This week’s article summary is The Secret to Happiness Takes Only 15 Minutes Per Day.
Although the article comes from Business Insider and is not technically about the classroom, its a-ha’s about happiness have obvious applications for schools.
I have always considered myself lucky to by nature a positive attitude toward life. I’ve also known many people who view their life, job, relationships with others, etc. through a negative, deficit-obsessed lens.
Is one’s attitude toward life (think of the cliché of viewing a glass either half full or half empty) simply a roll of genetic dice? Or can happiness and a positive attitude be learned and practiced, and, if so, what might schools do to support those who don’t more naturally view things through a positive and optimistic perspective?
The article below believes happiness can be developed through practice, intentional thoughts of altruism, and by taking fifteen minutes per day to literally “think happy thoughts.”
See if you can find daily the fifteen minutes recommended below—and maybe even have your kids spend a few minutes a day (15 just seems too long for kids) training the brain to be positive.
Who knows, maybe one of you will someday supplant Matthieu Richard as the ‘happiest person on the world!"
Who is the happiest man in the world? Matthieu Ricard, 69, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who has been called "the world's happiest man."
That's because he participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation and compassion. Sensors were attached to his head and the resulting brain scan “showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves – those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory –never reported before in the neuroscience. The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity."
Here's Ricard’s advice for how to be happy.
Stop thinking 'me, me, me.'
To Ricard, the answer comes down to altruism. The reason is because thinking about yourself, and how to make things better for yourself all the time, is exhausting, stressful, and ultimately leads to unhappiness. “It's quite miserable, because you instrumentalize the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest to yourself."
If you want to be happy, Ricard says, you should strive to be "benevolent," which will not only make you feel better, but it will also make others like you better.
"If your mind is filled with benevolence, this is a very healthy state of mind that is conducive to flourishing. So you are in a much better mental state and your body will be healthier.”
Sounds great in theory, but how does a person actually become altruistic and benevolent and not let selfish thoughts creep in?
Start training your mind like you'd train to run a marathon
Ricard believes everyone has the ability to have a lighter mind because there's a potential for goodness in every human being (unless you're, say, a serial killer, and there's something actually chemically abnormal going on with your brain).
But, like a marathon runner who needs to train before running 26.2 miles, people who want to be happier need to train their minds. Ricard's preferred way of training is meditation.
"With mental training, we can always bring our level of happiness to a different level. It's like running. Through training I might not become an Olympic champion, but there is a huge difference between training and not training. Why shouldn’t that apply to the mind as well? Benevolence, attention, emotional balance, and resilience are skills that can be trained, and if you put them all together, happiness is the result.
How does one train his/her mind to be happier?
Just spend 15 continuous minutes a day thinking happy thoughts.
Typically when we experience feelings of happiness and love, it's fleeting and then something else happens, and we move on to the next thought. Ricard says, concentrate on not letting your mind get distracted and keep focused on the positive emotions for the next stretch of time. And if you do that training every day, even just a few weeks later you can feel positive mental results.
And if you practice that for 50 years like Ricard has, you can become a happiness pro too.