Parent Education Course Writer's Guide/Happiness research

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Happiness research[edit]

At the Willy-Hellpach school in Heidelberg there is a new subject Happiness since September 2007. The head teacher Ernst Fritz-Schubert means to promote life skills, enjoyment of life, personality development, personal satisfaction, self-confidence, self-responsibility and social responsibility with this subject. What he deems necessary for this purpose are self-esteem, empathy, friendship, love, spirituality, humor and optimism.

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The head teacher of the Willy Hellpach school sees happiness as a basic need.

  • Where would you put happiness in the hierarchy of needs?
  • What do you think about the ingredients of happiness (self-esteem, empathy, friendship, love, spirituality, humor and optimism)?
  • What do you know yourself (or believe to know) about the psychology of happiness?

An important observation is that happiness occurs in many situations in response to a change, so you can react in these situations only to that event or a shorter or longer phase with happiness and well-being. After the event or after a certain time a habituation effect can occur, which means you get used to the state that initially made you happy and you perceive the pleasant event or the comfortable state as normal.

A good example are computer games or listening to music; both of which can be used to enhance the mood, to feel in a good mood for a limited time, but both can also be exaggerated, so that the effect decreases and a habituation occurs. In case of homework one could distinguish for instance if the homework is unpleasant enough, so that an artificial improvement of one's mood appears necessary, or whether the intellectual challenge may be motivation enough. To turn off music before the homework can be seen as delayed gratification as well as a necessity in order to achieve the necessary concentration. (If the homework is always unpleasant that could be a topic for the class council.)

Longer-lasting happiness results however, for instance, from the fulfillment of some of the basic needs in the hierarchy of needs, especially on the steps three (social needs), four (esteem) and five (self-actualization).

At level four of the hierarchy of needs respect, self-esteem, recognition and wealth can be found as examples. In a capitalist society all these terms can easily be associated with "wealth", which makes capitalism an end in itself instead of a means to an end. An interesting question could thus be: How much money does one need to be happy? The ZDF-study about happiness of children in Germany reports that children in families with a household income of less than 1.500 Euro described themselves as less happy.

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  • What can you do to help families who possibly do not earn enough?
  • What forms of cooperation with other families do exist?
  • Is the income the actual cause or merely an indicator? What are possible causes?
  • What can you do about these causes?

An example for a measure could be a pupil company that works as an educational coaching agency and employment agency for unemployed parents; the same pupil company could for instance offer and organize parent education courses and parent service and organize additional leisure and educational offers for pupils.