7 Things My Kids Have Taught Me About Happiness
By Zelana Montminy
Article originally published on mindbodygreen
1. Joy is in the moment.
Watch children greet any morning and you will see the greatest example of mindfulness in practice. This quality makes life so much richer through the eyes of children. They find joy in every moment. They aren't looking toward the future or worried about the past the way adults tend to be. Whether they're playing with a set of building blocks, eating breakfast, or reading a book, what they're doing at the moment is their sole focus. As it should be for us.
2. You don't need to "try" to be happy.
Children have a unique awareness of their feelings and rarely feel any insecurity or embarrassment in expressing them—whether that's through laughter, a tantrum, or just using their words. While there are obviously exceptions, generally children raised in a stable home environment are in tune with their emotions and don't try to invent or mimic feelings that don't exist. They're not trying to always be happy as adults often feel they must appear to be. This increased awareness and connectivity help them bounce back from daily stressors and challenges more easily than adults do as well.
3. Forgiveness should be easily and freely given.
Children forgive easily and swiftly. They don't harbor grudges, let issues fester, or ruminate on ways that they have been hurt or harmed. If they're unhappy with someone's behavior, they either voice their displeasure or act out against it (for better or for worse!). But regardless of their initial reaction, they almost immediately let go and move on from the situation. They don't harbor resentment in the same way adults do. It takes away the joy of the moment.
4. Life is better when you find your flow.
We've all seen children become so immersed in an activity or task that they can't even hear an adult talking to them. Kids delve into whatever they're doing with all their mind and all their heart. They don't censor themselves or worry about what's next. They experience this "flow" on a constant basis. This ability to fully engage in the present increases happiness exponentially. While we can't put all responsibility on hold as adults, it's incredibly important we find time to get lost in what we're doing and suck the juice, so to speak, out of enjoyable activities.
5. Hugs can cure anything.
Whether it's a fight with a friend, frustration in the sandbox, or a dropped ice cream cone, a hug always makes things better. It makes us feel safe, calm, and loved. We thrive on social support, and human touch is an important part of transmitting feelings of care and concern. Kids distribute hugs freely and earnestly and reap the benefits they provide. Making a habit of hugging your loved ones more often will only improve your quality of life, and that of the people around you.
6. Empathy is always welcome.
Empathy is our ability to notice and interpret the needs and desires of other people. Research shows that children are born empathic. This innate response to the world is either strengthened or weakened based on our environments. Sadly, our world doesn't always reinforce empathy for adults. These characteristics often take a back seat to more self-centered motives, such as our drive for success or media and cultural pressures to fulfill our own needs before those of others. We should learn from our children when it comes to displaying empathy.
7. Life is a miraculous thing.
To children, the world is new and therefore exciting. Even the most seemingly mundane is magical. They greet their days with joy and a curious spirit, experiencing life like explorers. If adults were able to see through the eyes of a child, as if for the first time, things would be so much more enjoyable. There is beauty everywhere, even in the busyness, craziness, and hardship of life. There is always something to appreciate and marvel at. We just need to open our eyes and hearts.
Dr. Zelana Montminy is a positive psychologist and health and wellness contributor to a variety of broadcast, digital and print media. She frequently speaks at conferences and various academic, business, and non-profit institutions, and is a member of the American Psychological Association and is a consultant for the Institute for Applied Positive Research. Dr. Montminy holds Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Health and a focus in Positive Psychology, and has a Certification in Nutrition. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.
Check out Zelana’s book, 21 DAYS TO RESILIENCE: How to Transcend the Daily Grind, Deal with the Tough Stuff, and Discover Your Strongest SelfRESILIENCE: How to Transcend the Daily Grind, Deal with the Tough Stuff, and Discover Your Strongest Self (HarperElixir; April 5, 2016).