podcast for teacher cover image for episode The Ultimate Educators Handbook Part 1 - The Science of How to Be Happier for Educators

The Ultimate Educators Handbook Part 1 - The Science of How to Be Happier for Educators

podcast Jan 19, 2024

What of the Ultimate Educator's Handbook wasn't about classroom management strategies, curriculum planning, or even data-driven instruction? What if what educators MOST need to learn is to avoid teacher burnout and to be happier?

In this blog post, I dig into my best-selling Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers and propose the idea that the best thing you can invest in for student outcomes and yourself is to learn the skills and habits it takes to be happier.

Happy Teachers Make For Happier Classrooms

When I wrote Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers, it was to provide the ultimate teacher handbook for boosting happiness based on science, best practices, and my years of experience as a public school teacher. The book was a result of my personal study, practice, and ultimately experience of how small consistent changes to my daily thoughts and actions profoundly impacted my teaching experience and my life. I wanted to be happier. Not just because happier teachers lead to a more positive environment for students and therefore improved student outcomes, but because I decided being happy was a worthwhile goal in itself. I deserved to be happy not only for my students, not only for my health but for me.

Think about it, anything we want to acquire, achieve or become is essentially because we think it will lead to more happiness. That doesn't matter of it's meeting a mate, losing 20 pounds or having better classroom management skills or more compliant students. We want what we want because we think it will make us happier.

Here's the great news (especially for people like me who didn't naturally inherit a rosy outlook from their gene pool): happiness can be synthesized. Just like the growth mindset movement has taught is that intelligence isn't fixed, empirical scientific data has also shown us that our default happiness setpoint isn't fixed, either.

Happiness is a State of Consciousness, Not a Set of Circumstances (Harvard Says So!)

Digging into the work of such psychologists as Sean Acher, Dan Gilbert, and Jonathan Haidt, I learned that contrary to popular belief, external circumstances like income, achievements, relationships, etc. play a surprisingly small role in lasting happiness. The real key is mindset and practicing intentional mini-habits that positively impact our outlook. Integrating those habits into the context of daily life in the classroom is what Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers is all about.

The Formula for Educator Happiness

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt even comes up with a formula for happiness:

H = S + C + V

Happiness = Set Point (50%) + Circumstances (10%) + Voluntary Activities (40%)

Haidt proposes that 50% of our "happiness quotient" comes from our natural happiness setpoint (genetic component), only 10% of our happiness quotient is dictated by our circumstances, and 40% is determined by intentional habits and mindsets. This is really good news, because we have 100% control over our mindset and our habits. We can use science to hack our happiness and flex our "happy muscle." Focusing on happy habits boosts dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels while lowering cortisol. They can help forge new neural pathways and help us create a more positive experience of teaching and of life 

How Teachers Can Be Happier

At first, I was a little skeptical at the idea that life's circumstances only contribute to 10% of our happiness quotient. I mean wouldn't I be a whole lot happier if I had a bigger paycheck, fewer papers to grade, more compliant students, less demanding parents, and unlimited funds to create a Pinterest-worthy classroom? If you are skeptical too, I encourage you to look at the research of Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness,  or watch his famous TED Talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness. In the talk, Gilbert discusses the theories of hedonic adaptation and the hedonic treadmill and challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. He explains how our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned.

Excellent Resources for Educator Job Satisfaction 

After years of studying the greats in positive psychology, neuro-linguistic programming, and cognitive behavior therapy I developed the habits in Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers. Habits such as gratitude, flow state, connection, actively becoming a "joy detective" and prioritizing work-life balance are all examined through the lens of teaching and how they can be practiced each day in the classroom.

Excellent free resources for educators who are interested in a happier teaching experience include the following:

Free 6-week version of the best-selling Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers Journal can be downloaded HERE

For a free 10-week course by Yale's Professor Dr. Laurie Santos can be found here ⬇️


Free Yale curriculum for high school students can be found here ⬇️


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