Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                         

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LEARNING GUIDE FOR:


SUBJECTS — English Language Arts; Health;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING —Taking Care of Yourself;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring.

Age: 12+; Not Rated ; Documentary; 2011, 76 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: From the slums of Kolkata, to Manhattan, the bayous of Louisiana, Japan, Denmark, and tiny Bhutan, this film tells the story of happy people: the rickshaw driver who lives in a Kolkata slum but is happy nonetheless; the once-pretty woman whose face was run over by a truck; the short order cook who goes into a flow state flipping fried eggs; a man who has found contentment taking care of dying people; and more. Students will carry these examples forward into their lives.

In the meantime, Happy introduces what psychologists have learned in their studies of happiness including: the hedonic treadmill, the usually quick return to baseline happiness after tragedy or triumph, the different roles of extrinsic and extrinsic values, the importance of close family and community ties, and simple techniques to increase happiness.

Rationale for Using the Movie: This film contains valuable life lessons and is an excellent driver for class discussion, writing assignments, and other projects. This film is an excellent vehicle for coordinating ELA and Health classes with cross-curricular assignments.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will learn about an important human emotion and will exercise their speaking and writing skills.

Possible Problems: None.





50% of a typical person's happiness is hard-wired into his/her personality through their genes. 10% relates to circumstances such as a job, money, social status, and health. 40% of a person's happiness is determined by his or her own actions and intentional behaviors. The How Of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California.


 































LEARNING GUIDE MENU

Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:

      Quotes and Concepts
      Discussion Questions
      Assignments

Other Sections:

      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast



MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers a movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. See Teachers can modify the movie worksheet to fit the needs of each class.

See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.












SUGGESTIONS FOR USING HAPPY IN THE CLASSROOM


QUOTES AND CONCEPTS:

The following quotes and concepts from the film and from our research will help to teachers guide class discussions based on this movie:
"The constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." Ben Franklin

Happiness is a process, not a goal. Happiness is a dynamic state of being.

Happiness is: "the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile." Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor, University of California.

The hedonic treadmill is the psychological phenomenon that whatever a person has, he or she becomes accustomed to it and they will want more. In other words, human beings have a tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. The hedonic treadmill is also called the "hedonic adaptation." The eighteen century philosopher Jean Jacque Rousseau described it this way:
"Since these conveniences by becoming habitual had almost entirely ceased to be enjoyable, and at the same time degenerated into true needs, it became much more cruel to be deprived of them than to possess them was sweet, and men were unhappy to lose them without being happy to possess them."Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (published in 1754).
Psychologists tell us that happiness is a skill that is no different than learning to play the violin or learning to playing golf.

If each of us even spent a smidgen of time each day actually practicing to cultivate happiness and also to cultivate other virtuous qualities like compassion and altruism. The world would be a better place. And we'd all be transforming our brains in very positive ways.

The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone. But the good news is that the things we like to do are the building blocks of a happy life. Recreation, having new experiences, close and supportive friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have: these are things that make us happy and they're free. And with happiness the more you have the more everyone has.

Flow state:"The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . .The best moments usually occur if a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "Me high, Cheeks send me high") from Positive Psychology Program website

The eight characteristics of a flow state are:
  • Complete concentration on the task;
  • Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
  • Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time);
  • The experience is intrinsically rewarding it is an end in itself;
  • Effortlessness and ease;
  • There is a balance between challenge and skills;
  • Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination; and
  • There is a feeling of control over the task. Ibid.
  • Gratitude, compassion, and caring are spiritual emotions that make a person think about things greater than the self. Caring about things beyond yourself is a way to transcend your own life.

    Psychologists tell us that most people overestimate how much impact both good and bad events will have on their lives. If something very good happens, most people are ecstatic for a time, but they soon go back to baseline. If something bad happens, most people are bereft, but usually return to baseline. Generally most people do really well when things go very poorly. This refers to most people, not everyone. Some people are crushed by misfortune of one type or another. (Even Melissa Moody, the woman whose face was smashed into the ground when her head was run over by a truck, eventually returned to baseline. While her face is still disfigured and she suffered later blows when her husband left her and she recovered memories of being raped by her father, it took Mrs. Moody nine-and-a-half years before she recovered her baseline happiness; but she eventually did recover to her baseline happiness.)

