The key to happiness

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Project Happiness helps Key Clubbers connect with one another in amazing ways.

Story by Kimiko Martinez • Illustrations by Jacquie Boyd

Think about two or three movies you’ve seen recently about high school. Most of them probably will share a common element: cliques. There’s what’s been labeled the popular crowd, the nerds, the hipsters. The list goes on. More likely than not, you’ve noticed these groups during your own high school experience. And you’re not alone. There’s a reason so many movies play up the clichés about cliques. Many students all around the world feel pressured to fit into a specific group, possibly making high school a pretty awkward time in their lives.

Unsurprisingly, humans hone in on differences rather than similarities. That’s how we’re programmed. That’s how our instincts detect danger and keep us safe. But that also means we’re quick to point out classmates who don’t fit our mold, which can have some really negative consequences.

“Getting students to work in teams and collaborate towards a main goal allows them to look past the cliques and share a more common value among themselves.”

“When we feel that other people and places are more different than like us, we don’t feel a connection to them,” Key Club’s Project Happiness site explains. “When we don’t feel a connection, it’s easy to be closed, detached, negative and judgmental.”

But Key Club is all about giving back, collectively. And you simply can’t do that without working together. For small and big tasks alike—such as meetings, agendas and project planning—Key Clubbers have to rely on one another to get things done. When everyone in the club is happily pitching in, things run more smoothly.

So how can you perfect your club’s pitch and make sure everyone’s in harmony? Through the Project Happiness curriculum, Key Clubbers are learning to spread happiness, hold more uplifting meetings and facilitate deeper connections. Members can even rewire their brains to feel more connected.

Cliques and Inclusiveness

Intentional inclusiveness should be a club-wide priority. But leaders usually set the tone, whether they realize it or not.

Nimra Dar, president of Jasper Place High School Key Club in Edmonton, Alberta, says she focuses on forming a strong bond with members and the process of working together can foster inclusion.

“Getting students to work in teams and collaborate towards a main goal allows them to look past the cliques and share a more common value among themselves,” she says.

Project Happiness recommends electing a committee to teach happiness to your club and spread it throughout your school.

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Conflict and Communication

Many conflicts stem from communication, or lack thereof. And ironically, once there is conflict, communication is essential to resolve it.

“We have a policy that allows students to say things on their mind,” says Curtis Douglas, 2014-15 Western Canada district governor. “Not only does this create less tension but it also allows for better friendships. I believe the best thing that a student—or anyone, for that matter—can do is face the problem early.”

A way to facilitate communication among members is encouraging individual reflection before discussing topics as a group or working in pairs to communicate on a small scale before convening as a club.

Jhané Craigwell, upper sixth director of the Harrison College Key Club in Barbados, says for groups to work together, individuals must feel understood.

“Conflict arises when people’s views, ideas and desires are ignored,” she says. “If a person feels their opinion is being valued, it’s less likely they’ll be offended by someone who doesn’t agree with them.”

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Compassion and Connection

According to Project Happiness, humans are designed to enjoy giving to others. “Giving brings a happiness no one can take away,” the website says (bit.ly/kiwanis-happiness).

For many Key Clubbers, it may be that sense of satisfaction through giving that drives their involvement with the club. Giving others the gift of time and attention is a tried and true way of connecting.

Hsiang-Ting Shen, club secretary for the National Nantou Commercial High School Key Club in Taiwan, says it’s important to practice empathy and simply be there for others. Spread positivity and encourage members to share some things for which they are grateful.

“When we find members might need assistance, we first provide comfort and care, then offer a solution and try to solve the problem,” she says. “Members exchange opinions and communicate by listening to each other sincerely.”

Douglas agrees.

“Listen to what others say,” he says. “Give meaningful praise. And write down the last thing that you talk about with them. That way, the next time you meet up with them you have a conversation starter.”

In the end, inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. Learning to be happy yourself makes it easier to collaborate and bond with others.

So how can you increase the joy and collaboration within your own club? There’s a guide made just for you! Visit bit.ly/kci-happinessguide for the Key Club Guide to Project Happiness, and happy Key Clubbing.

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