Sixty Seconds to Decide

Teach happiness and the pleasant life.

Posted Sep 21, 2012

Happiness is a sixty-second choice that - most of the time - requires thoughtful effort. Children and adolescents can learn to be happier: to want what they have, to replace negative feelings with positive ones, to balance their emotional reactions, to practice happy, and to share it. In the positive psychology classroom, there are no teachers scolding. There are fewer looks of stony defiance, bored sighs, irritable voices, rolling eyes, or hidden fears. There is less negative behavioral enforcement and more positive emotional initiative.

 These changes do not come to the classroom magically or easily. The teacher begins by adopting the four-branch model of emotional intelligence: 1) teach reliable emotional awareness and perception, 2) teach honest expression, 3) teach cognitive mediation of emotion, and 4) teach emotional understanding and management.Children and adolescents learn, when confronted with a distressful event, to identify the negative emotion, pause to process it, and immediately replace it with a positive one. Negative energy is channeled into positive result making self and others feel happier.

Children and adolescents learn a repertoire of positive psychology strategies - through carefully crafted positive learning lessons both formal and informal and both fused and parallel - that increase self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-regulation, self-motivation, self-direction, and self-mastery. They practice and perfect emotional modulation and moderation in math work group. They share the happy and good life over lunch interacting with emotional strength and calm. They learn to choose emotions like they choose a thick sweater to wear when it is chilly or yellow boots when it is raining. They learn to avoid gusts and gales.

The positive psychology teacher emphasizes emotional cognizance and uses every lesson to illustrate how balanced emotion makes life more manageable and more enjoyable. In positive psychology classrooms, students find their emotional sweet spot - an emotional goldmine. Mindfulness of emotion is the starting point and personal control over emotion is the endpoint. In between, children and adolescents are not as co-dependent on external structure or teacher control.

You have sixty seconds to decide...


Explore Plutchik’s emotions theory matrix at Psycho-evolutionary Theory of Basic Emotion

Learn about the four-branch model of emotional intelligence at Emotional Intelligence Information What is EI/ei fourbranch.htm

 Watch a video about happiness based on Dan Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness”


I would love to hear from you. How do you teach emotional literacy in your classroom? What strategies do you use? What tactics - lessons, activities and exercises - do you use? Do you think emotional cognizance, emotional processing or emotional practice is most important?

My upcoming book, Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom, is the first in a series intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms.

About the Author

Patty O’Grady, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Tampa committed to transformational education. She is the author of Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom.

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