Imagine a school where children were taught the awareness, knowledge and skills that would help them feel happier in the present and greatly improve their chances for lifelong happiness. Picture children learning mental techniques and practices that significantly relieve emotional stress and distress and reduce the power of fear and anger to possess them. Consider the possibility of most children feeling peace, joy and love deeper, longer and more often. Contemplate what discovering their passions early in life and being encouraged to follow them could add to the subjective quality of children’s lives.
Robust evidence shows that what kids learn to become happier and more in control of their feelings also enhances their social skills and the quality of their relationships, markedly improves their academic and goal achievement, minimizes behavioral problems, and makes them both mentally and physically healthier. The evidence also shows that happiness is contagious; a happy person can bring light into many lives, which makes the stakes of happiness education even higher.
Research shows that the necessary awareness, knowledge and skills can be successfully taught in schools with all these remarkable outcomes. Teaching them promises to make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of most children. Yet few schools as yet devote any time and resources to teaching them.
It’s not surprising, of course. What I call heart skills are barely a blip on the radar of public discourse about education. They are not included in accountability tests and the mandates of departments of education. They are not embedded in any of the traditional subjects taught in schools. Apparently, happiness knowledge and skills are not considered important to making a living and growing the economy, which seems to be the main concern in public debate about the ends and means of K-12 education. The gap between what schools could make in the subjective quality of students’ lives and the difference they do make at present is Pacific Ocean wide. If we can spread awareness of the promise of happiness education, hearts will open and minds–and education systems–will change. For the sake of all children, please help me spread this awareness.