moments, we don’t focus on our relationships, our well-being and our happiness. When we stop tocreate meaningful experiences, we allow ourselves time to relax, to build connections and to become our best selves. This is simply a vital step in the process to achieve full happiness. That’s what World Happiness Fest is about. After San Miguel de Allende we’ll keep building experiential communities around the world. In June, Spain; October, Colombia and Brazil; with Guatemala, France and the United States to follow. Go to for more information. Enter code LIVEHAPPY for a 20% discount on festival passes.
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Group of happy elementary school kids.

Happy Schools Make Happy Children

In January, the elementary students at North Fond du Lac Schools in Wisconsin took on their most ambitious art project to date. Each of the more than 400 children, from kindergarten through fifth grade, wrote one thing they were thankful for on a strip of construction paper. Then they made paper “rings” of those expressions of gratitude before weaving them together to create one giant “gratitude chain.” Their goal? To create a colorful paper chain that could wrap around the entire school, surrounding it (both literally and figuratively) with gratitude. The project, says art teacher Alice Tzakais, was the culmination of the school’s Happiness Week, which included a variety of activities centered on expressing gratitude and happiness. “Our theme is the power of happiness,” explains Alice, who is now in her 40th year as a teacher. The school has seen firsthand how powerful happiness can be in the lives of both students and teachers. Since Aaron Sadoff became superintendent eight years ago, following three years as principal, he has worked diligently to spread the message of positive psychology throughout the school. “He has a lot of energy and a lot of ideas,” Alice says. “He’s very positive and enthusiastic, and that’s what it takes to sustain a happier culture.” When his contract came up for renewal two years ago, Aaron negotiated to have the school board send him to California to complete The Orange Frog training program. That program, based on Shawn Achor’s best-selling book The Happiness Advantage, uses a parable about an orange frog named Spark to teach new ways of achieving positive results. “I came back and taught it to my teachers, custodians, secretaries—everyone in the district,” Aaron says. “How a teacher feels affects the students, so I knew that if we can change the way the teachers feel, we can affect the culture for the students.” His teaching staff, he says, has taken the ideas and run with them. Today, Alice says, teachers know their character strengths and choose which ones they’ll develop and use in the classroom. They have developed a program to send the comic book version of The Orange Frog home with every elementary school student, along with a reading guide, to stimulate conversation. “The idea is that this is something the family is supposed to do together,” Aaron says. “So while we’re improving literacy, it’s also teaching them the science of happiness.” Learned happiness The district of North Fond du Lac is part of a growing number of schools incorporating the principles of positive psychology into education. As happiness continues to become more relevant globally, more countries are looking at ways to measure and monitor the well-being of their populations. From specific education policies to grass-roots movements, the awareness of the role happiness plays in individual success is changing how teachers, schools and even countries are approaching education. “The coolest thing is, you don’t sit around and talk about happiness. You don’t say, ‘Oh, look at me, I’m so joyous.’ It’s not like that at all,” Aaron explains. “What we’re doing is about recognizing what you’re grateful for, making social connections and focusing on the things that make us better individuals. And now there’s research that backs it all up.” In the 2015 World Happiness Report, Richard Layard, director of the Wellbeing Programme at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, and Ann Hagell, Ph.D., studied the well-being and mental health of children around the world, and then introduced specific recommendations for improving those conditions. They noted the important role an educational environment plays in children’s happiness and recommended that meeting the needs of children meant establishing well-being as a major objective for schools. Their blueprint for action included: Creating a well-being code that all teachers, students and parents would be held to. Emphasizing praise rather than criticism. Introducing age-appropriate courses in positive life skills at all levels of education. Training teachers to identify and promote well-being and positive mental health in students. The authors were able to show a direct correlation between children’s happiness and their intellectual growth. In 2011, a review of school-based programs providing social and emotional learning skills found that children who participated in such programs improved both their academic achievement and emotional well-being by an average of 10 percent. The final conclusion drawn in the World Happiness Report was that if schools truly treasure the well-being of their students, they must measure more than just academic achievement; they must consider the children’s happiness as well. And measuring it, according to Aaron, is what will get the attention of policymakers. “Math and test scores are important, but there’s so much more to education,” he says. “You have to look at how kids interact and you have to look at things like sports, music, art and how it affects them. It’s a process that takes a while, but all cultural change does. “The bottom line is, we now can prove, scientifically, that happiness leads to success.” Hunting positivity At the Parkmore Primary School in Australia, school principal Saraid Doherty has noticed a culture shift over the past year. It’s most noticeable at lunchtime, she says, when students regularly report their fellow students’ actions to teachers on yard duty. But rather than tattling to get their classmates in trouble, they’re reporting on the good things they’ve seen other students doing. Parkmore is one