Every summer our school district requires teachers to complete 12 hours of professional development. Typically these are district-led PD sessions held the week before school starts, however last summer I had already completed the PD the district was providing, leaving me 12 hours of professional development to complete on my own. The day before the last day of school I stumbled upon The Psychology of Wellbeing through Yale University on Coursera, and thought that information could be incredibly useful, seeing my main responsibility as a Transition Coordinator is to support students with disabilities in creating a meaningful life for when the bus doesn’t come anymore. I got approval from administration and I shared the course with Jada, who promptly signed up to take it as well. Here we learned all about the science of happiness, the components of psychological flourishing, and the nasty tricks our brain plays on us. We learned about 50% of our happiness is due to the way we are naturally wired, 10% of our happiness is attributed to life circumstances (even big things like winning the lotto or being in a life-altering car accident don’t have that much of an impact on our overall happiness), and that the remaining 40% of our happiness is based on our thoughts and behavior. This means if you’re unhappy, there is a lot you can do about it, and we were learning strategies to help! We gained new insights, learned new strategies, and practiced techniques to improve our wellbeing.
Once we completed the course we were eager to share all we had learned but we had no idea how, so we both jumped in feet first. Jada started a Mind Matters club at her school and I began presenting monthly Happiness Helpers at my county-wide Transition Coordinator Association meetings. I begrudgingly pushed myself to do a 5-min TED Talk during our high school U-Matter Week event and we started blogging with regularity in the new year. As I was creating a Happiness in the Classroom workshop for a group of private school educators, we created the Frightening Features of the Mind and started accumulating strategies to combat them. Many of our Frightening Features stemmed from The Psychology of Wellbeing, but we continue to accumulate new ones as we become aware of them.
Today I learned a new Frightening Feature of the Mind while completing a Headspace Meditation… Craving. This is the idea that you desire something to be different than your current state. You may want something you don’t have, or wish to be somewhere or doing something you are not. Regardless, the Headspace narrator says we often think something else is going to satisfy us more than it actually will, and when we learn to accept our current state, then we will find peace of mind. This is a new concept for me. Although I don’t think I’m ready to forgo all future cravings from this point forward, I certainly think I will start to think of my cravings differently, always striving for acceptance of what is.