Summertime brings great opportunity to build more than just a few memories within your child. With the insights gained from the research on positive psychology, we know that children will benefit in many ways from an optimistic and positive outlook toward their life. In last week’s article, I covered some of the findings that argue for investing heavily in building optimism.
Today, we will go over your game plan; the ‘what to do’ part of building optimism. Like most of these discussions, this is not something you just do for a few days, and expect results. It’s something that requires your consistent investment over time. But it’s worth it when you see the results.
Summer is filled with moments that are ripe for application of these tools. With a couple of minor adjustments in your approach, these wonderful fun-filled moments can become more than just a pleasant memory for your children. You can expand these moments into life-shaping attitudes of optimism and happiness. Here’s how you begin.
6 essential tools that build happiness, optimism and positivity
1. Be attentive to positive emotions…when they are happening.
This is truly where the magic begins. Be more present, more engaged and more attentive to your children WHILE they are experiencing a positive, happy moment. Keep a daily intention to invest almost exclusively in moments where happiness, joy and laughter is happening.
Notice the smile with a smile. Giggle with a giggle. Be playful when they are playful. Touch your son on the shoulder when having fun. Give “the good stuff” more of your attention and energy.
This is NOT about more words; it’s about more action in the moments of pleasantness and happiness. Again, nothing melodramatic or verbose, or a lecture on happiness. Simply acknowledge with your positive attention the moments of happiness and joy in your home. Be subtle, yet authentic with your attention.
One more pointer: Don’t give your attentions to moments when your kids are frowning, complaining or bickering with each other. Let it go. In fact, it’s critical to give little to these moments you ‘don’t want’ while patiently waiting for the moments you ‘do want.’
2. Ask curious questions to expand upon moments of joy and pleasure.
Remember how easy it is to get hooked on the moments that don’t work for your kids, or to engage complaints about camp, siblings or friends? It’s easy to ask questions that expand upon the unwanted. The trick is to find another path!
Instead, become obsessed and curious about positive moments. Learn to inquire about things that made them laugh or smile. Be curious about who they helped or what nice things they did today. Find out what makes something funny or pleasant or expands a feeling of love and compassion.
Ask what made them laugh today, why they giggled or about what they found beautiful. Be biased about your inquires into the good, the loving, the funny and the beautiful. When inquiring about a happy moment, be interested in how it feels inside their body to be smiling. Engage in laughter with them, and let their fun energy resonate.
You can also expand upon these moments by reminding them of other memories or moments of laughter. Be willing to share what makes you smile, and how it feels on the inside. Share your own stories of good things that happened, and avoid complaints about your day.
And even remind them, “It feels good to laugh like this,” or “Isn’t it awesome to enjoy loving each other?” These are simple comments, further expanding the experience of positivity.
3. Teach them about magic: What you focus on expands, but only always.
As your children find you shifting your focus, it might seem weird to everyone. In fact, it SHOULD feel weird to most of us, as we are changing our habitual patterns. Your children will feel this, no doubt.
When they do, they may ask about the change. This is a great opportunity to introduce a ‘magic lesson’. Tell them you learned about a simple magic tool for happiness (or misery): Thinking and emotions attract more of the same emotions and thinking. Focus on joy…more joy. Very good plan. Focus on complaints…more misery. Bad plan…very bad plan.
So, let your kids know you have decided to focus on what you want: Joy, happiness, love and laughter. Invite them to play with you, in discovering more ways to find these positive emotions each day, and to infuse your home with these feelings.
Yes, many of you will have children who laugh AT you. Just ignore this, and return to the plan. There will also be many, many children who will investigate and play with this idea, and use it to create a happier life.
In the next column, I will cover three more principles to expand upon happiness in your family. For now, start bringing these ideas alive today, and have faith in the accumulated impact upon your children (and your own life).