of many schools in 13 countries that have implemented the Positive Detective program. Created by Lea Waters, Ph.D., professor and holder of the Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, and Lela McGregor, a graduate of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program, the Positive Detective program teaches students to look for the good in the world around them and share it with others. “Teaching students to notice and discern where they place their attention is a skill that is fundamental to learning and well-being,” Lea says. “Many students feel that attention is outside of their own control…and susceptible to external distractions. This has become more rampant with the greater role of technology in a young person’s life.” Teaching them to focus helps them academically as they absorb more from each class, and it also allows them to recognize negative thought patterns or emotions, which makes it easier to change those thoughts. Building on experiences such as gratitude, savoring and kindness fosters students’ self-awareness about their ability to seek out good in their lives. Then, they learn how sharing those stories can help boost their positive emotions. “The program also includes activities that students take home and share with their parents, such as [writing a] gratitude letter and a positive treasure hunt at home,” Lea says. “[Principals have] received lots of feedback from parents about how the conversation at the dinner table had become more positive as a result of the program.” That viral nature of positivity is part of what helps it work so well. Schools where social emotional learning or positive psychology principles are taught report that the children take those lessons home with them and share with the entire family. Steve Leventhal, executive director of the nonprofit organization CorStone, launched the Girls First program in Bihar, India, in 2011. The program teaches personal resilience to girls in an impoverished area and has changed the way the girls approach problems. But even more importantly, that change has rippled through their families. “When you educate a girl, she takes that home with her. It changes the trajectory of the whole family,” he says. And that appears to be true regardless of whether those families are in India or Indiana. Acting globally As happiness in schools moves from an idea to a global initiative, more systems are being put into place to create effective policies and practices. At the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) festival in Dallas last year, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that while parents claim the thing they want most for their children is for them to “be happy,” education as a whole has ignored well-being and is aimed instead at developing skills like math, literacy, achievement and success. Yet, research shows that happiness leads to success, not vice versa. In the Asia-Pacific regions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling for a fundamental shift in education systems. The Happy Schools Project, conceived by Gwang-Jo Kim, director of UNESCO Bangkok, looks at the relationship between happiness and the quality of education. It calls for schools to look beyond the traditional domains of learning and begin embracing and implementing the other elements that contribute to the wellbeing and happiness of students. UNESCO’s 2016 report, Happy Schools: A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific, identifies 22 criteria for creating what it considers “Happy Schools.” The criteria fall into three broad categories of People, Process and Place, and shines a light on what is important for creating happiness and well-being in each of those areas. The report calls for decision-makers to “create more time and space for a type of learning that can enhance learner happiness and well-being, in hope of inspiring happier learners who can contribute to happier societies, and ultimately, to a happier world.” The key, it appears, is getting decision makers, both at a governmental policy level and at a school level, to buy into it. In a time when teachers and administrators are under pressure to deliver proof of excellence through test scores, the promise of happier students coupled with improved academic performance is “an easy conversation to start,” says Jillian Darwish, president of the Mayerson Academy in Cincinnati, which provides the Thriving Learning Communities program. “There’s not an educator out there who doesn’t want to help others find their greatest potential,” she says. “That’s why they came to the field. They care about others. The notion of helping them do just that really speaks to educators.” Thriving Learning Communities uses three main components. The largest, social emotional learning, teaches students relationship skills and responsible decision-making. The second guides students on how to identify and work to their character strengths. The third, a digital game element provided by partner Happify, helps teach them about positivity in a hands-on way. “This is not a program we give to teachers to give to their students,” Jillian says. “It begins with the teachers. As an educator, I’m going to find out, what are my personal strengths? How can I use those strengths to develop great teams? Once I’ve experienced that on a personal level, then I can start sharing it with my students.” By teaching educators and then students to “focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong,” the conversation shifts. “It creates an entirely different dynamic,” Jillian explains. “This, to me, is the antidote to many of the behavioral and social problems we see in schools. If we agree to look for the best in ourselves and in each other, it absolutely changes the way we interact with each other.” Feedback from students and educators alike reinforces what Jillian has observed, and shows that these new skills are helping students both personally and academically. One sixth-grader who participated in the Thriving Learning Communities program says that at first there wasn’t much he enjoyed about school. “But with this,” he says, “you have something to look forward to. I get up in the morning, get moving fast and I get it going so I can get to school.” Fifth- and sixth-graders from the Cincinnati