What does it mean to be happy? We talk about the concept all the time. Is happiness eating the chocolate bar after school or maybe playing at the park with friends? Or is it cultivating gratefulness and accepting all emotions that will result in lasting happiness. We are often conflicted by the fleeting moments of happiness – the getting what I want when I want it, rather than the concept of seeing happiness as a habit that needs to be developed over time . Lasting happiness is complicated and doesn’t come with a secret code that if we tap into it we will forever be in a state of happiness.
In our home there are the good days and then the not so good. There are times as a mum I think wow – I’m really good at this, everything is working well- look at how much has been achieved today and then there are the other days when I feel completely defeated and nothing goes right. Parenting for me is definitely a work in progress! According to Dr. Laura Markham of Aha Parenting – Happiness is closely linked to your habits. So if you are in the habit of perceiving the world from an up beat point of view or you take regular exercise, eat healthy and meditate you are more likely to be happier.
Here are 10 ways to cultivate the habits of happiness, gratitude and mindfulness based on research.
1.Write or draw about what makes you happy.
We have recently started the practice of a gratitude journal. Reflecting on what makes us happy, smile and feel good. We also think about how we can adapt our future with positive changes. Click here or on the photo for our gratitude journal prompts. Writing or drawing in our gratitude journals a couple of times a week at the end of the day has improved everybody’s sleep and made for calmer days. Reporting happy incidents and elements you would like to change in life have positive benefits. See a Huffington Post article about the benefits of a gratitude journal.
On Sundays we close the weekend with 4 things I have loved about the weekend and 1 thing I didn’t like and this is what I would do next time.
2. Talk together
After school each day when we are having afternoon tea together (it doesn’t always happen) we always talk about our days. Coming together after school over a snack and a drink we talk about 3 good things that have happened today and 1 struggle. Providing a communicative environment helps children to know there is always an ear to listen.
3. Do a random act of kindness
Whether it is picking up an old ladies shopping bag or holding a door open for someone. There is no doubt doing 1 random act of kindness everyday not only brings a smile to your face but also to someone elses. Teaching your children to be kind increases their mental wellbeing as well as cooperation, acceptance and teamwork abilities.
4. Send positive messages to people who help you out.
Encourage your kids to think about the people who help them everyday even if it is only in a small way. We have the most amazing lollipop lady at school. She lights everybody’s day up as they cross the road. She has a cheery hello – how is everyone today? She knows it seems most people’s names and when she is not there it is noted. It is these people that don’t always get the thanks they deserve. Make a gratitude card for such a person and tell them what a great job they are doing. You will make their day!
5. Practice self calming strategies
Everybody gets frustrated. It is not the getting frustrated that is the problem. It is how we deal with it. As a parent I am trying to get better everyday at being the calm in the storm and not taking my children’s storm as a personal insult on my abilities. If like me you have little whirlwinds of energy, it can be hard to calm a child down if they are very frustrated. After all, when was the last time you calmed down because somebody asked you to?
To calm down we use the same strategies each time as it helps the kids know that maybe they are getting over excited or even frustrated. Click here to find a printable list of strategies
6. Meditate and get to know yourself better
Meditation has many proven benefits for the brain – it can help in so many ways. Memory, concentration, improved focus, destress and aid anxiety, calmer sleep and improves relationships to name but a few. Mindful meditation helps to release negative thoughts and increases the space your children need in this fast paced world. Using a guided meditation regularly can decrease stresses, anxieties and worries. We use the Smiling Mind app. This app provides time to stop breathe and learn strategies to calm their own minds.
We also use GO ZEN a digital anxiety relief program that is based on science and pulls from positive psychology and neuroscience. This program provides bite-sized videos to teach kids about growth mindset, resilience and happiness skills. It can be hard as a parent to explain the challenges of life. I have found GO ZEN and its sister program GO STRENGTHS to aid me as a parent guide the social and emotional learning of our home. The videos are between 3-7 minutes long. So, it doesn’t take too long to get a positive message across and then we can chat about the videos later. Unlike Smiling mind Go Zen and Go Strengths are not free. Go to their website, do a trial before buying to gain tools and techniques to better understand and control anxiety. Click the link for Go Zen . Empower your kids with research-based skills by using the Go Strengths program. It will help you cope with life’s challenges, boost emotional intelligence, strengthen relationships, and improve behavior. Click the link for Go Strengths.
7. Have fun every day
Whatever it is that makes you happy, laugh and smile – make sure you fit it in every day – even if it is only a short burst. Whether that is dancing with the kids, or playing at the park or having a water fight. Have fun with the people you love and like everyday because it reduces the stress hormone Cortisol and increases Serotonin the happy mood stabilizer. Having fun, laughing and smiling boosts our energy, improves memory, concentration and focus. It also aids a good night’s sleep because if we smile we are calmer.
8. Spend time snuggling and reading your favourite stories
Reading to kids is not just about academics and their skills in literacy. There are many important benefits to reading together that have nothing to do with grades. Reading together builds a stronger relationship between family members and promoting a positive bond is important for your child’s developing social and emotional skills. Reading together helps to develop vocabulary and conversations inside the home arms children with the necessary communication skills needed for life outside the home.
9. Eat together
There are huge benefits to eating a family meal together. Research shows frequent family dinners are associate with happier kids, teenagers and adults. Its a win-win situation. Eating together as a family even a couple of times a week can help your child develop their communication skills and manners. Sharing a meal together aids the development of your child’s palate as they eat new foods, learn about nourishing foods and helps them to become self sufficient as they assist in meal preparation, set the table and clean up after themselves. The clean up is a chore, but done together to music can be a whole host of fun.
10. Find the joy in the word NO
Is getting everything you want going to make you happy? Research tells a different story. It is more about your mental wellbeing than your material wants. I don’t know about you but NO is still one of those words in our home that just doesn’t get a good reaction. However, after watching a great TED talk by Kenny Nguyen with the kids; it prompted a discussion about the shield of no. It doesn’t always work but we do get the odd time when the kids will say – “ahhh the shield of no” and they even have a smile on their face. Watch it and try it at home. Let me know how it goes?
Hope you have a happy day x
All of the opinions and reviews are my own and I gained no monetary benefit.