Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

New Pandemic Research Explains How to Flourish in Difficult Times

By Matthew Lee — March 17, 2021 1 min read
Is it possible to be happy during the pandemic?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Is it possible to be happy during the pandemic?
A student posed the same question in my undergraduate course last fall, and it’s one that many of us have asked ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic as we catalog our losses—of loved ones, jobs, the ability to travel freely or visit friends, and more.
Recent research suggests that in the first half of 2020, adults in the United States experienced significant declines in life satisfaction, physical health, and financial stability. Over the same period, however, responses to survey items about character remained strong. In particular, there was no difference on these two items: “I always act to promote good in all circumstances, even in difficult and challenging situations” and “I am always able to give up some happiness now for greater happiness later.”
Now, more than ever, you can appreciate and develop your character to help you flourish—a term researchers use to indicate thriving in the most important aspects of life. Let’s take, for example, Abraham Lincoln, whose emphasis on honesty and other character strengths has helped him remain universally admired to this day. His commitment to doing the right thing included walking more than two miles to return six cents to a customer he had overcharged, even though nobody else was aware of the error. As “Honest Abe” knew, it’s the small things, the mundane daily practices, that build up to form your disposition.
Over the course of his life, Lincoln experienced profound losses and depression, yet he was able to shift his focus from narrow personal happiness to the broader good of the nation. You can do the same. Rather than fixate on your happiness level during the pandemic, you might consider developing kindness and other character strengths to imagine and actualize your best possible self. You can access a free app from the Human Flourishing Program, which not only provides self-assessment tools to track your domains of well-being over time but also offers research-backed activities to help improve them. Even when we are not completely “happy,” we can flourish.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says Teen Brains Aged Prematurely During the Pandemic. Schools Should Take Note
Researchers cite chronic stress during the pandemic for the phenomenon, which can affect mental health among youth.
3 min read
Cracked silhouette of a person holding their head with illuminated gears in place of the brain.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Sports Coaches Want More Training on How to Address Young Athletes' Mental Health
A survey found that only 18 percent of coaches feel confident that they know how to connect their athletes to mental health supports.
4 min read
Physical Education teacher Amanda DeLaGarza instructs students how to stretch during 7th grade P.E. class at Cockrill Middle School on Nov. 9, 2016 in McKinney, Texas.
Schools in the United States earned a D-minus grade in 2022 in an international ranking from the Physical Activity Alliance for how well they facilitate access to physical activity for students. Research shows that physical activity, such as participation in sports, improves mental health.
Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Student Well-Being Schools Are Not Identifying All Their Homeless Students. Why That Is Hurting the Kids
Hundreds of thousands of homeless students are not receiving the services they need, new report says.
3 min read
A young Black girl with her head down on a stack of books at her desk in a classroom
E+/Getty
Student Well-Being Students Have Ideas to Address Mental Health Challenges. They Want to Be Heard
Students have solutions that can help teachers and school leaders support youth dealing with stress, anxiety, and other issues.
8 min read
Group of diverse people (aerial view) in a circle holding hands. Cooperation and teamwork. Community of friends, students, or volunteers committed to social issues for peace and the environment.
iStock/Getty Images Plus