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Are you Happy? How can you increase your happiness?

I’d like to think that I am generally a happy individual.  I greet people with a smile, share a laugh and look to the positives when happy familyconfronted with a challenge.  I too have fallen into the pitfall of thinking “I’ll be happy when…”.  This is dangerous thinking because once I have achieved filling in that blank, I am already thinking about the next thing or maybe that blank does not live up to my expectation of what I wanted to achieve. With that being said, how can I break this type of thinking and learn how to be happy in the present moment?  How can I increase my happiness now?

Research on Happiness:

More and more research is being done into the positive gains from happiness, optimism and positive emotions.  Research has shown that a happy brain proves to be a better functioning brain.  When we are focused on positive emotions, we tend to achieve more, are engaged in building deeper relationships and experience greater satisfaction with life.  Harvard researcher, educator and author, Shawn Achor, states that “people that work with a positive mindset, performance improves on nearly every level – productivity, creativity, and engagement”. (1)

The keys to happiness:

  • Getting more pleasure out of life (savoring sensory experiences)
  • Becoming more engaged in what you do
  • Finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful

The goal then is to spend part of every day engaging in positive exercises to increase happiness. Achor recommends spending 21 straight days engaging in any of the below exercises:

Tips to be more engaged and happy:

  • Gratitude journal- write three things that you are grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in your social or professional network.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes each day.
  • Take two minutes of your time to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience in the past 24 hrs.

Others include:

  • Acts of altruism or kindness – can be random (let someone in line in front of you at a busy store or paying for the next person at a highway toll) or systematic (bring Sunday dinner to elderly neighbor).
  • Gratitude visit- write a letter expressing your gratitude towards a grandparent, mentor, friend, etc. Go visit that individual to read the letter to them.
  • Take 10-20 minutes a day to do something you truly enjoy. For me, this means making a fresh healthy juice to start my day.

As an experiment, I am currently engaged in increasing my happiness by writing a daily gratitude list, exercising 10 minutes a day and taking  10-20 minutes to make a healthy juice. At this point, I have already noticed a daily shift in my overall happiness.  Keep in mind that it is the simple and small steps that lead to big results.

1) Achor, S. (2012). Positive Intelligence. Harvard Business Review. January-February 2012. http://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence/ar/1

“I Don’t Want to Talk About It!”- 5 Ways To Encourage Emotional Expression

If your child is resistant to communicating when upset, he may try to deny, hide, or avoid talking about his feelings.

It may be because he doesn’t feel safe expressing himself, or he could be afraid that talking about it will make him even more angry or scared than he already is. It is important for children to learn that as hard as it can be to talk about negative emotions, we need to release those feelings or they can resurface as negative behaviors and cause even worse problems. When I teach this to children, they usually give it a shot and see for themselves that they can feel much better afterwards!

5 Ways To Support Talking About Feelings:

Father hugs his daughter

  • Listen: Focus on your child, show empathy, and remove distractions.
  • Validate: Accept their feelings, even if they seem irrational.
  • Normalize: Help them understand that all emotions are normal and healthy.
  • Problem Solve: Encourage your child to come up with ways to cope.
  • Reinforce: Always praise your child for opening up.

Don’t be worried if your child still doesn’t love talking about his feelings, as this is only one way of expressing them. Some children respond better to drawing pictures, role playing with toys, or playing games to communicate their feelings. I am constantly amazed by how creative children can be when it comes to finding their favorite ways. Whatever method they prefer, encourage them to use it so they can get rid of pent-up feelings and get back to having fun!

Your child’s emotional well-being is important not only so they feel their best, but also because it supports their social and intellectual development. The positive effects are contagious to all aspects of your child’s life!

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