Last year, at about this time, I met up with a dear friend of mine for a much-needed girl’s weekend. Our friendship, which spans nearly 30 years, is a gift and one that I am grateful for daily. 

There are a plethora of reasons why this particular human is among the most extraordinary to roam our planet, and just one of them is because she has dedicated her professional career to being a lifelong Middle School teacher.
All the respect in the world is due to all our educators and for goodness sake…Middle School?!?!? For those who may not be familiar with the educational structure in the United States, Middle School typically encompasses grades 6-7-8, which span ages 11-14.
Again, yes.
Probably the most socially awkward, physically awkward, and emotionally awkward period of one’s existence. Thank heavens these heroes of strength, character, and fortitude walk among us mortals and help ferret the next group of reasonably well-adjusted teens across the bridge so they can continue to grow into contributory members of society. I could never do it and we should pay them 10x more than their current wage.  

**…she begins to descend her soapbox**

It was on one of our walks that my friend shared a “summer reading book” the teachers at her school had chosen to read as a group. The author, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, had taught two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history, “Positive Psychology” and “The Psychology of Leadership”, and for the previous 20 years had taught leadership, happiness, and mindfulness to global audiences. 

Admittedly, my interest peaked when I heard he “taught happiness”. How exactly does one teach happiness? Furthermore, can one “learn happiness”?

Well, challenge accepted, I thought. If it’s good enough for Middle School teachers to spend their precious and well-deserved and earned summer vacation time reading, it’s certainly worth mine. 

In the book Happier, No Matter What, Ben-Shahar proposes that we CAN help ourselves become happier in, and even more so during, hard times. By exploring his SPIRE method, readers can assess each of their areas in the five categories below to gain insight into their “baseline happiness” and learn ways to build resilience for navigating life’s ups and downs, no matter what. 

  • Spiritual: Are we living mindfully?
  • Physical: Do we take care of our bodies?
  • Intellectual: Are we challenged and curious?
  • Relational: Do we nurture connections that nurture us?
  • Emotional: Are our feelings both honored and balanced?

At the end of each chapter, the reader is encouraged to assess their current happiness by answering questions in each of these categories.

I was surprised some of my ratings were lower than I had originally thought they might be. I found the reflection on those categories valuable and something I still ponder. We’re a work in progress, no matter what grade or age we are, and we all need teachers in this life to help guide us through.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a tough grader when it comes to book recommendations, so I think I will give this particular read: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5. 

If you decide the book is not for you, that’s fine, BUT if you can thank a teacher today….DO THAT.