Scientific American Mind magazine recently reported on a study out of Princeton and Harvard that shows that people become happier when they think fast. It does not matter what was thought about, the simple act of thinking fast and generating thoughts quickly made the participants happier.
Thinking fast makes you happier 🙂
Teachers can take advantage of this information. For example, if you sense that the energy of the class is waning (perhaps the post-lunch hypoglycemia or being burnt out after another intensive class), instead of slogging on with the course content and having the students absorb little, perhaps it would be worth taking a break from the order of the lecture and instead start throwing out lots of “quickie quiz” questions, one right after the other. Making these easy ones that the class can easily answer, perhaps by reaching back to more basic material that the class has already mastered, will allow for fast answers that will allow for quick movement to the next question. Once this has been done for a few minutes, if the mood of the class has picked up and brightened, then you can resume the lecture, with the students in a better mood to absorb and learn the content!
Students can take advantage of this knowledge too. Whether you are studying alone or in a group, it can be helpful to pose lots of easy “quickie quiz” questions to yourself or to others in your study group; the emphasis is on the “quickie” aspect of moving along at a fast pace.
The study proposes that a possible reason that thinking fast can make you happier is that it stimulates the brain’s “novelty loving dopamine system,” which creates sensations of pleasure and reward. Further, happiness has been linked with improved immune function, greater social support, and greater productivity.
Even though the pleasure created may be short lived, when practiced often, it can build up. Further, these “brief periods of heightened mood can lead to upward spirals” in function.
Interestingly, although fast thinking has been linked to increased happiness, fast ‘repetitive’ thinking can trigger anxiety, so be sure to vary the questions. Also, slow thinking has been linked to calming, meditative peacefulness, but slow repetitive thinking has been linked to depression.
Teacher Tip: Employ lots of brisk-paced easy-question, quickie quizzes to your students, especially at the beginning of a class to lift their mood/energy level for the class, or whenever you sense their energy is dropping.
Student Tip: After studying/reviewing your course content, take a few moments to quiz yourself. Ask yourself lots of easy review questions that allow you to keep moving forward at a brisk pace. If studying in a group, use lots of easy quickie quiz questions with each other.