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5 Ways To Teach Happiness To Kids

 

 

 

If you're like most parents, you want your kids to find happiness in life more than anything else. Despite the craziness of growing up (chores, sports practices, piano recitals, science projects, sibling rivalry, and on and on.....) parents want their kids to have adulthoods of meaning, purpose, and low stress. Is there anything we can do to help our children achieve this dream, or do we have to hope that happiness will descend from the heavens?

 

As it turns out, parents have a road map for guiding children towards emotional wellbeing. Over decades of research, the "science of happiness" has identified several habits that make happiness a more likely outcome for our kids. By teaching these happiness habits at home, we can help our children get on track for less stress, more resiliency, and more success at school and beyond.

 

Here are five tips for teaching happiness to kids:

 

1. Build a gratitude wall. Since gratitude makes us happier and healthier, it's a good idea to encourage kids to spend more time being grateful. Even if your kid is "wired to whine," he can get better at gratitude with practice. Try making a gratitude wall with Post-It notes. Every day, write down or draw a picture of two things for which you're grateful. Do this in the kitchen or another room where you spend a lot of time. This way you'll be reminded visually of the good things in your life, and you'll become more grateful as a result.

 

2. Say "screens are dessert." Want your kids to be happy and healthy? Think S.A.D. - "screens are dessert." Research has shown that excessive screen time leads to an unsettled and less focused brain. Point out the connection between "diet" and health. Is it OK for your child to eat ice cream and brownies all the time? Of course not! We should think the same way about screen time. Encourage a healthy "main course" of reading and exercise, preferably outside.

 

3. Bake cookies for a neighbor. Since kindness makes us happier and improves the quality of our social connections (an important predictor of emotional wellbeing), bake some cookies and bring them to a neighbor totally at random. Your kids (especially the younger ones) will love helping out in the kitchen. They will probably want to do this again and again, especially if they can sample some cookies along the way!

 

4. Create something. People who spend a lot of time being creative tend to be happier and less stressed. Encourage your child to use her imagination to create short stories, skits with neighborhood kids, silly songs, and works of art. Building a fort in the woods is a wonderful way to bond with friends while being creative.

 

5. Be curious. We're happier when we're learning new things and growing as people. Plus, the more you learn, the more creative you become. Pick a different state (or country) each week and learn as much as you can about it. You can include aspects of culture such as food, music, dance, and sports in meals and other family activities.

 

 

 

 

5 Fascinating Facts You Might Not Know About Ireland

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, people around the world are celebrating their Irish heritage (or they're pretending to be Irish for the moment).  Rivers are being dyed green, parades are filling city streets, and Irish music and dancing are entertaining the masses.  To help you get in the spirit, I'd like to share some fascinating facts you may not know about Ireland.   

 

1.  The highest mountain range in Ireland has the coolest name - Macgillycuddy's Reeks!

 

2.  There are no snakes in Ireland.  Legend has it that St. Patrick drove them out of the country.

 

3.  Ireland's population before the potato famine of the 1840s was larger than the country's population is today (it was around 8 million back then, and it's around 5 million now).

 

4.  During the 16th century, a legendary female pirate named Grace O'Malley ran raids off the west coast of Ireland.

 

5.  My sixth grade students love learning about one of Ireland's most popular sports, Gaelic football.  It is a blend of soccer, basketball, and rugby.  Here's a video that shows you what the game looks like - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEAbWrdB9XU

 

Anxious Kid? How To Calm Your Child

The classroom buzzes with tension on a test day.  Many students handle the situation serenely, but others are absolutely freaking out.  Nervous kids tend to trigger a chain reaction of anxiety, and sometimes even the calmest children can be drawn into the vortex of negative energy. 

 

If you're a teacher, you know what I'm talking about.  Maybe you've experienced a similar situation as a parent of an anxious kid.  Of course, we all feel stressed and overwhelmed at times.  Perhaps you've had moments when your plate seems impossibly full with responsibilities, schedule demands, and chaos.  Any parent of a young child has likely lived through this scenario!

 

Let me suggest a strategy for helping your child and yourself manage a stressful situation.  This is a mindfulness activity I use in the classroom.  I also share this in my online course, "The Parent's Guide To Surviving Adolescence." 

 

The next time you feel a great deal of stress or anxiety, close your eyes.  Picture a television remote control.  Pick it up, and "change the channel" to one of three channels you have created in your mind.  Each channel represents something that is peaceful, meaningful, funny, supportive, or inspiring.  Spend a few minutes watching this new channel.  Allow yourself to be completely immersed in what you see and hear.  In time, you will feel your mood completely change.  Your mind will relax, allowing you to ace that test or conquer the challenge before you. 

 

Sometimes I ask my sixth grade students to share their "channels" with me and with each other.  Here's a brief sample of their responses:

 

- Food Network

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5 Ways To Make Your Teen Happier

Pimples.  Hormonal changes.  Emotional extremes.  Argumentativeness.  Romantic relationships.  If you have an adolescent son or daughter, you may be living through these and other aspects of the teen years.  It's a period of great upheaval, for kids and parents (not to mention the teachers who never escape the drama of middle and high school).

 

Adolescence has always been hard, but today's teens are having an especially difficult time.  For a variety of reasons, teens are suffering from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before.  Consider this statistic:

- 17% of high school students seriously consider suicide (22.4% of girls)

That's unbelievable!  Unfortunately, the trend continues into the college years:

- 54% of college students have extreme anxiety

- 30% of college students suffer from severe depression

 

As parents, there are some strategies we can employ to help our teenage children endure this rough patch and emerge stronger in young adulthood.  We can practice these "protective factors" at home to boost our kids' emotional immune systems. 

