While watching the news about Omicron last week, that familiar sense of dread filled my gut. Dang, I was ready to be happy again and now this?!
My kids are also feeling the weight that naturally comes after living with COVID for 2 years. Rates of depression and anxiety among children and adolescents continue to rise, and therapists around the nation are at capacity.
While our systems and policies could do so much more to support children right now (federally-funded early childhood education is one step in the right direction), I don’t want to wait for our lawmakers to get it right.
And I can’t afford to delay joy until the pandemic is over.
All of these feelings spurred me to dig up a webinar I attended years ago by Neil Pasricha, happiness researcher and author. The webinar was called “5 Happiness Hacks”, and the author has since expanded them to “7 Science-Backed Ways To Be Happy Right Now.”
I summarized the hacks in an email to my children hoping that they’d take advantage of the hacks to fuel their own joy and well-being. Since you might benefit too, I’ve turned that email into a blog and the WorkingParenting Tip for this month!
The big take-away: happy people don’t wait for life to work out or settle down before they can be happy. They choose to be happy first, and then, amazingly, life works out and settles down.
Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that if we all choose to be happy the pandemic will end. But I’ve tried all 7 of these happiness hacks, even in the depths of COVID-living, and I gotta say, I do feel better.
Here they are. Try them out and see if they work for you (and your kids)!
7 Happiness Hacks Backed By Research (and me!)
- 3 Nature Walks: Research published in the American Psychosomatic Society shows that 3 brisk, 30-min walks or jogs/week reduces depression, fuels physical health, and reduces reactivity. The walk alone will help. Nature doubles the effectiveness. Ok, I don’t know if nature really doubles it, but it helps for sure. Your pediatrician will recommend 1 hour of physical activity per day, but three 30-min walks a week is a good place to start!
- The 20-min Replay: Writing (dare I say “journaling”) for 20 minutes/day about positive experiences dramatically improves happiness because what you focus on grows. Yup, science says so. Here’s a profanity-filled anti-anxiety journal that could serve this purpose. Might be just the right holiday gift for that special someone. Don’t like the swearing? Here are some other options.
Btw, my friend and fellow Positive Discipline Trainer, Lisa Fuller, will offer a FREE Wild Writing Circle on Dec 14 via Zoom. Consider it a one hour gift to yourself to listen to and practice writing from your unfiltered intuition. Register here! Learn more here. I participated last week and found it highly therapeutic!
- 5 Conscious Acts of Kindness: 5 kind acts/day (even small ones) dramatically improve your happiness. Hold the door open for someone you don’t know, write a kind note to a friend, share your dessert with someone, smile and wave to a stranger.
Martin Seligman (the “father of Positive Psychology”) says that “we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
I’m with Martin here: one day last year I was feeling horribly down so I decided to write my neighbor an anonymous note of kindness and put it on their windshield. I walked away with a smile on my face.
- High-Challenge, High-Skill Tasks: When you engage in these kinds of tasks, you enter a state of “flow.” Neil says, “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” What feels like flow to you? Do that more!
- 10 Long Deep Breaths: Big, deep belly breaths literally reduce the level of stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. Meditation can permanently rewire your brain allowing it to more easily take in the good. Find more research on the benefits of breathing here. Have you tried the “Calm” or “Headspace” apps? If that’s too much, just try 10 long, deep breaths and see what happens. Honestly, even one big, deep breath helps me.
- 5 Gratitudes: No news here; I’m sure you already know that expressing gratitude affects happiness. The interesting thing is that it may also affect your health! Take time to note 5 things you’re grateful for every day and watch your happiness grow. We often do this at family meals or meetings. It’s easy and feels great!
- 20 Pages of Fiction: I knew it! Reading fiction (even better if it’s on paper vs. electronic) helps people develop emotional intelligence which of course helps in every part of life because every part of life involves communicating and collaborating with other people. So go ahead, indulge in a great book. It’s not just an indulgence!
Neil notes that just like anything, you can learn to be happier.
“Happy people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything. Be happy first.”
Read Neil’s full article here: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Be Happy Right Now
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