Today everywhere we turn there is a book, a segment of a show or an article about how to find happiness. It seems to be an elusive feeling that we are continually striving for in our lives but cannot seem to define or attain. We are constantly bombarded by images of a better life- whether it is through others’ Instagram and Facebook posts, advertisements, or seeing the exotic lives that others are leading through reality shows. It makes you feel bad about who you are when you take in these images which in turn makes your life seem inferior therefore constantly wanting more and more.
There are varying schools of thought of how to find happiness. The Western belief is that focusing on nurturing oneself, using our gifts for others, and connecting to other living beings, will help to improve our happiness. The Eastern philosophy of looking within oneself through meditation and yoga allowing us to think deeply about the positive aspects of our lives as well as pushing away the worldly temptations, is where true happiness lies. More deeply, the Dalai Lama states, “The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Not money, not power, not status. Some of my friends are billionaires, but they are very unhappy people. Power and money failed to bring inner peace. Outward attainment will not bring real joyfulness. We must look inside.” While I am not a scholar of either philosophy, I believe that a mix of eastern and western ideas can help us begin our journey and guide our children to finding sustained happiness. Focus on the small day-to-day positive thoughts and/or actions to evoke a sense of gratefulness which is thought to be a key element. This month is a perfect time to start as Thanksgiving approaches and our minds turn towards thinking about what we are grateful for in our lives. Below are a few ideas to help develop your child’s (and your own!) sense of gratitude:
Start a Gratitude Journal- Studies suggest that writing down 3-5 things in a gratitude journal 3 times a week may have an impact on our well-being and relationships. The goal of this exercise is to remember an experience, person, or thing in your life and enjoy the positive emotions that action creates. Writing it down is the key.
Breathe: Apple Watch App
Headspace: Meditation- Guided Meditation
Calm- Meditation and Sleep Stories
Community involvement – Living responsibly and acts of service – talk to your kids and find what interests them and figure out how to help them give back. Is it helping to build homes, reading to younger children, stocking the food pantry, starting a coat drive, offering to help the older couple on your street? Whatever it is there are a multitude of ways to do something positive for others that will fill them up with good feelings!
Thank you notes- The age old hand written thank you note! Who knew that our parents and grandparents were onto something when we wrote these!
Create Gratitude Stones- there are a few ideas as to how to use these. One that we like is to have your child paint a flat stone, write something that they are thankful for about someone else and give it to that person. Or write what they are thankful for and keep in in their pocket or where they see it everyday as a reminder.
Reflection- Think about the people in your life that you are grateful for and how they helped your you.
Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelt
—Mary & Claire
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