Public Schools offer similar stories, noting that identifying their individual strengths has helped them approach their problems differently. “My strengths are love of learning and forgiveness,” reports one student, who added that learning her character strengths helped her understand herself better and helped her get to know other people. It also gave her an understanding of what strengths she’d like to work on developing—becoming more outgoing and brave—but also reinforced her self-confidence. That, in turn, has made her a better student. “I used to have a hard time focusing on math,” she says. “Now, I have the confidence to take a test and know I can do it.” Proof positive A study published in November in the Review of Educational Research, which looked at multiple research results from the past 15 years, confirmed that a positive school environment can offset many of the negative effects of poverty. In 2016, more schools began looking at the role of culture in academic outcomes, and the U.S. Department of Education even introduced an online toolbox to help administrators measure and understand their school climate. The "Every Student Succeeds" Act, signed into law at the end of 2015, requires U.S. schools to consider non-academic factors such as school culture when evaluating overall success. And the International Positive Education Network was created three years ago to help build a global network of educators, students and representatives from governments and companies who support the idea of reforming—and transforming—the current education model. “It’s a big ship to turn around,” says Positive Detective’s Lea Waters. “But shifting the rudder by even a few degrees changes the long-haul course of that ship. I feel hopeful that now, more than any other time in education, we are seeing that change.” Read more about positive education: Does Grit Outweigh Talent When it Comes to High Achievement? 4 Ideas Shaping the Future of Education Listen to our podcasts: The Importance of Positive Education, Part 1 and Part 2. Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy magazine.
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Happiest College Students on Campus

Who Has the Happiest College Students on Campus?

Rice University has the happiest students in the country, according to The Princeton Review’s recently released guide, The Best 381 Colleges, 2017 Edition. What exactly makes those students so happy? At Rice, the responses from students vary: Some love the diverse and “quirky” population, while others appreciate the small class sizes and wide range of activities available on campus. Other notable schools rounding out the top five for happiest students include Vanderbilt University, University of Dayton, Auburn University and the University of Iowa. Students at Vanderbilt boast a healthy mix of academics and extracurriculars, while at the University of Iowa, students feel they are provided a “great education at a reasonable price.” Kimberly Mendoza, a graduate student in the department of chemistry at Rice, isn’t shocked that her school of choice earned the top spot in happiness. She says there is a lot of student engagement on campus and everyone is “free to pursue their own interests at their own time and pace and make new friends along the way.” Her experience has largely been positive and she says even her friends and family have noticed the happiness and joy that Rice brings to her life. “There are a variety of diverse organizations I participate in and I have made friends not only in my own department but across campus,” she says. “I am a member of the Rice Owls Dance team, mentor undergraduates, complete my own research and even teach. I feel that the university is very supportive and I could not be happier.” The criteria for happiness For its annual college rankings lists as well as The Best 381 Colleges, more than 143,000 students were surveyed on a wide range of topics, from which schools have the best professors, to which ones serve the best dorm food. “We are pleased that our students are happy, not because we set out to make them happy, but because we set out to create a great community and a great learning environment,” says John Hutchinson, Rice's dean of undergraduate students. Houston-based Rice also ranked No. 1 in interaction among students of “different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds” and ranked in the top 10 for overall student quality of life. Rice President David Leebron released a statement saying these recognitions represent the university’s “more important commitments: the general welfare and positive engagement of our students and building a diverse and inclusive community.” Smaller schools, big happiness Robert Franek, lead author and senior vice president of The Princeton Review, says it doesn’t surprise him that smaller schools like Rice are able to consistently rank high on the happy list. “[These schools] don’t stop at providing just an academic experience for students,” Robert says. “I think Rice and the other 19 schools on the happiest students list are making a real commitment to those students by saying ‘we want to make sure that we are nourishing your mind, body and spirit.’ I think they are taking those responsibilities very seriously for the students that are enrolled.” Happy students are more engaged Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the best-selling author of Flourish, has written that greater well-being enhances learning and positive moods “produce broader attention, more creative thinking and more holistic thinking.” At the International Positive Education Network’s Festival of Positive Education held this summer in Dallas, Martin spoke to the benefits of having happier institutions. “Happy kids do better academically,” Martin said. “That tells us this is worth doing and not a zero sum game.” According to data culled by The Princeton Review, Rice has a graduation rate of 80 percent after four years and 91 percent after six for its 3,900 students. Montana Tech of the University of Montana, a school that tops the list for having the least happy students, has only a 17 percent graduation rate after four years and 43 percent within six. Chris Libby is the section editor at Live Happy.
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