Classroom Activity 2: Happiness Experiments

Classroom Activity 2: Happiness Experiments

written by Sivasailam Thiagarajan, fl. 2008 (2013, originally published 2013),

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Abstract / Summary
The past affects our present level of happiness. We can make ourselves unhappy by brooding or ruminating over bitter, hostile, and resentful experiences. We can increase our happiness by savoring the past with gratitude, pride, and contentment. This jolt demonstrates how our current emotions are determined by the nature of our thoughts about the past. Distribute the questionnaire. Randomly distribute equal numbers of the two versions of the questionnaire, one for each participant. (Everyone will assume they have the same questionnaire.) One questionnaire is the rumination questionnaire. It says, “Think back about last week. What were three unpleasant problems or obstacles that you encountered? List them briefly below.” Give instructions. Ask participants to take a couple of minutes to respond to the Last Week questionnaire. Emphasize that the answers are for their eyes only. Nobody will be required to share the responses with others. So participants can write short cryptic responses that only they understand. Check on the emotional response. After making sure that everyone has completed the questionnaire, ask participants to decide whether the act of responding to the questionnaire made them feel more positive or more negative than before. Ask participants who became more positive to stand up. Request the participants who became more negative people to remain seated. Check the impact of the questionnaire. Explain that you had two versions of the questionnaire. Read the item from the rumination version and the gratitude version to explain the difference. Ask participants to raise their hand (while continuing to be standing or sitting) if they received the gratitude questionnaire. Debrief participants. It is likely more of the people who are standing up will raise their hands (compared to those sitting down). Conduct a debriefing discussion to reveal that thinking about the past affects our emotions. Ask for real-world examples of this principle. Also ask how participants can increase their thoughts of gratitude about the past.
Field of Interest
Sivasailam Thiagarajan, fl. 2008
Content Type
Instructional material
Related Web resources
Original Publication Date
Publication Year
Psychology, Social Sciences, Psychology & Counseling, Cognitive Psychology, Happiness Experiments, Surveys, Surveys, Psicología Cognitiva, Psicologia Cognitiva, Ruut Veenhoven, 1942-, Emotion and Motivation, Rumination (cognitive process), Happiness
Keywords and Translated Subjects
Psicología Cognitiva, Psicologia Cognitiva

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