Reversing the Equation : Positive Psychology



Photo CC – By Felipe Fernandes

TEDtalks have always held my interest and been a source of enjoyment for me. However, these last two weeks, especially the last couple of days, I have a newfound love for them. They can bring such diverse topics into conversation and into the spotlight. I appreciate how these people how taken the time to share their findings, heart, and passions with the world.

That being said, one of my new favorites is Shawn Anchor’s talk titled “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” (You can find Shawn Anchor’s talk below.) I think part of why I have found this particular talk engaging is because of my love for psychology. I actually took a Positive Psychology class my sophomore year in college and it was one of favorite classes.

Shawn Anchor discusses the science of happiness. It is a common belief that the more external things and successes people have, the more happy and successful they feel. One of my favorite points Anchor makes is that our happiness is affected by the way we view the world and our circumstances not the measure of our external world and possessions. This means we need to practice focusing on the positives and changing the lens through which we view happiness rather than focusing on the negatives.

In my Positive Psychology class, each week my professor would have all of us students share one positive event or thing that happened or something for which we were grateful. Each week we, including our professor, would spend time reflecting on our week and pick one special event. It got to the point where I looked forward to going to class so that I could share my positive in an environment that was supportive of each other and celebrated with each other. I noticed it also got easier each week because I was becoming accustomed to searching for the positive and not the negative. (One of my favorite Grateful Mondays was when I shared I received a scholarship and was going to attend CSC!)

Positive Psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology but it has become one that is so important. It has an impact on life in general, yes, but also a large impact on education. We should be teaching our students to reverse the equation from:

hard work + success → happiness


happinessmore hard work + more success.

If we can do this, believe me, we will be doing them a favor. Students can never truly experience happiness based on success because once they achieve the score we set for them, we simply raise the score. Instead, we should be first creating positive, encouraging, supportive, and happy environments for our students to work in which, in turn, provides motivation, creativity, and success.

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Photo CC – By Lighttruth

See, students need to be in an environment which fosters their learning and growth. If our students are focusing on the negatives and never truly reaching success, they get burnt out, tired and unmotivated to keep working. If our classrooms are positive environments, we can teach our students to focus on the positives and celebrate their victories thus producing more dopamine in our students. (Dopamine helps the body to be happy and actually jump starts the learning centers in the brain.) Furthermore, when students are positive and happy, they are more efficient at their work and put in more effort.

Anchors offers 5 strategies to practice to rewire the brain to be more positive and happy. These strategies could be incorporated into our classrooms in ways such as sharing a positive or gratitude, journaling about them, incorporating exercise and brain energizers, and encouraging acts of kindness. Practicing these strategies can help any person, however, I think it is vital to teach to our students. Establishing a positive learning environment will help our students thrive and offer them a more fulfilling life.

I leave you with a question : Do you want to be happy?


Photo CC – By dawnzy58



A Teacher Promoting Positive Psychology and Happiness



10 thoughts on “Reversing the Equation : Positive Psychology

  1. I find it so easy to fall down the TED talk rabbit hole: so many good ones! I often intend to watch just one–and then end up watching 4 or 5. I haven’t seen this one yet and can’t wait to watch it. I really love that there are specific strategies and practices that can boost happiness. It seems to me really important that we teach these strategies and practices to kids too! It would be so easy to incorporate any or all into our classrooms. Little exercise breaks, sharing positives, an act of kindness challenge, etc.

    • Same! I don’t even know how many I watched before picking this one (which I watched several times). I found it encouraging that these practices can be simple and adapted to meet the needs of the students and teacher. GoNoodle and exercise breaks are becoming one of my favorite activities and resources!

  2. Cara, you have no idea how much this post helped me personally! My ILP is focused all around personal growth. My main objective is to work on being more positive, and less negative in the hopes of becoming a happier person! Your video and thoughts were really helpful in giving me ideas and advice on being more happy! Great post!

  3. I did not know much about TEDtalks until this course but I too appreciate their versatility and ability to open eyes about virtually any topic. I like that you included the point that Anchor made about our happiness being based off of our perception of the world we are currently living in. I have always believed that if I choose to see the good, I will have good and this is backed by the point made by Anchor. I can relate to your Grateful Mondays sharing time as I used to do “happy and crappy” with my friends as a way to reflect on our week and be there to support each other if need be. Lastly, I really enjoy the idea of having students journal about what they are appreciative for and will be likely to have my students do this as much as possible and not just in November when we are reminded to be thankful. Thanks for the happiness equation!

    • Kaitlin,
      I love TEDtalks! I seriously watched so many before deciding on Anchor’s to write about. I really think perception can dramatically affect our emotions, mood, and well-being. That’s great that you had friends who willing to support you and cared about you enough to take time to encourage reflection. Journaling is a great activity that can be adapted in so many ways! I like that you mentioned “not just in November.” This is so true, we should be practicing gratitude and thankfulness year-round! Thanks for reading!

      • TEDtalks are fun and inspiring for sure! Having good friends is essential in this life if you ask me. Students can even just take two minutes and list things they are grateful for and not even necessarily write a full blown journal as long as they are acknowledging the positives in their lives. Year round gratitude makes for a more positive year!

  4. Cara,
    Most of the time I am pretty good at focusing on the positive things. If I am having a bad week and nothing seems to be going right though, it is tough! A classroom where the bar is constantly raised is not a happy or positive learning environment, in my opinion. Eventually things get so difficult that not many people can even meet the teachers expectations and it seems like they are trying to set us up for failure. Teachers might not realize they are doing this, but I feel that this is what often happens, especially in high school. This is really a great post!

    • Ashton,
      I know it can be tough sometimes to stay positive but it really is so worth it to put in the extra effort and try. Sometimes, yes, the classroom can get rough but it is up to the teacher to set the tone. Teachers who truly care do their absolute best to forget about the rules, regulations, and other stuff to simply focus on the students and be there for them. I do think in the midst of the struggling field, teachers can be the light for the students to push through and keep working on their best. Thanks for reading!

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