Friday, November 21, 2008

Happier = Smarter

Singing together, writing together, reading together, creating together - the social aspects of learning are so powerful!

At a conference a few weeks ago I heard Shawn Achor, a Harvard professor and researcher, talk about positive psychology. He is studying how happiness increases intelligence. The research shows that you can increase your baseline happiness level and hence, become smarter. The research started with 4-year-olds who, when pre-set to think about happy things, performed faster and more accurately on a block building exercise.

The ramifications for a school are so interesting. It is what we know about learning at Parker, but haven't put into quite those terms. Everyone who visits notes how happy the atmosphere is. We also know our children are smart and that they perform well here and later in their lives.

The idea that we can increase the happiness levels even more interests me a lot. Things like exercise, yoga, meditation, writing about something that makes you happy, noting things you are grateful for, connecting socially - all these can make people happy. And if you practice them regularly, they make you even happier.

Another thing that is true about happiness (and all human emotions) is that it is contagious. We mimic each other - we are empathetic. So, when people feel happy there is a ripple effect.

Knowing that, we can practice ways to make ourselves happier, make our school happier, and our world happier - and smarter!

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