Finding Happiness in China: 6 Suggestions from My Students

China makes me happy, most of the time. And so I often find myself talking to my students of all ages about happiness, how to be happy, and how to find their happy place when they are sad.

Here are some of the ideas my students have shared in regards to being happy in China.

My Ninjas


  1. Eat some food.

“You could maybe eat some food?” Jack said from the back of the class.

“Yeah? We call that comfort food or emotional eating. I thought only Americans did that!” I laughed. I wrote emotional eating on the board. “Who in here eats when they aren’t hungry?”

Seven out of the ten students raised their hands.

“Why do you eat then?” I asked, pointing to Diana at the front.

“I eat whenever… I am bored! Whenever… I am tired. I find something delicious to eat instead of being bored or tired,” she giggled.

“Me too! I eat chips!” Jack added. “What do you eat to be happy again?”

“My comfort food is ice cream,” I admitted. “Or chocolate.”

“Oh… Ice cream. That’s a good one,” Jack agreed.

“What’s a comfort food? Is it spiritual? Can you say spiritual food?” asked Una.

“Comfort food is any food that makes you feel good. Any food that is comforting. I guess it could be spiritual if it’s really important to you. Catholics drink wine and eat bread in Church. That’s spiritual eating.”

“Ok. So because I love meat, it is my spiritual food,” Una decided.

“No, no, you can’t say spiritual,” David argued. “That’s wrong. It makes you happy. It isn’t like… a God.”

“It’s the same. Spiritual and comfort. Right?” Una looked at me for assistance.

“In all honesty? I have no idea. I think that yes, eating can be spiritual. If eating meat is spiritual to you, then it is. Being spiritual is comforting, and food is comforting sometimes, so yeah. Eating can be spiritual.”

An echo of “Ooo’s” sounded and I wondered about the validity of my statement for a moment.

2. Laugh to Hide

“I think maybe funny people… They are funny because they are sad. And making people laugh makes them feel better.”

“It’s good to laugh, and not think so much.”

3. Padded Room

“You can take out all of the things in your house, all the glass, and metal, and things, and then make the whole apartment soft,” said Sky in regards to how to prevent suicide. “That way you can’t kill yourself because it’s impossible.”

“No, no, no,” said Black, shaking his head. “If you want to die, you can figure out a way to die. It’s not hard. You just go outside.”

“Well… Maybe if someone is sad we can send them to the shoo,” replied Sky.

“The what?” I asked.

“The shoo… You know… In prison, if a person is bad they get wrapped up and thrown in a room.”

“Ooo! You mean put into solitary confinement? Isolation?”

“Yes, yes. Then they will be safe. Can’t kill themselves.”

“No, no. That’s stupid,” Black argued. “I think you must talk to your friends.”

4. Go to KTV

“Maybe you can go to KTV and sing all night,” said Johnny. “You know. Forget about being sad. Scream.”

“That’s a really good idea. Just go scream at a KTV all night?”

“Yes. It would make you happy again.”

5. Alone Together. 

“There is a saying in Chinese… ‘Alone is one man’s happy… and lots of happy men together is one man’s alone,” Sky said.

“So do you think that you can find happiness alone or do you need help?” I asked.

“Both. It depends. Sometimes I need to be alone to be happy. Sometimes I need my friends.”

6. Simplicity and Time Machines

“I would like to go back to when I was a child,” said Cherry.


“Because life was simple. I could be happy. I could play more,” she shifted uncomfortably. I turned and looked at the rest of my class of thirteen year olds, and asked how they felt.

“Yeah. Life is not happy in between childhood and adulthood. You must be a child to be happy or when you are finished with University you can be happy again,” Jenny added.

“That’s sort of sad, don’t you think?”

They all shrugged.

“Would you all go back in time if you had a time machine?” I prompted. A few heads nodded.

“Yes. I think I’d go back to when I was two or three. I would live with my grandmother again, and have no worries,” Tiger said.

“Do you think that most adults are happy?” I asked.

The class was silent. Either thinking or having given up on the topic.


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