Whatever way you define happiness, most of us recognise it as a positive emotion and something that is desirable. There is a lot of research into what makes people happy and strategies to enhance happiness, wellbeing and life satisfaction.
Appreciation or gratitude for what we have is a major area of research because it is very easy to become complacent and not notice what we do have around us that is great, particularly in times of stress when the negatives seem to outweigh everything else.
I was reading an article recently that was talking about how when the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, more people came to sit and look at the empty space than had previously been to seen the painting when it was still being displayed. This is a wonderful example of how too often we only realise we have something precious when it is gone. There may, of course, be some creative license to the Mona Lisa story, but it certainly seems to have been a turning point in people’s appreciation for it.
The idea of spending some time each day being grateful for what we have and really appreciating the things in our lives can start to cultivate a greater awareness of the good things and enhance our happiness and life satisfaction. And it means we get the benefits now, rather than only appreciating things when they are gone.
If you were to take a moment and notice right now the things or people around you and notice them like they were new and wondrous, how does it make you feel?
Perhaps you are reading this from your phone, could you look at it as though you had never seen your phone before? Notice how amazing it is, what it is capable of doing and yet it is so small and probably even looks pretty good!
What about if you were to look at a partner, friend or family member with fresh eyes? Would you notice that sparkle in their eye, the amazing way they do something or another feature that you love?
When we are around things and people all the time they become normal and therefore we stop noticing some of the wonderful things about them. I’m not suggesting that you need to fall in love with your phone! But the emotions it can stir when we start to appreciate the things around us can have a very positive impact on us.
Could you spend a few minutes each day noticing 5 things that you feel grateful for? Don’t just list them, really feel that gratefulness and awe. Allow it to flood in and enjoy it. Even when things are bad, there are so many things that we can still appreciate. Focusing on these can help us deal with the tough things better because when we are happier, we are more resilient.
Happiness builds resilience
At the Positive Teacher Network we know how important developing resilience is. But we must also focus on maintaining it. This means engaging in activities like this and using strategies to reframe situations so that we can cope with the stressors we face and feel confident and relaxed at both work and home. If you are not signed up yet to receive our blog post by email then you can do so here. Plus we will send you our free work life balance assessment and guide for teachers. Also if are interested in buying the Positive Teacher Toolkit - an online database of downloadable resources for staff and students, you can find out more here.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.