    Psychologists tell us that once someone attains a middle-class lifestyle, having more money doesn't buy more happiness.

    A key ingredient in a happy life is to recover from adversity quickly; to come back to your baseline happiness quickly.

    Intrinsic goals are those that satisfy our inner psychological needs. Examples are: personal growth, living a principled life, helping others, doing a good job,and participating with others in a cause that benefits people, animals, or the environment. Extrinsic goals include increasing one's financial position, image, or status. People who pursue the extrinsic goals generally report less satisfaction than those who pursue intrinsic goals. The reason is that intrinsic goals are in the control of the person, while extrinsic goals depend upon other people, and to a great extent, they depend upon luck.

    Happiness is increased by spiritual feelings (both religious and non-religious) that connect a person to other people or to the universe.

    "While economic growth helps promote happiness for some, democratization and rising social tolerance contribute even more. Democracy provides more choice, which promotes happiness. Support for gender equality and tolerance of people who are different from oneself are also strongly linked, not just because tolerant people are happier, but because living in a tolerant society enhances everyone's freedom," LA Times paraphrasing Dr. Ronald Inglehart, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan.


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    Discussion Questions:

    After watching the film, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

    1.   What is it that makes you happy? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. Strong responses will be detailed and insightful. Teachers can use this question to discuss any of the concepts described above, including the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic values, the hedonic treadmill, the contribution of caring about things greater than the self, spiritual feelings (either religious or nonreligious), and the tendency to return to baseline happiness after traumatic or happy events.

    2.   List the three things that would have the most effect on your happiness. Suggested Response: See response to Question #1.

    3.   Who is the happiest person that you know? What makes him or her happy? Suggested Response: See response to Question #1.

    4.   Do you know anyone who has suffered a great tragedy and is still happy? Describe what happened to them and how they overcame their loss and went back to baseline happiness. Suggested Response: See response to Question #1.

    5.   What are the building blocks of a life that flourishes with a deep and genuine happiness? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. Strong answers will refer to the spiritual values of gratitude, compassion, caring, and a commitment to things bigger than oneself.

    6.   Have you ever been in a "flow state?" Describe what happens when you are there: Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. Teachers should help the class understand how the flow state described by the student compares with the description of flow stated and the eight characteristics described above.

    7.  Robert Burton's 1621 Anatomy of Melancholy: "A true saying it is, Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless, and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill." What is he describing? Suggested Response: The hedonic treadmill, also called the hedonic adaptation.

    8.   What do you think is the best path to personal happiness. Set forth your reasons. Suggested Response: See response to Question #1. The movie said that acts of kindness towards others are the best way.

    9.   The movie takes the position that happiness is a skill which practice can improve in the same way that playing a musical instrument or a sport improves with practice. Do you practice happiness? Do you know anyone who does? Describe how you or that person practices happiness. Suggested Response: There is no correct response to this question.

    10.   What is the one thing that most happy people have in common? Suggested Response: Strong family and community connections. Students may mention other important traits or situations, but the research suggests that strong family and community connections are common to all happy people.

    11.   How does Melissa Moody, the pretty women whose face was run over by a truck, whose husband left her, who recovered memories that her father had raped her, and who is still disfigured after 30 surgeries, deal with her losses. She told us in the movie, but it bears repetition. Suggested Response: She resolved, after nine years, that she didn't understand and that she didn't need to understand. She found that accepting all of her life allowed her to heal emotionally and go back to her baseline happiness.

    12.   What is the difference between intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals. Are people who seek intrinsic satisfaction more likely to report being happy than people who seek intrinsic satisfaction? Suggested Response: Intrinsic goals are those that satisfy our inner psychological needs. Examples are: personal growth, living a principled life, helping others, doing a good job, participating with others in a cause that benefits people, animals, or the environment. Extrinsic goals include increasing one's financial position, image, or status. People who pursue these goals generally report less satisfaction than those who pursue intrinsic goals. The reason is that achieving intrinsic goals are in the control of the person, while extrinsic goals depend upon other people and, to a great extent, they depend upon luck.

