Creative Child

A Better Year May Be Ahead. But the Best Time to Pursue Happiness is Now.

by Deborah Song

After the grueling year we just had, it’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand for just a little while longer, hold our breaths, and hope for better times ahead, especially with a new year right around the corner. But waiting for external circumstances to change before we feel happy will surely amount to missed opportunities. Truth is, there’s no better time than now to pursue happiness. If we depend on external circumstances to determine how we feel internally, we will always be vulnerable to changing tides. How poised we are today will determine how happy we feel tomorrow.

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Below are seven ways to pursue happiness today. While most articles written for Creative Child are parenting advice for our kids, I believe the tips listed below can apply to us all, whether grown or young, weathered from the pandemic or relatively unscathed. There’s no better way to teach our kids to be happy, than leading by example.

1. Forge strong connections. Researchers have long known that the happiest people are those who have the strongest relationships. It might be tempting to put relationships on the backburner during a pandemic. But living isolated could be the single biggest obstacle standing between you and happiness. Maintaining connections during a pandemic will require extra effort and some creativity. It might even hurt initially to speak to those we miss so much. But the effort will pay off. 

If your child is weary of Zoom, try sending a care package, hand-written letter or drawing to a friend by mail or by dropping it off in person. Even seeing a friend briefly from a distance from inside a car, can bring cheer to your child and the friend he is visiting. It will also remind your child that his friends haven’t gone away. They’re still within reach.

2. Incorporate altruism. When toddlers were given gummy bears, a study revealed they felt more happiness giving gummy bears to a puppet than when they received it. If toddlers felt increased happiness by sharing, and to a puppet no less, there is a whole spectrum of happiness we are missing by remaining focused on ourselves.

When we help others and make them feel happy, we gain a sense of accomplishment and learn that we can spread happiness. This boosts self-esteem and makes us more capable of connecting with others. 

3. Formulate a positive narrative. Forming a positive narrative is like looking at a cup half full, but creating a story about how the cup came to be half full. If Timmy is upset because his younger brother just told him he hates him, help Timmy form a different narrative than what meets the eye. His brother likely does not hate him, you might explain, but perhaps loves him so much he does not know how to handle disappointment coming from his older brother. Remind Timmy of the many times his brother has told him he loves him, as well as some of the thoughtful things he has done in the past. Validate Timmy’s feelings as it’s not ok to tell someone you hate them. But teach Timmy that anger is not the result of what happened but what we tell ourselves has happened. Ultimately, we have the final say in how we feel. 

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