Go to Top

Happiness by Romano Orlando – Student

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Romano OrlandoIn order to understand happiness, one must understand what happiness actually is. The definition of happiness is, “feeling pleasure and enjoyment.” However, what is pleasure? What is enjoyment? Thomas Jefferson, an original Son of Liberty, once said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and property.” This text was later edited by the Founding Fathers of our nation to change the word “property,” to “the pursuit of happiness.” It was changed because in the bigger picture, people live and work hard for happiness. For example, I stay up late studying for a test in order to get a good grade. In the end, good grades may lead to a better future; filled with happiness. It seems happiness was an American concern from the start.

 

“Don't wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you've got to make yourself

-Alice Walker

school childIn our school community, there is a lack of happiness. In a national survey of thousands of teenagers conducted by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), 93% of students surveyed said school work is their biggest stressor. A total of 29% of students reported having very high amounts of stress (ACHA-NCHA). In college, 39% of students state that they feel hopeless throughout the year (ACHA-NCHA). Also, 47% will experience overwhelming anxiety and 84 percent will feel overwhelmed by all they have to do (ACHA-NCHA). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30% of high school students reported having so much stress and depression that “it was difficult to function normally” (NIMH). Those statistics are very accurate, yet scary, as high amounts of stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, depression, and anxiety. This is also an issue that affects Central Middle School, as happiness is a major problem here at CMS. Happiness in a school community is when students and teachers work well together, enjoy coming to class, and are both excited to learn. It is vital that the staff motivates the students to perform at the best of their abilities and to promote positive learning. Once a student understands that the teachers and staff care about them and wants them to succeed, that is the definition of a happy school. However, that is not evident as CMS thus far. According to the school improvement plan, only two out of ten CMS students enjoy coming to school and 28% of students believe that school rules are not fair (S.I.P). If a student believes that school rules are not fair, it can create an environment where there is a lot of tension. Tension contributes towards overall stress.

 

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

-Aristotle

There is no direct cause for one’s happiness, since happiness is unique to each person, and the causes for happiness are many (Gladwell TED). So, in order to explain what causes happiness, it is essential to understand that happiness is about the individual person. To organize all the happiness concepts and to break down causes, there is the RICH theory. The RICH theory is one of the main theories focusing on happiness. RICH stands for resources, intimacy, competence, and health. The RICH theory was thought up by Mr. Thomas J. Kehle and Mrs. Melissa A. Bray, who are current professors at UCONN. Their claim is that without even one of these main factors, none of the others can exist, which results in a lack of happiness. Resources represents a feeling of independence or professionalism. The resources is based on whether or not you can maintain friendships, establish competence, and enjoy physical health. Resources is developing a sense of pride in a student, and making him/her feel a sense of independence. Intimacy is simply defined as friendship. It is just the enjoyment and company of a friend. Intimacy is how well a student can communicate ideas as well as being able to maintain relationships with teachers and fellow peers. Competence is attributed to one’s own abilities. One’s sense of competence is dependent on resources, intimacy, and health. A student’s ability to score well on a test and putting forth their best effort. Health is the sum of all these factors. Physical health is almost entirely dependent on resources, competence, and intimacy. A student should maintain a healthy lifestyle and balance school with other activities. On the surface, these may not seem to be related. However, they are all dependent and synonymous with each other. Those characteristics are the baseline for happiness. The RICH theory later describes how happiness is about the individual. Each of those characteristics is a reflection of one’s individual happiness. Even though happiness is unique to each student and person, there are some simple things that make a school an unfriendly place. For example, one thing that can make a school an unfriendly place is non-constructive criticism (Holtzer POH). Non-constructive criticism presents negative feedback by pointing out what is wrong and not giving advice on how to fix it. In a school, this can be a teacher saying, “That answer is close, but not quite,” rather than saying,“that answer is wrong.” Non-constructive criticism has been proved  by many studies to be “demeaning” and discourages students to participate (Holtzer POH). Additionally, if students don’t feel appreciated by their teachers and that they cannot succeed, that also immediately decreases happiness(Holtzer POH). Students should feel like their teachers want them to succeed.  One simple thing that makes a school more happy and connected is a gathering of the whole school, like a pep-rally(S.I.P). Events like these bring students and teachers together along with encouraging school spirit. As well as being connected, teachers and administration should give the students a voice(Jackie AL). Students are constantly being told what to do, and to give them a voice makes them feel heard. Once the students feel that they are not ignored, they obtain a sense of pride which contributes to their individual confidence and learning.

