If you could articulate in one sentence or even one word, what you hope for your child, what would it be?
In other words, what do you most want for your precious little one(s)? What’s the end goal? Is it straight A’s? Making the volleyball team? Getting accepted into fashion school? Passing the state test?
Not having children of my own, I was very curious about the answer. After asking hundreds of parents, I was shocked at the overwhelming amount of similar responses. The answer was crystal clear- HAPPINESS. Parents deeply want their children to be happy.
Sounds simple. But, the reality is every day as a school counselor, I was noticing so much stress permeating the hallways and classroom and seeping into students and staff daily lives. I thought, “Why aren’t we teaching ways to cope with stress, anger, sadness and anxiety? Also, why aren’t we teaching the habits that have been proven to increase happiness?” After all, we now know that happiness is a skill and with the latest research in neuroscience, we know that we can train our brains for happiness.
Research also shows us that being in a state of happiness triples creativity, increases productivity and promotes health. Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher who studies happiness, states, “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” My experience is that children and adults desire happiness. So, what can we do to intentionally teach these skills?
Good news- there are five simple daily practices that you can start practicing today. Below is a list of the Happiness Habits from Shawn Achor’s research, along with a daily assignment:
People who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
We know that 90% of happiness comes from how our brain perceives life. When we practice gratitude, we’re training our brains to look for the “good” and in turn by seeing the good, it increases our happiness.
Daily practice: Take time to notice the positives. Write or draw 3 things you’re grateful for daily.
Journaling or talking about a positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours “doubles” the serotonin released into your body. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the experience happening or you talking/writing about the experience,
It’s important to train our brains, just like we workout our bodies.
Exercise changes your Tetris effect. The brain says, “I’ve been successful in one domain. I bet I can be successful in another domain.” Also, movement releases physical and emotional energy, develops concentration and self-confidence and increases serotonin and changes emotional states.
Daily practice: Yoga, cycling, walking or any exercise for 20 minutes.
Taking 5 minutes to sit in a stillness promotes inner peace, feeling grounded, and gets us set for the day by focusing on an intention. Meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD of doing it all and allows our brain to focus.
Daily practice: Sit in stillness for at least 5 minutes.
Acts of Kindness:
When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to three degrees of separation.
Being kind causes elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, so we get a natural high, often referred to as “Helper’s High.”
Daily practice: Choose one intentional act of kindness. Send a former teacher an email, help your mom organize the kitchen or give a co-worker a compliment.
As you can see, these simple practices don’t take much time at all. Hope you enjoy doing these activities with your kiddos. It might be easier to start with one practice and try it out for a few weeks before adding another one. Isn’t it exciting to know that we have the power to wire our brains for happiness?
Thank you for teaching your children about happiness, which will make this world a “happier” place. After all, a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind. Keep shining!
Lyndsay Morris, M.Ed, RYT-200 is a whole child education advocate, the founder of Generation Wellness, the host of the Wellness Warrior Show and author of The Mindful Student. Lyndsay believes that connection is at the heart of learning and inspires students and staff to live a life of less stress and more success through “teaching peace” and “choosing happy”.
For more info, click here: https://www.generation-wellness.com/