LDS Activity Day girls may seem like some of the happiest kids around – but they are right on the cusp of encountering the rocky teenage years! Once they exit Primary and move onto Young Women, having tools in their tool belt to combat anxiety and depression will be very useful, if not essential, to surviving that challenging time ahead of them.
Category: Developing Talents, Living and Learning the Gospel.
Duration: 1 session
- Writing implements (pencils, pens, colored pencils)
- One blank piece of paper for each girl.
- One printed copy of “The 24 Signature Strengths” for each girl. (Copy and paste from the bottom of this page)
- One printed copy for each girl of the list from Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “Do Not Despair.” (Copy and paste from the bottom of this page)
- Small wooden box, empty container, or envelope for each girl.
- Print out the stuff listed in “Supplies.”
- Have each girl spend a few minutes of writing down things that make them happy. Challenge them to come up with at least ten. Have them write in a list down the page because they will be cutting them in strips later.
- Explain that scientists have found that the three things that make people most happy are pleasure (doing things you enjoy), engagement (feeling connected to your activities and connected to others), and meaning (feeling like what you do matters).
- Ask the girls which category they think people try to spend the most time doing. Explain that most people spend the most time seeking out pleasure, and yet it is the least likely of these three to bring true joy! Isn’t that interesting?
- Have the girls name some of the things they wrote down, and work as a group to decide which category it fits under. Have them circle the ones in their list that fit in the engagement or meaning categories to emphasize that those are the ones that bring the most joy.
- (Optional Extension) You may want to take some examples from their paper from the pleasure section and give some examples of how the girls can use their knowledge of what they learned in order to escalate the activity to one of the second two categories to increase their joy. For instance, if one girl says that reading makes them happy, perhaps they could go beyond pleasure and reach engagement by joining a book club, or reach meaning by reading their favorite book to a younger sibling. Or, if a girl says that playing catch makes them happy, they could go beyond pleasure and reach engagement by playing on a baseball team, or reach meaning by helping someone else learn that same skill.
- Read this quote from LDS.org about Happiness and discuss how the teachings of the Church are directly in line with what they have just learned about pleasure, engagement, and meaning: “[Some] seek only to have fun in life. With this as their main goal, they allow temporary pleasure to distract them from lasting happiness. They rob themselves of the enduring joys of spiritual growth, service, and hard work.” (Spiritual growth, service, and hard work are akin to the engagement and meaning that scientists have shown bring more lasting joy than temporary pleasure.)
- Now have the girls look at the Signature Strengths paper. Explain that their “signature strengths” are the things they are good at. Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman has found that people are happiest when using their strengths, and that these strengths tend to fit into 24 categories. Take turns reading them aloud or have the girls look them on their own. Ask them to circle or highlight their Signature Strengths. They can have any number but you maybe want to challenge them to stick to the 3-10 range.
- Compare and contrast what the different girls have highlighted. Discuss why each person might have different strengths. Consider tying this in to the idea that we all have different talents and that our Heavenly Parents created us all to be unique, with no two people having the exact same strengths. Discuss how something that makes you happy might not make someone else happy, because they have different strengths and talents.
- Have the girls to look over their Signature Strengths and come up with at least three more things to add to thelist of things that make them happy.
- Be sensitive to individual situations and choose how much detail you want to go into with this topic. You can have the girls talk about specific times they have been sad, or only have them give general examples, or just stick to giving one example from yourself. We don’t want to make the kids uncomfortable but we do want them to realize that everyone gets sad sometimes, even adults, and that it’s a normal (even healthy) part of life.
- After being sad for a period of time, it’s good to seek out ways to be happy again! Tell the girls that they are now going to make a “happiness box” (or envelope!) with lots of ideas on how to cheer up after a sad time, so they can turn to it to help get rid of those blues when they are ready.
- First, hand them the list from “Do Not Despair.” Explain that this list of twelve things that bring happiness was given in a talk by President Ezra Taft Benson. Have them cut the list into strips, reading as they go (or you can read them aloud as they are cutting).
- Next, have them cut out any of the “Signature Strengths” they circled, to remind them when they are sad that they can exercise one of their strengths to make them happier.
- Third, have them return to their original list of things that make them happy. They can write down any more they have thought of, and also choose NOT to cut out any things on their list that they have decided don’t bring true joy.
- After their boxes are full of strips of paper, encourage the girls to use the box whenever they feel sad and want to be happy again.
- Finally, be sure to mention that if they ever feel sad for a long time, or feel so sad that they might never be happy again, that kind of sadness is called depression. And if they are ever so sad that they can’t find happiness on their own, it’s okay to ask for help. Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-9 and explain that Heavenly Father put us on the earth to help each other through the hard times, and that it’s okay to ask for help, and when we are happy, we should seek out ways to give help, to those with depression.
- If there is time left over the girls can decorate their boxes.