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Kids & The Happiness Advantage

Our community at Challenge to Change, Inc. is full of so many wonderful people and one of the things that unite us is our love for learning and reading. So much so, that we have started a monthly book club that welcomes not only our Challenge to Change community but anyone who wishes to read and learn along with us. If you wish to join us, please click on this link to be directed to our Facebook group where we host the book club.

For the month of March, we dove into The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor. The book is written for adults and one would assume that it is written merely for people in the workplace. On the contrary, we found that this book is completely applicable to anyone, anytime, anywhere. We also realized that this book can be helpful when guiding and teaching children. As such, we decided to break down each of the principles that Shawn discusses and share how they could apply to children. Over the next seven weeks, we will dive into each principle and how it translates for the younger generations. We hope you will enjoy this series and will join us here for discussions or over in our Yoga Book Club.

Let’s jump in!

Principle #1 is The Happiness Advantage and it is retraining your brain to be positive. Directly from the book, it states, “because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance.”

Consider this -- the happiness advantage shows that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. On top of that, happiness leads to success in marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, and creativity. Let’s translate that to what it could mean for children who practice positive training with their brains. They, too, could have success in all these areas of their lives as well as be more successful in school, sports, and extracurricular activities. Taking it a step further, they could even become more active parts of their community as they gain success in other areas of their lives. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

So, how do we help our children start training their brains to be more positive?

+We can help them develop a positive narrative that emphasizes that happiness leads to success and not that success brings them happiness. This can be done by creating mantras that remind them of their strengths such as “I am happy”, “I am smart”, “I am healthy”, and “I am hard-working”. Explain that happiness is a choice and it is a practice. Helping them become aware that they have the choice to be happy (and we all know that kids love choices!), gives them a lot of power.

+We can take the time to have positive experiences with them before tasks, such as listening to a fun song before dropping them off at school on a big test day or dancing around the kitchen before settling into a studying session. The author calls this action “priming”., Priming can also be done before any anxiety-producing situation for your child. For example, if they feel that their yearly visit to the doctor is so awful, take the time to talk about how they were so brave at their last appointment and how fast the visit goes by. You can even help your child visualize how they will feel after the doctor’s appointment and how it will be great knowing how healthy and strong their body is.

+Finally, we can also try to take advantage of the following seven ways to permanently raise their happiness baseline:

  1. Meditate - start small (or stay small) with five minutes per day. We have several resources for meditations listed in our last blog.

  2. Find something to look forward to - even if it’s just a piece of candy at the end of a grueling task. As the author says, “often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation.”

  3. Commit conscious acts of kindness - we all know this, but it is a great reminder. When we fill someone else’s bucket, we fill ours as well. And, kindness never goes out of style!

  4. Infuse positivity into your surroundings - this can mean decorating their bedroom with things that bring them joy, changing up their environment when they are in a negative mood (such as going for a walk) or it might mean eliminating negative influences in their environment. This could mean exposure to negative television or access to too much screen time.

  5. Exercise - make it fun! Do yoga together, go for a walk, dance party in the kitchen and so much more! It benefits everyone!

  6. Spend money (but not on stuff) - experiences provide positive emotions that are more memorable and longer-lasting than buying that new toy or gadget that our kiddo wants.

  7. Exercise a signature strength - hone in on your child’s strengths for a boost of positivity. Maybe they are amazing readers, so have them read to you or their siblings. Or, maybe they are great at whipping together a salad for the family dinner. If you notice your child feeling a bit down, take time to suggest an activity that they excel in.

Have you read The Happiness Advantage? Do you have any other key takeaways from Principle #1 that could be applied to children? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or hop over to our book club page to join the discussion there.

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