 

“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

The effects of happiness are monumental. In fact, happy people live longer(ABC). The University of Kentucky conducted a study of 500 nuns called “The Nun Study” (UK). The university concluded from their study that nuns who expressed positive emotions daily lived an average of ten years longer than nuns who did not express positive emotions daily. The Nun Study is one of the most dynamic and powerful studies on the impact of positive emotions and thoughts in the history of positive psychology. The University of Kentucky chose nuns for this study because of their similar diet, exercise, and behavior. Not only did the positive nuns live a decade longer, they seemed to have a natural immunization against Alzheimer's disease(UK). The Nun Study is a baseline for how happiness directly affects the brain. This is because happiness is like chocolate to your brain. When you have a feeling of happiness, your brain releases dopamine (livescience). Dopamine is a chemical signal sent from all parts of the brain that chains from neuron to neuron. Studies have shown that dopamine, in controlled amounts, creates pleasure and is good for you in many ways (livescience, Wollard). As with brains, in a school, happiness is all about attitude. When a school has positive attitude and is connected, it performs better as a whole. A positive attitude means higher test grades. According to The University of Minnesota, a student’s GPA will increase by 0.58 when in a positive, non stressful environment (Evoke, UM).  Plus, a happy environment is instantly a positive and friendly environment. When a teacher sets the tone in a way that their classroom is positive and welcoming, it makes students want to come to class. Once students want to come to class, learning is immediately excelled. A positive and happy environment has both scientific and emotional benefits. The opposite of this, the effects of unhappiness, are also monumental. In fact,  39% of students say that their stress and negativity at school affect their academic performance (Evoke, UM). Unrelieved stress and negativity affects the immune system, heart, brain, muscles, stomach, reproductive organs, skin, and lungs (Time). Besides the facts, an unhappy environment is just not one worth striving for. If a student is constantly stressed and unhappy, why be motivated to reach goals? The positive effects of happiness are astounding, and the negative effects of happiness are terrifying. If a school’s performance is so strongly affected by happiness, then it should be a primary concern of schools. This is concerning as roughly the entire school improvement plan is about improving test scores. If test scores are so affected by the environment that the students are in, it is naïve and unwise to ignore this pressing issue.

 

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.”

-Thomas Jefferson

The hardest task with solutions to a school’s well-being and happiness is that most people do not know what makes them happy. In fact, according to Stanford University, most people think that money, youth, and beauty are the keys to happiness (SU). However, these matter less than one thinks. In their studies they have found that once someone makes enough money to sustain themselves, any more money makes a very little impact on one’s happiness (SU). Youth and beauty are probably the biggest misconception. Since their research states that “as individuals get older they seem to become more happy,” and that “beauty is very indirectly correlated to happiness, and people are constantly finding the ‘ugly’ in themselves” (SU). However, the most effective and researched solutions are the “7 habits” (Holtzer POH) This theory was thought up by workers at Pursuit Of Happiness.org. The 7 habits are very similar to the RICH theory, and essentially work off of each other. The 7 habits are: relationships, caring, exercise, flow, meaning, understand one’s strengths and weaknesses, and optimism. At first thought these seem very indirect and abstract, yet they have concrete facts and a lot of research to buttress their ideas. For example, The University of Illinois found that the students who scored top 10% on a happiness study, had the similar characteristic of having “strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them” (UI). That relationship category and exercise category were some of the main factors in the RICH theory as well. A hungarian physiologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted that, “The act of creating seemed at times more important than the finished work itself.” Mihaly was intrigued by what he called the “flow” state, which is when a person is completely immersed in an activity with much focus and engagement (Mihaly). Optimism also ties into avoiding non-constructive criticism. In theory these 7 habits can be solutions implemented to improving a school’s environment. A school can improve relationships by making the school more connected. The student improvement plan states that one of their goals is to improve school “connectedness,” which will in turn improve relationships. Schoolconnectedness refers to an environment where the students believe that adults in the school care about their learning and about them as individuals. Increasing school connectedness can be as simple as a pep-rally every 3 months or so (S.I.P). Caring and flow can be how a student perceives their work. If a student is apathetic towards their school work, their flow gets interrupted and overall school connectedness decreases. Throughout research and experience at CMS it is evident that teacher and student relationships can either be very strong, or very unhealthy. An unhealthy relationship can consist of a lack of communication, lack of respect, and negativity (Lifehacker). This greatly impacts a school’s well being. Fixing these relationships is the first key step in solving and promoting happiness at Central Middle School. The teachers and students make up the school, and if they are not pleased with their daily life at CMS, then it is impossible for the school to be a happy place. Research has found that the best way to improve relationships between students and teachers is to improve communication. Negativity and respect both stem from and are relative to communication. If a student wants one thing, and a teacher believes the student wants something else, a miscommunication is created. That is the core of almost all the problems between a student and a teacher. Again, once a poor relationship is formed between students and teachers, the school’s environment becomes tense and positive learning is not achieved.

