We can help students learn that it is normal to feel sad. We can help them become aware of when they are feeling sad and learn to express and deal with that feeling. However, they can also be helped to understand that some people get sad about certain things when they could choose not to be, leading to feeling sad more often.
Students can be helped to understand that some people assume that something outside themselves brings them happiness. They may choose to wait until they possess all they want, such as toys, or electronics, before they choose to be happy.
Some people may hold off being happy until everything in their lives is exactly as they want it, believing that will bring them happiness. Some may choose to wait until people act toward them the way they would want before they allow themselves to be happy. Others may focus on the things they are lacking rather than appreciate the things that they have.
It is helpful for students to examine and edit one assumption that can lead to our being less happy than it is possible to be. This assumption is “I can never be happy, and life will be awful until certain things are a certain way.” If we believe that assumption, we will likely have less happiness in our lives than what is possible.
We can help students edit the exaggerations inherent in that assumption, and build a more fact-based belief that offers more opportunities for increasing joy. The word ‘never” can be looked at as an exaggeration. It is stretching the truth to say that we could never be happy until certain things are in place. Even though we might prefer things to be different, we have the option to be happy, just the way things are. The word “awful” is an exaggeration, as well. While we may like things to be a certain way, we cannot say that life is necessarily awful if they are not.
A better belief to encompass, would be to say that “There are certain things in my life that I would prefer to be different. But whether or not they are, I can choose to feel happy right now.” We can then focus on noticing and being grateful for the things that we appreciate in our lives. What we focus on, we increase.
So if we have an attitude of gratitude and focus on the positive, we will increase the positives. Students can be helped to be mindfully aware of and thankful for the lasting, often overlooked gifts in our lives. Examples include food; clothing; shelter; health, and our loved ones.
We can also help students seek healthy ways to bring more joy into their lives, such as being outdoors, listening to music, and spending time with friends. They can also be taught the tools to use their imagination to visualize places and encounters that can increase their happiness, such as making sand castles on a beach.
If they have examined and edited their assumptions relating to happiness and they are still sad, it is important for students to learn to acknowledge and deal with that sadness. They can be helped to pay attention to their bodies to notice if they are sad, and to cry, or talk about their feelings with grown-ups they can trust. They can also use tools such as writing in a journal, moving to music, or doing art, to express and address their sadness
We can reinforce healthy routes to expressing our sad feelings and building happiness, with stories, books, and songs. For ideas, please see the provided lists in the “For Whom” section of this website.