Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

How You and Your Child Can Be Happier In 3 Minutes

“Expressing gratitude works. The moment we start taking things for granted—whether it be our husbands or our health—those things stop making us happy." -- Sonja Lyubomirsky, Happiness Researcher

Researchers have found a concrete way to raise your happiness set point.  Every day -- as you fall asleep at night is a good time --  picture three positive things from your day and soak in how grateful you are for them.  People who do this get happier almost immediately, and stay happier for as long as they continue this practice.

Why does this work?

  • The state of gratitude is very similar to love.  Scientists say it shifts our heart into a more "coherent" (healthier) rhythm. Meditators might say it opens our hearts. 

  • Focusing on the positive makes our lives better.  No matter how bad things are, there is something to be grateful for. And the better you feel, the more effectively you can respond to any challenge. 

  • We program our subconscious to create more of what we're appreciating when we hold a "picture" in our mind that makes us feel good.

You can use variations of this practice all day long to shift your mood, any time. In fact, you can use it to transform your child's happiness set-point, and your relationship with your child. 

Just find three things you're grateful for about your child. Really appreciate those things in your own mind, and express them, as specifically as you can.

  • "You worked so hard on that....you must be so proud of yourself!” 

  • “Wow! You picked up your toys! I love how orderly this room looks now!" 

  • "Thank you for getting your chore done with only one reminder!"

Notice that your child doesn't have to be perfect to deserve your appreciation.  The more you appreciate steps in the right direction, the more motivated your child will be to get there.

And notice this doesn't take any extra time out of your day. All it takes is for you to notice anything positive, and express it to your child. In fact, if you really want to see a child blossom, try an avalanche of appreciation. Why stop at three things?

Acknowledge your child throughout the day with as much enthusiasm as you can. Instead of evaluation ("You're my good girl"), be as specific as possible about what she's doing, or about how you feel.  

  • "I notice you got your pajamas on all by yourself!"

  • "Thank you for helping your sister with that."

  • "I appreciate how you took care of that."

  • “You two kids figured out how to make that fair all by yourselves!”

  • "I love how you help me find things in the grocery store....It's so much fun to work with you!"

Just express your appreciation as many times as you can, every day for a week, accompanied frequently by an affectionate hug. Watch your child's happiness set point -- and your relationship with your child -- transform.


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

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