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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Happy days: Connect, care about others, cope

Happy people are kind to others and to themselves, says Laurie Santos. The Yale psychology professor is offering a free, six-week course, the Science of Well-Being for Teens on Coursera, reports Lindsey Bever in the Washington Post.

Santos teaches about the psychology of happiness at Yale: It's one of the university's most popular classes. She's revamped the course for adolescents as a series of short TikTok-length videos. "Teenagers are in the midst of a mental health crisis — one that began years before the pandemic but has been exacerbated by it, mental health professionals say," writes Bever. "Therapists who treat youths say that they are seeing higher rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, self-injury and suicidal ideation." Teens who make social connections and do things for others feel happier, says Santos. Teens also need to "tune out their inner critic" and "break the cycle of anxiety." Not surprisingly, exercise, sleep and free time are a big help.

“The rites of passage for teenage-hood were disrupted” during the pandemic's lockdown period, said Mary Alvord, a psychologist and co-author of Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens. Teens didn't go to football games, parties, graduation ceremonies or the school play.

In terms of social and emotional development, kids weren't "safer at home."

As part of Delhi, India's "education revolution," schools launched the "Happiness Curriculum” in 2018. The nonprofit Dream a Dream trained teachers to create "a stimulating environment through mindfulness, critical thinking, storytelling and experiential, play-based activities," according to a Brookings report. All K-8 schools offer a 35-minute daily class.

"Students noted positive change in the quality of relationships with their teacher, increased participation in classes, and the ability to focus and feel calm," researchers report. "Teachers talked about the increased willingness of students to speak up in class, changes in prioritizing values over academic success, and the freedom granted by the curriculum to vary their pedagogical styles."

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