Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happiness classes in school. Do they really work?

There are a number of different programmes for school children aimed at teaching them resilience, positive thinking and a sense of purpose. The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) was designed to prevent depression. It aims to increase students' ability to handle day-to-day stress and problems that are common for adolescents. It promotes optimism by teaching students to think more realistically and flexibly about the problems they encounter and teaches assertiveness, decision-making, relaxation and other coping skills. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reviewed 19 studies into the effectiveness of PRP which included more than 2,000 8-15-year-olds. The review found that PRP increased optimism and reduced depressive symptoms for up to a year and reduced hopelessness and clinical levels of depression and anxiety. The researchers also looked into the effectiveness of the Positive Psychology Program (PPP). The programme seeks to help children identify their signature character strengths (e.g. kindness, courage, wisdom, perseverance) and incorporate these strengths into their day-to-day life. In a study of 347 high-school students those who took the programme reported more enjoyment of, and engagement in, school. The teachers reported that the children who took the programme were more curious about what they were doing, loved learning and showed more creativity. The children in the PPP group also had more self-control and empathy and a greater desire to co-operate with others and assert themselves.

You can find out more about this research at


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