What is Happiness?

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Area: History and Social Studies, Other Areas
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: Happiness, meaning of life
Estimated Time Necessary: 30-45 minutes

Lesson Plan

Objectives:
Thinking together about happiness.
Students will think about and discuss the meaning and value of happiness.

Ask the students to rank, from 1 to 8, the following activities according to how important they think each is for their happiness (1 is the most important on the list and 8 is the least important on the list). It can be helpful to prepare this list before the session and make a copy for each student.

_____  Eating your favorite food.

_____  Playing a game.

_____  Reading a book.

_____  Sitting in a dentist’s chair.

_____  Listening to or playing music.

_____  Having fun with a friend or friends.

_____  Volunteering or helping someone with something they need.

_____ Thinking.

Now ask students to share their rankings. What were the first two or three, and what was last?

Why did they choose the ones they did for what was most important and least important?

Many students will rank activities like having fun with a friend, playing a game, and eating your favorite foods as the most important for happiness. Sitting in a dentist’s chair tends to be the activity ranked by most students as the least important for happiness. Ask them why. Often, they will describe visiting the dentist as not a particularly pleasurable activity. But are happiness and pleasure the same things? Are all things that make us feel good important for our happiness? And are there things important for happiness that are not pleasurable? This can lead to discussions about such topics as long-term versus short-term happiness, the relationship between feeling happy and happiness, the role of satisfaction in happiness, and whether happiness is important.

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