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

One Simple Thing You Can Do to Make Yourself Happier

Why simple experiences matter
By Cassie Holmes — November 30, 2022 1 min read
What's one simple thing I can do to be happier?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What’s one simple thing I can do to be happier?

My advice is to help yourself pay attention to the people who matter to you. Here’s something I wrote about the topic for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

Ashley and I have been friends since we were 12 years old. When we find a way to schedule a dinner for just the two of us, away from kids and work and endless to-do lists, it’s a special treat.

As we sat down, Ashley placed her phone face down on the table. “Aren’t you proud of me? This way I won’t be distracted.”

Though I applauded her intentions, research finds that friends who dine with their phones on the table feel less engaged and enjoy their dining experience less compared with those whose phones are kept out of sight. Seeing a phone serves as a reminder (to everyone) of all the other tasks they could and “should” be doing at that moment.

Yet this was a moment worth paying attention to. My research shows that ordinary experiences—like a meal shared with a loved one—can produce as much happiness as extraordinary experiences, such as vacations to Belize or Paris.

But this is only true for those who recognize their time as precious. Whether due to age or even a simple reminder that life is finite, people become more likely to notice and savor simple joys: the sky changing color as the sun goes down, the laughter of family at the dinner table, a kiss on the forehead to say goodnight.

At the restaurant, I asked my friend whether she wouldn’t mind putting her phone in her purse. Laughing about my nerdy commitment to happiness, she obliged and actually seemed grateful for the nudge. Then, we easily settled into our groove, excitedly chatting and truly catching up.

Don’t think it’s enough to turn over your phone to avoid being distracted by it.

Do pay attention to the joy in the everyday. Protect your happiest activities from distraction by designating these times as “no phone zones,” say at dinners with friends or family, and explain to kids the reasons why. Putting your phones out of sight puts your other to-dos out of mind—and allows you and your loved ones to actually enjoy each other and what you’re doing.

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

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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
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
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

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 How a School District Used Music Teaching to Keep Students Connected
A wider variety of music programs may help students feel more connected to school, new research suggests.
3 min read
Dressed in her shoulder pads and jersey, 8th grader Julie Michael, 13, holds her flute before playing the national anthem with the marching band at Seven Springs Middle School in New Port Richey, Fla.
Trumpet player Blake Gifford, 12, at right, rehearses with the horn section in the band room on March 8, 2017, at Lakeside Middle School in Millville, N.J.
Ben Fogletto/The Press of Atlantic City via AP
Student Well-Being Using Therapy Dogs in Schools: 8 Do's and Don'ts
Read expert advice for bringing a therapy dog into your school, including concerns about breed, temperament, and training.
4 min read
A large gold dog rests lies on the ground and looks at a group of children who are sitting nearby as they listen to a story.
Therapy dog Kalani watches students during a story time at Morris Elementary School in Morris, Okla., on Jan. 17.
Michael Noble Jr. for Education Week
Student Well-Being Majority of Parents Say Kids Are Dishonest, Disrespectful, and Lazy
Parents are significantly concerned about the poor behavior of today's school-age kids and are looking to schools for help, survey shows.
3 min read
Image of handmade paper figures linking hands.
Ulza/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Districts Are Stocking Up on Naloxone But Often Ignoring Drug Prevention
Experts say even the most-effective drug-education programs can be labor-intensive.
5 min read
Illustrations of drugs.
bortonia/DigitalVision Vectors