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Stop Bullying by Teaching Happiness

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In Background

Guest Post from Jenn Eichner

There is much debate over the effectiveness of anti-bullying campaigns currently active in many high schools. I have read research and opinion pieces which suggest that the campaigns may actually be counter-productive. There appears to be little discussion, however, on alternative measures and even less dialogue with students about their take on the subject. I recently received a firsthand opinion from a 10th grade student concerning her school district’s anti-bullying campaign. She felt so passionate about the subject that she wrote a letter to her Board of Education entitled, 1000 Words that I Hope Will Make a Difference. She shared this letter with me and it made a difference. I will use a few excerpts from her letter in the remainder of this piece, presented in italics and beginning below:

“Anti-bullying assemblies, when it comes down to it, are doing nothing but teaching negativity. Inviting teachers of resilience into our school might help actual bullies to be happier with themselves and their own lives, and stop them from being so cruel to others.”

Resilience and happiness habits are closely related and have mutual and reciprocal benefits. Maintaining a positive mindset is the “fuel” for resilience. This positive mindset forms resilience because it helps one build the skills and internal resources to bounce back from adversity. Could we create more opportunities to teach/facilitate concepts of resilience and happiness habits in the high school classroom? I think we could and here is the what, how and why:

What? Incorporate the following happiness habits into the high school system:

  • Having a positive mindset
  • Being grateful/performing acts of kindness
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Noting personal strengths
  • Identifying energy management techniques
  • Setting attainable goals
  • Finding flow

How?

  • Include the study and discussion of resilience skills and happiness habits in health and physical education classes.
  • Supply meditation/energy management rooms to be available to students.
  • Provide professional development opportunities to teachers and administrators encouraging the modeling of resilient behaviors.
  • Using the flipped classroom method, allow students to learn on line (websites, YouTube, TED, etc.…) about resilience skills at home. Discuss these skills and ask for reflection (oral/written) in class.

“Teaching resilience in school will help do exactly what school is supposed to do; prepare young people for the real world.”

Why? Potential benefits of introducing resilience skills & happiness habits in an effort to decrease bullying acts and its residual effects on students:

  • Increased optimism & positive thinking
  • Recognition of strengths in self & others
  • Reduced anxiety & depression
  • Better regulation of emotion
  • Improved performance in classes
  • Boost in self esteem
  • Introduction of valuable life skills
  • Managed stress through healthy practices
  • Lowered absentee rates

“You can’t control every aspect of life and sometimes things are going to happen that you don’t like, but what you can control is the way you respond to the situation.”

I think it is well worth a try or that at least it is open for serious research and debate….

 

References

Churnin, N. (2013, July 1). Building resilience in kids will help them succeed, author says. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/health-and-fitness/columnists/nancy-churnin/20130701-building-resilience-in-kids-will-help-them-succeed-author-says.ece

Csikszentmihalyi,Mihalyi (1997) Finding Flow. Basic Books: New York.

Golgowski, N. (2013, October 23). Sparks Middle School shooting followed anti-bullying video’s theme: student. Retrieved February 9, 2014, from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/sparks-school-shooting-anti-bullying-video-student-article-1.1493905

Reivich, K and Shatte, A. The Resilience Factor. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Seligman, Martin (2002). Authentic Happiness. Free Press: New York

Strauss, V. (2013, February 14). At least 44 school shootings since Newtown — new analysis. WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://www.washingtonpost.com

Winter, A. (2009, May). The Science Of Happiness: Barbara Fredrickson On Cultivating Positive Emotions. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/401/the_science_of_happiness

(2012, February 1). 10 Big Companies That Promote Employee Meditation [Web log post]. Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/10-big-companies-that-promote-employee-meditation/

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