    13.   Why does the government of Bhutan want 50% of the country to remain forest? Suggested Response: The government of Bhutan wants to increase the happiness of its people. Being out in nature, away from houses and buildings, generally makes people happy. There is something soothing about being out in nature.


    14.   If the ultimate goal of a society is to make people happy, what would you change a about the society you live in? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response.

    15.   The Danish lady shown in the movie lived in a co-housing community which had a communal kitchen. What are the strengths and weaknesses of such an arrangement? Suggested Response: The advantages include: shared (and fewer) chores, a large support group. Disadvantages include: some sacrifice of privacy, lack of control over your living space, added vulnerability if there are disagreements or clashes with other members of the communal household.

    16.  Compare the most happy person you know with a person who is not happy. What differences account for the difference in happiness? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. Strong responses will be detailed and insightful.

    17.   Why does meditation on compassion or loving kindness decrease depression more than anti-depressants? Suggested Response: One uses the power of the body itself, while the other is an outside chemical. The pills could cause different reactions in different people.

    18.   What does being responsible for each other's health and well-being like the Bushmen in South Africa, have to do with being happy? Suggested Response: It demonstrates a society with strong interpersonal and extended family ties. People with strong ties to their family and community are generally happier than people who are not.

    19.   What can people do to increase their own happiness? Suggested Response: Focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals. Develope strong interpersonal and family ties. Meditate on compassion and loving kindness.

    20.   Which part of the movie impressed you the most? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. Strong responses will be detailed and insightful.

    21.   Was there any part of the movie that you felt was hyped up or exaggerated? Suggested Response:There is no one correct response. Strong responses will be detailed and insightful.

    22.   What is the relationship between happiness and resilience? Suggested Response: Since our circumstances in life are always changing, resilience is necessary for happiness.

    23.   Why is happiness described as a process or a way of being? Suggested Response: Because life is a process and a way of being.





    Assignments:

    Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

    1.   Develop questions and interview three people about their state of happiness and the ways that they increase their happiness. The interviewees can be fellow classmates, family members, or just about anyone. Write up your results in an essay describing the result of your interviews and what, if anything, you learned.

    2.   Through research on the Internet and, and if you wish, through interviews and reading, and develop a program of daily mental exercises to increase your happiness. The requirements for the program are that it takes only 10 minutes per day and that it does not involve hurting anyone person or animal. Write a description of your efforts and how well it seems to be working.

    3.   As homework, have students watch a movie or read a novel or short story in which a person deals with a traumatic event or achieves happiness. Have students analyze the events described in film, book, or short story using the concepts of happiness set out in the film as well as those described in class. Students may also do independent research relating to happiness and positive psychology. Examples of movies that this assignment might work with are: Pay it Forward and Fly Away Home.

     

    Parenting Points: Watch the movie with your child and discuss any of the people, concepts or incidents described in the film that interested you or that you think will interest your child







    Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

    Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.















    Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that concerns itself with the discovery of actions that can lead to lasting changes in levels of happiness.

    "Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play." Website of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania.

    "Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play." Website of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania.














    Life is a loan given from the Creator (or creation) and it is a loan to be paid back with interest.




















































































































    Select questions that are appropriate for your students.
    Links to the Internet:





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    Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
    (Anchor Standards only)


    Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

    Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

    Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

    Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

    Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.


    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

    Selected Awards: Audience Choice Award - Arizona International Film Festival; Best Documentary - Rincon International Film Festival; Grand Jury Prize - Amsterdam Film Festival; Best Documentary - Mexico International Film Festival; Audience Choice, Student's Choice - Telluride Mountainfilm; Audience Choice Award - Mendocino Film Festival; Best Documentary - Maui Film Festival; Most Inspirational Documentary - DocMiami International Film Festival; People's Choice Award - Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival; and Best Feature Film - Costa Rica International Film Festival.

    Interviewees: Anne Bechsgaard, Gregory Berns, Roy Blanchard, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Dalai Lama, Richard Davidson, Ed Diener, Ronaldo Fadul, Daniel Gilbert, Tim Kasser, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Nic Marks, P. Read Montague, Melissa Moody; Chikanobu Okamura

    Director: Roko Belic.

    Bibliography:

    The websites which are linked in the Guide.




     









    Select questions that are appropriate for your students.







    Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!








    This Learning Guide written by James Frieden and was published on August 16, 2017.




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