Finding Happiness

The following is from an NIE Teacher’s guide titled “Positive Thinking” written by Ginny Swinson with educational consultation by Nancy Gilligan and produced by KRP, Inc. I will be featuring activities from the guide on this blog throughout the year.

Having a positive attitude is important. It’s important not only when it comes to how you view yourself but also when it comes to viewing life in general. Admittedly, thinking in a positive way is not always easy — especially as you deal with life’s ups and downs. Once you start to recognize the positive things that already exist in your life and learn how to see them even in the face of adversity, positive thinking can become YOUR mode of thinking.


Finding happiness

Who decides if you’re going to be happy or unhappy?

You do! Abraham Lincoln once said that people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. The same message is echoed in the more modern saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." It’s true that we can’t control everything that happens to us. However, we can adjust our attitudes to avoid feeling overwhelmed by life’s ups and downs.

Some of the things that worry us in our daily lives can be traced to the society in which we live. We may not be able to control crime in our cities, the rising unemployment rate in our state, or the prejudiced attitudes of others. But our thoughts and attitudes can help us overcome the negative feelings that result from such worries.

Take Abraham Lincoln’s advice and make up your mind to find things to be happy about. Clip out five things in today’s newspaper that make you happy. Use everyone’s clippings to form a wall collage called "Happiness Is … .” Create your own saying or advice about happiness. Feel free to share it with the class.

ACTIVITY II                                                                                                                With practice, you can drive off the thoughts that make you unhappy. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, famous for his newspaper columns and self-help books on positive thinking, suggests starting each morning saying something positive to yourself, such as:

"I believe I can successfully handle all the problems that will arise today. I feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is wonderful to be alive. I am grateful for all that I have had, for all that I now have, and for all that I shall have. Things aren’t going to fall apart."

Practice driving off unhappy thoughts by concentrating on the positives. Confidentially make a list of the following:  I AM GRATEFUL FOR … WHAT I HAVE HAD, WHAT I HAVE NOW, WHAT I HOPE TO HAVE.    

Now, watch for a newspaper feature story about someone who is happy with his or her life. Cut out quotes that illustrate how this person drives off unhappy thoughts and concentrates on the good things in life. Share them with the class.

ACTIVITY III                                                                                                              There are a few basic principles of happy living, such as a showing kindness to others, having a friendly attitude, sympathizing with someone’s sorrow, and showing sensitivity to others’ feelings. If you base your actions and attitudes on such fundamental principles, your chances for happiness will greatly increase.
Here are some other basic principles of happy living:
• Keep your heart free from hate
• Keep your mind free from worry
• Live simply
• Give much
• Forget thinking of yourself and think of others
• Treat others as you would like to be treated
Can you think of others to add?

In small groups, create the ideal comic strip character — one that exhibits all or some of the attitudes and positive actions mentioned above. Begin by writing the name of an existing character from your newspaper that exhibits the qualities listed below.
1. A character that keeps his/her heart free from hate:

2. A character that keeps his/her mind free from worry:

3. A character that lives simply:

4. A character that thinks of others:

5. A character that treats others as he/she would be treated:

Now, draw your character or “piece” it together by using the head of one comic strip character, the body of another, and so on. Be sure to give him or her (or it!) a name.

ACTIVITY IV                                                                                                             Along with developing attitudes and actions to make you a happier person, other factors can contribute to your happiness. For instance, having good friends or having someone to feel close to are “special gifts” that can give you a happier outlook.

Another important factor that can lead to happiness is being able to distinguish between your needs and wants. We NEED food, shelter, and other basics for survival. We WANT nice homes and cars, designer clothes, the best stereo system, and more. And those who get carried away thinking these wants will bring them happiness often end up disappointed. After all, “Money can’t buy happiness,” as the old saying goes.

1. Make a list of “Wants and Needs” items on a piece of paper. 

2. Make a “Wants and Needs” collage with cut-out items from your newspaper to illustrate each concept. Remember, needs are the things in life that are necessary for survival; wants are the things we desire beyond our basic needs.

3. Next, search your newspaper for a story about someone in NEED. Make note of the ways in which you or someone else could help this person. Discuss your thoughts.