Positive parenting: 10 habits of happiness to live by – and pass on to your kids
As parents, I think what we all want most for our children, is health and happiness.
And while we can feed them good, nutritious food, make sure they are physically active and keep up with their health check-ups and vaccinations to give them a healthy as possible start in life, I think future-proofing their happiness – their ability to seek out happiness – is just as important.
Why? Because in a world where more and more people – young people – are struggling with anxious thoughts, stress and even depression, I think is more important than ever that we start looking at happiness as something we can teach. At the very least look at as something we can take charge of and realise is an ongoing project, not just an end destination or something everything has to be perfect in every way for us to feel.
So how, I hear you ask, how can we teach children to take charge of their own happiness – now and in the future? I think, as with most things when it comes to parenting, being a good example, practising what you preach, is key. How to be a happiness role model? Here are 10 good places to start:
1. Smile and laugh – a lot
Smiles are very catching, and sometimes, even trying to feel happier can end up actually making you happier. In fact, even studies have shown that people who actively tried to feel happier reported the highest level of positive moods, making a case for thinking yourself happy.
2. Letting go of grudges
Holding grudges only makes you feel bad in the long run. You don't have to be best friends with the person you were holding grudges with, you don't even have to forgive them in words to their face – just make sure you let go of all that anger inside you. In Elsa's words: Just let it go.
3. Celebrate small victories too
Often, in life, we are allowed to celebrate bigger occasions or wins, but I think, personally, being mindful of even smaller things that go our way (even something as simple as getting a seat on the luas or the Starbucks guy getting your coffee order right) can make it a lot easier to feel a sense of happiness from your day.
4. Practise random acts of kindness
I am such a big believer in that doing something nice for others actually ends up making you feel happier too. Just think about how warm and glowy you feel inside when you watch someone open a birthday present you got them. It doesn't have to be big things – as is often the case, it is the thought that counts. Show up at a friends's door with some baked goods. Invite the neighbours over for pizza and games night – and you'll find that often, a tiny amount of effort will reap you big happiness rewards.
5. Seek out good conversations
Small-talk is all well and good, but making sure you spend less time talking about the weather and more time talking about what really makes your heart swell, will no doubt leave you feeling happier and more satisfied.
6. Look at the bright side
It can be tough at times, but taking a moment in most situations to try and find a silver lining can actually lead to less stress, better health and a deeper sense of happiness.
7. Talk about gratitude
Or keep a gratitude journal. I always try to have a little chat with my children at night when they are in the bath or when we are reading in bed, about good and fun things that happened that day. It might seem like a small thing, but I am hoping that it will instil in them a sense of being grateful for all the good things they have in their life.
8. Give compliments
If you have ever been on the receiving end of a random compliment, you'll know just how good it makes you feel. So spread the joy – if you like someone's hair or dress or the curtains they chose for their new home, tell them.
9. Be active
Being physically active is inextricably linked to mood improvements, and many studies have shown us just how much using our bodies and breaking a sweat means to our happiness. I just know that no matter how tired and down I might feel at times, dragging myself out for a run or to a yoga class always leaves me feeling so much better.
In addition, many studies have proven that spending time outdoors also has a great effect on our happiness, so head outside for a brisk walk – and come home feeling happier.
10. Value your friendships
Friends make us happier – and making sure to make time for our friends is so important, both when we are young, and maybe even more so as we get older. So invite your friends over for pizza night and prosecco (you know, when it's allowed again). Schedule a Sunday brunch with a friend you haven't seen in a while when restaurants open. Pop out for coffee. Go for a run together. Let the children invite their friends around and help them cultivate good friendships – you will all be happier for it.