The Happiness Advantage

Although most upperclassmen have taken either AP Psychology or Psychology, many students have not studied positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Simply put, it is the study of what makes life worth living.

In a study on positive psychology, researchers looked at baseball cards from the 1952 MLB season. Baseball players with no smile in their pictures lived an average of 72 years. Baseball players with a half smile in their picture lived an average of 75 years. While baseball players with a full smile in their picture lived an average of 80 years. Now is that to say that smiling will make you live longer? No. But that study and many others show a correlation between positivity and quality of life.

While our school primarily focuses on preventing illness, there is a lack of focus on promoting wellness and positivity. Depression, suicide, bullying, eating disorders, and drug use are all topics that are commonly talked about in school assemblies. While necessary topics to discuss, we outline the negative things that happen but rarely talk about positive things. The absence of disease is not health. As a student body, we need to get healthy.

What if our school’s focus on mental health placed an emphasis on improving students’ ability as teammates, leaders, and individuals? Thus, not attempting to make everyone in our student body average but working to move the curve of average upwards, increasing what it means to be a Bettendorf student. It is not healthy to study only the negative side of human experience.

As noted by psychologist Shawn Achor, the current mindset prevalent among teens is that if you work harder, you will be more successful, and if you are more successful, you will be happier. Consequently, we place happiness on the other side of success. You get a good grade, now get a better grade. You run a fast time, now run a faster time. You meet your sales goal, we can create a new sales goal.

As individuals and as a school, we need to find a way to be happy and positive in our current situation. If we are positive in the present, then our future outlook will brighten. This is called the happiness advantage. According to a 2011 Harvard University study, your brain at positive performs 31 percent better than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed.

In fact, only 25 percent of job success can be predicted by IQ, while 75 percent of job successes can be predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge and not as a threat.

So how do you become more positive? There is no simple answer and the solution is different for everyone. For me, I focus on taking a positive thing out of every situation. Car breaks down? Good, I get to have the opportunity to find a solution. An article that I write gets no views? Good, I have the opportunity to learn.

Find what makes you motivated and positive and practice it every day. Make happiness a habit and the success will follow.


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