 

It is evident that a lack of happiness is the biggest problem at Central Middle School. Happiness in a school community means good relationships, caring, and positivity. A major cause for the lack of happiness is poor relationships between students and teachers. Poor relationships are the result of a lack of communication and positivity. The effects of this problem have a lot of influence on the schools well-being. They cause negativity, disrespect, and overall an impaired learning experience for the students. In fact, GPA’s lower by 0.58 when a student is feeling stressed out from school. This can be solved by making a school a friendlier learning environment. A friendly learning environment can be created by making sure students and teachers on the same page. Being on the same page will ensure that the students feel they are a part of the lesson. This will make it more evident that the teacher cares about them and their work and wants to succeed to the best of their ability. Once that is achieved to it’s highest extent, teachers and students flow and become synonymous with each other. That is the sign and true root of a happy school.

Click here for more from Romano - http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/8th-grader-helps-stressed-miserable-students/

Bibliography

 

ABC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/03/27/

how-happiness-affects-your-health/>. This source is reliable and gets a rating of 7. It

provides little opinion, is a reporting news site, and the article was published within a year.

It is a wide known news network and not very bias either.

 

Appreciate Life, Jackie. Telephone interview. Apr. 2014.

 

Greater Good Berkley. UCAL, Berkley, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. <http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

article/item/four_ways_happiness_can_hurt_you>.

 

Ikeda Quotes. Soka Gakkai, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ikedaquotes.org/stories/

what-is-happiness>. This reliable source gets a score of 6. The author is trying to promote

a view, has a good amount of background in this topic, and published this article within 1

 

"The Impact of Stress on Academic Preformace." Evoke. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_by_state>. This is

a reliable source and gets a rating of an 8. It's only purpose is to advance

information, it is clear who the author is (not an expert), and was published within 1 year. I

have confirmed with other sources and the information is accurate.

 

Krois, Kevin. "School Connectedness." School Improvement Plan. 2013-2014 ed. N.p.: CMS, 2014. N.

pag. School improvement plan. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. This reliable source gets an 8. It is used

solely to improve knowledge, published by CMS, and was made within one year. This was lent to me by Mr. Krois

 

lifehacker. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2014. <http://lifehacker.com/5991218/

want-to-be-happier-stop-doing-these-10-things-right-now>.

 

livescience. Tanya Lewis, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013. <http://www.livescience.com/

36977-one-third-americans-are-happy.html>.

 

"National College Health Assessment." ACHA-NCHA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. This source gets a

rating of 8. The group uses this information only to advance knowledge, are experts, and was

published within 2 years ago. It is a national database.

 

"National Institute of Mental Health." NIMH. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. This reliable source gets

a rating of 9. It is used only to advance information, is an expert on their topic,, and was

published within 1 year. It is a national source.

National Institute of mental health (government). National Institute of Mental Health. Web. 30 Mar.

2014. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-and-college-students/

index.shtml>. This is a reliable source because it is coming from a government database. It

states logical facts about the emotional states of students in schools. It scores a 9 on the

GPS source evaluation rubric.

 

"Pursuit of Happiness." Free Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.

<http://www.thefreedictionary.com/right+to+the+pursuit+of+happiness>.

 

Pursuit Of Happiness, Alison H. Telephone interview. Apr. 2014.

 

TED Talks with Malcom Gladwell. Youtube. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=mFVLb5dWwL0>. This very reliable source deserves a 9. Malcolm Gladwell wanted only

to give information, is an expert on the topic he was speaking about, and presented his TED

talk within one year. Malcolm Gladwell is a philosopher and a researcher on many topics similar

to happiness.

 

Time. Time Magazine, n.d. Web. 2 June 2013. <http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/06/02/

poll-americans-are-less-happy-now-than-they-were-in-2011/>. This is a reliable source and

gets a rating of 7. It provides little opinion, is a news magazine, and was published within a

year or less. I find this source very helpful because it states the studies and uses a wide

variety

 

"UM, UI, US, UK." Colleges. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. These reliable college sources all get a 8. Their purpose is to advance knowledge, they are expert researchers, and all their

information was gathered within a year or two. I chose to combine all of these colleges they

are all similar sources

 

Wollard. Personal interview. Apr. 2014. This source deserves an 8. I spoke with Mrs. Wollard only to

obtain information, she is familiar with my topic, and the interview was conducted this year.