Be happy, it’s your choice

There is much to be gained when one has emotions of cheer and joy for it brings only good vibes.

HAPPINESS is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterised by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Author Sonia Lyubomirsky in her book entitled The HOW of Happiness states that 10% is affected by life circumstances and situations, and a remaining 40% of happiness is subject to self-control.

Her implication is that happiness is a choice. Lyubomirsky makes good sense and meaning as in life, I have learnt two significant lessons about being happy.

Happiness is indeed a choice and the commitment to the choice that one has made to stay happy is a responsibility.

We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be sad, angry or defeated and our choices will either make or break us.

My advice is NOT to allow anyone or anything to steal your happiness away for it is your greatest asset.

The author points out that it has numerous benefits which appear to help not only individuals, but families, communities and the society at large as this is pointed out by Lyubomirsky.

The benefits of happiness include superior work outcomes which include greater productivity and higher quality of work performance.

It brings about meaningful socials rewards like having more friends, richer social interactions and stronger social support among colleagues.

Health wise, happiness lowers stress level, gives less pain and even induces a longer life!

How can happiness be achieved and sustained effectively?

Taught or caught

Personally, I believe that the pursuit of happiness can either be taught or caught.

Some of the positive efforts in making us stay happy despite facing daily challenges can include the following :

Be kind to everyone - even to those who don’t deserve it. Smile at challenges as there is a divine hidden gift in them.

Embrace change as resisting it will bring frustration.

Always take responsibility because when we blame, we give our power away.

We must also believe in our happiness for if we don’t, no one else will.

Strive every day to be a bit better and soon we will be masters of what we do.

Be part of the solution not the problem. The bigger the problem we are willing to solve, the greater the satisfaction.

Constantly seek advice from people with experience, knowledge and expertise.

It will speed up our journey to success. Always keep our word. Choose to believe that we have the power to create happiness and control our state of mind as we really can do it.

Complain less and take more positive action.

Forgive and let go. It will liberate an enormous amount of positive energy like happiness, relief and creativity.

No negativity

Don’t be influenced by negativity. Religion relates to happiness and those who are happy tend to have religion in their lives. Humility is a virtue so be humble.

Regularly set aside time to recall moments of gratitude. Engage in positive thinking about oneself and appreciate positive experiences.

Teachers have an incredible opportunity to influence the learning mood of students through their own happiness.

In my years as a school principal, I had observed that genuinely happy teachers construed school events and daily situations in ways that seemed to maintain their happiness.

On the other hand, I had observed unhappy teachers who construed experiences in ways that seemed to reinforce unhappiness.

If happiness in learning is created for the students, then the chances of the students achieving desirable goals can be significantly enhanced.

Evidence from my own teaching experience suggests that the achievement of any educational goal will be made much easier if students experience positive emotions like happiness first as it inspires the students and makes learning interesting, rewarding and desirable.

This will lead to improved outcomes, boosts students’ confidence and self-esteem.

In other words, happiness in the classrooms also brings about enormous benefits for the students – academically, socially and emotionally, which is very much aligned to the National Philosophy of Education.

In view of that, the aspirations of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025) for what the schools will achieve for the students in the years ahead, is perhaps the most important dimension of learning.

The question now is how do teachers create happiness and enhance positivity in the classroom?

Psychologist Dr Timothy Sharp or otherwise known as Dr Happy has suggested ways for teachers to try out in a classroom.

They are as follows:

• Develop a positive relationship with each student regardless of the student’s behaviour (past or present).

• Engage students with something – anything – that is relevant, interesting and compelling.

• Actively and explicitly focus on positive experiences in the student’s life, present and past.

• Quickly work towards helping the student identify his or her strengths. Specifically look for expressions of these strengths in past experiences and discuss how best to utilise these in future situations.

• Build a positive student-teacher relationship by finding common areas of interest or leisure activities.

• Have fun and use humour appropriately (education is far too important to take too seriously!).

• Make students feel special and do what you can to make them believe that the process of teaching is and will be a positive one; and note that this is as important in the playground, as it is in the classroom.

• Provide accurate, specific and detailed feedback to the student about the task they are undertaking, their approach to that task, and their confidence levels and strengths. Avoid providing empty praise about the student’s presumed traits – such as “you are so smart” or “you are a natural”.

• Provide plenty of positive reinforcement each time your student achieves something of significance, regardless of the size, or even when positive experiences from the past are recalled or mentioned.

• Cultivate hope and optimism at every opportunity by reminding the student of previous successes and achievements and by appropriately noting how these experiences can be used to build more positivity in the future.

So dear teachers, stay happy for being blessed with a noble profession.

Research has found that happy teachers are more creative, helpful, charitable and self-confident.

They also have better self-control with greater coping abilities. Make it your choice to be happy teachers!

> The writer, Datuk Mary Yap is Deputy Education Minister. Connect with her via Twitter @maryyapkc and This is one in a series of articles which appears every fortnight in this column. It also sees the contributions of Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan, who share their views on various education-related issues.

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