Positive feelings and mental well being go hand in hand with being happy and feeling joy. This does not mean being happy every single minute of the day or never experiencing any pain or problems. What I am referring to is your overall state of mind, your outlook. Happiness does not come from other people, material possessions, moving to another place, changing schools, changing jobs, or our outer appearances. Rather, it comes from within ourselves. We are responsible for our own happiness, and when we learn this, we are in control of our life. This is a powerful tool to teach kids that will help them for the rest of their life. Our happiness is ours. Can we be angry? Yes. Can we be sad? Yes. Can we be disappointed? Yes. However, these times in all our lives (that come and go) do not steal your happiness. So, where do we find happiness? Happiness is a CHOICE and it is a mindset. Therefore, our happiness is our responsibility. The choices we make, our lifestyle, the amount of negative influence or energy we allow in our life, our diet, exercise, sleep, our relationships with others, our spiritual life and knowing who we are. All these things affect our outlook on life. And when bad things happen that cause hurt, anger, disappointment, fear, etc. our positive outlook on life will get us through these events more successfully.
Teaching kids this from an early age is very important. Happiness does not come from the new toy, candy, social media, new shoes, etc. We must teach them to be happy with themselves first. Where do we find happiness and joy? Some ways to teach kids how to be happy and have joy:
- positive self talk
- expressing gratitude/thankfulness
- build meaningful relationships
- give back to others
- have FUN
- taking in the beauty around you
- point out joyful things everyday
- avoid negativity
- play and laugh
One technique I used with my children when they were little to help them have a positive outlook was asking “is the glass half full or is it half empty?” During these times they would see that they can control or decide if something is positive of negative to them. Throughout their lives, there have been many instances where something upsetting or disappointing has happened and they have said “the glass is still half full.” This mindset is a choice. By choosing to view it like this, they were able to see the positive in the situation. They did not give up or think it was the end of the world because something bad had happened. Their overall happiness with themselves and their life was not shaken.
In my practice, I talk to children and teens who have never been told that they are in control of their happiness and their outlook on life. So, we begin talking about what happiness is and how to choose it intentionally everyday (even on the hard days). This takes some time, but it can be taught and practiced.
Martha J. Hollingsworth, LPC