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CNN Classroom Edition: Happiness and Your Health: The Surprising Connection

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(CNN Student News) -- Set your VCR to record the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Happiness and Your Health: The Surprising Connection when it airs commercial-free on Monday, July 30, 2007, from approximately 4:00 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN. (A short feature begins at 4:00 a.m. and precedes the program.)

Program Overview: In Happiness and Your Health: The Surprising Connection, CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins the eternal search for happiness. Talking with doctors, philosophers, teachers, business leaders and comedians, Dr. Gupta asks where happiness comes from, how to get it and whether people need it.

(Teachers: You may want to preview this program, as it contains a discussion about non-depressed people using antidepressants that may be inappropriate for some viewers.)

Grade Level: 7 -12

Subject Areas: Health, Psychology, Social Studies


The CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Happiness and Your Health: The Surprising Connection and its discussion questions and activity challenge students to:

  • Examine the meaning of happiness;
  • Learn about the connection between happiness and good health;
  • Create their own definitions of happiness;
  • Predict their ideal happy adult lifestyles;
  • Interview adults living these lifestyles to find out how happy they are.
  • Curriculum Connections


    Standard 2. Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health

    Level III [Grade: 6-8]

    Benchmark 1. Knows cultural beliefs, socioeconomic considerations, and other environmental factors within a community that influence the health of its members

    Benchmark 2. Understands how peer relationships affect health

    Level IV [Grade: 9-12]

    Benchmark 4. Understands how the prevention and control of health problems are influenced by research and medical advances

    Standard 4. Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health

    Level III [Grade: 6-8]

    Benchmark 1. Knows strategies to manage stress and feelings caused by disappointment, separation, or loss

    Benchmark 2. Knows characteristics and conditions associated with positive self-esteem

    Level IV [Grade: 9-12]

    Benchmark 2. Knows strategies for coping with and overcoming feelings of rejection, social isolation, and other forms of stress

    McREL: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) ( link), 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014; Telephone: 303/337-0990.

    Social Studies

    Standard IV: Individual Development and Identity: Students will explore the influences on individual development and identity including culture, groups and institutions.

    The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( link) are published by the National Council for Social Studies ( link).

    Discussion Questions

    1. How would you define happiness? What is your happiest memory?

    2. Do you think people need to be happy? Why or why not? How important is happiness to you? Which of the following is most important to your own happiness: family, health, money, faith, success or leisure time?

    3. Do you think that money can buy happiness? Why or why not?

    4. If you had $500 to spend on yourself, which do you think would make you happier, purchasing material goods or creating an experience (like throwing a party or taking a trip). Explain your rationale.

    5. What do you think are the reasons behind each of the following survey results from the Pew Research Center:

  • The happiest age group is men 65 and older; the least happy: men 18 to 29.
  • Married people are happier than singles.
  • College grads are happier than those without a college degree.
  • Sun-belt residents are happier than other U.S. residents.
  • 6. What is "positive psychology"? How does it work? What are your thoughts on this practice?

    7. What evidence presented in the program supports Dr. Nancy Segal's assertion that our capacity for happiness is largely shaped by genes, more so than outside events? What are your thoughts on this issue?

    8. Harvard psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert asserts that people tend to do a poor job of judging what will make them happy. According to Gilbert, how do our genetics, our imaginations and our culture influence our misconceptions about happiness?

    9. According to the program, how does having children tend to affect the degree to which people are happy, and why? To what extent, if any, might this information impact your decision to have children in the future?

    10. According to the experts in the program: What are the connections between happiness and good health? In what portion of the brain is happiness located? What are some of the physiological effects of laughter? Why do you think that optimists tend to live about seven years longer on average than non-optimistic people?

    11. Do you think that people are meant to be happy all the time? Why or why not? In your view, are there any downsides to pursuing happiness? If so, what are they? If not, why not? If you were going to try to become happier, how would you go about doing that?

    12. Are you happy at school? Do you think that it is important for students and teachers to be happy at school? Why or why not? What, if anything, would you do to make your school a happier place?

    Suggested Activity

    Predicting Happiness

    "If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I'd find somebody who's already living in that future... and see how happy they are." -- Dr. Daniel Gilbert

    Challenge students to put Dr. Gilbert's advice into action. First, instruct students to come up with their personal definitions of happiness, and make a list of the things that make them, or would make them, happy. Next, have students draw upon this information to imagine what their lives would look like if they were happy as adults. For example, do they see themselves being married, running a company or traveling the world? Ask students to write down why they think that this lifestyle would make them happy. Then, have each student locate and interview at least one person who is living the student's ideal future lifestyle.

    Prior to conducting the interviews, help students to create a list of questions that they can pose to their interview subjects, such as:

  • How happy are you? What aspects of your life make you the most happy, and why?
  • Do you think that it is important to be happy? Why or why not?
  • Has your definition of happiness changed over the years? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • If you were going to try to become happier, how would you go about doing that?
  • What advice might you offer teens about becoming happy adults?
  • After students have completed their interviews, have them write reports of their findings and share them with the class. Their reports should address the following questions:

  • What assumptions did you have about your subject's lifestyle and degree of happiness prior to the interview? Were your assumptions accurate? Why or why not?
  • Has your personal definition of happiness changed as a result of your research? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • What lessons, if any, did you learn?
  • Keywords

    Happiness, joy, good health, positive psychology, genetics, twins, prefrontal cortex, pathology, depression, anxiety, stress, relaxation, serotonin, dopamine, antidepressants, laughter yoga, laughter clubs, relationships, family, friends, personal coaching



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