 

Here are five ways to make teens happier and to promote long-term positive mental health:

 

1.  Have a consistent home or family routine.  I know how tough this can be.  My wife and I have four kids, and managing their sports schedules and social calendars seems harder than running a minor federal agency.        

A Risk-Free Fundraising Idea For Your Charity Or Nonprofit

Whether feeding the hungry, sheltering homeless animals, or providing other valuable services, charities and nonprofits impact society in many ways.  However, charities and nonprofits can't serve their communities without the funding that keeps them afloat.  Are you affiliated with a charity or nonprofit that requires donations?  If so, I have an idea that could help you raise money for your organization without spending a dime. 

When charities and nonprofits host in-person fundraisers, they often spend so much on speakers, bands, food, and other costs that they barely break even.  That's not the case with the project I have in mind.  As a speaker and the author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation, I would like to collaborate with you to create a different kind of fundraising event.

Here's the process I suggest:

1.  Reach out to your fans and supporters via social media, your website, and your email list.  Say something like this: "If you're a parent, you're probably interested helping your kids achieve happiness and success in school and life.  Well, we have a way for you to learn this valuable information while supporting our charity at the same time.  We're excited to announce that Mike Ferry, internationally-known speaker and author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation, will be our featured speaker on (choose a date and time).  He'll be talking about ways that parents can teach the art of happiness to their children.     

5 Tips For Getting A Raise

Would you like a raise?  Are you worried that your job might go to a robot someday?  Do you want to lower your stress level and improve your happiness?  

 

By boosting your creativity, you make yourself more valuable on the job.  This is even more important now, since 47% of jobs might be automated within the next 20 years.  Creativity also lowers your stress, giving you more energy and making you healthier as well.

 

Am I telling you that you can actually become more creative?  Yes!  While you may think that creativity is an innate ability you either do or don't have, research suggests otherwise.  We can train our brains to improve in many different ways, including creativity.

 

Creativity has never been more important in the history of the world.  We face challenges in commerce, medicine, public policy, ethics, and education.  Creative people will bring us to a brighter future.  Plus, creativity can help individuals who feel "stuck" and less happy than they did in previous years. 

 

Below are five simple things anyone can do to boost creativity.  These ideas come from a presentation I give and an online course I teach to help people cultivate their creativity.  I can't promise that you'll get a raise, but I know that these tips will lighten your mood and get those creative juices flowing.

 

1.  Read more.  Treat yourself to at least 15 minutes of pleasure reading every day.  The more we read, the more we learn.  The more we learn, the more creative we become.  Reading also exercises our imagination and lowers our stress.

 

2.   Laugh!  Laughter is great for your health.  It's been shown to improve your heart health, immune system, and energy level.  Plus, laughter can boost creativity by elevating your dopamine levels and getting your brain into a more relaxed state of being.  Check out a funny video on YouTube, read some jokes, or think back to a hilarious memory to get into a humorous mood.     

 

3.  Go for a walk.  Research shows that walking can make us more creative.  Resist the urge to multitask, though.  Leave the phone at home or at your desk and just enjoy the opportunity to get some exercise while your brain is making new connections and breakthroughs. 

 

4.  Avoid processed foods.  Diets rich in processed foods are associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression, and an unhappy mind can't be creative.  Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables to make your brain relaxed and ready to create.

 

5.  Listen to music.  When we hear music, our brains enter "mind-wandering mode."  During this time, it's much easier for us to think critically and creatively.  The effect is even stronger if you play a musical instrument.  Albert Einstein once said that he was able to do his best thinking after playing his violin for a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways Tai Chi Can Help Children

 

Many thanks to Marcus Clarke for providing this fascinating guest blog post.  Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.

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Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that integrates physical postures, slow body movements, and breathing and awareness exercises in order to train mental clarity and physical calm.

While the pervasive stereotype of Tai Chi is the image of aged Chinese monks practicing yogic poses in brightly coloured robes, recently scientists have done studies demonstrating that Tai Chi has numerous health benefits for all people and can benefit any age group – including children.

Here are five recent studies demonstrating the benefits of Tai Chi for kids:

1.    Children Become Able to Benefit from Tai Chi in Secondary School

One would think that a physical activity as advanced as Tai Chi could not be performed at a young age. However, a study of children in grades 7-9 provided support for the idea that even children as young as age 11 can benefit from Tai Chi.

The reason for this is that children of the secondary school age are at a place of cognitive transition, moving from “concrete operational thinking” to “formal operational thinking,” according to the stages of development identified by Jean Piaget. What this means is that children of this age are just developing the ability to understand abstract concepts like the future, and to imagine themselves in a future time.

The development of these new intellectual abilities means that secondary school children are just beginning to experience the internally-generated feelings of stress and anxiety for which Tai Chi can be beneficial. It also means that they have become capable of performing the abstract mental exercises related to Tai Chi, such as studying koans.

2.    Tai Chi Can Benefit Children with Severe Learning Disabilities

In many children with special needs, symptoms can include hyperactivity, lack of concentration, difficulty maintaining and focusing attention, as well as muscular tension. It is believed that in many learning disabilities, physical symptoms such as restlessness and heightened arousal co-occur with mental or emotional symptoms such as anxiety and mania.

This co-occurrence of mental and physical symptoms is why Tai Chi might be an effective treatment for children with severe learning disabilities. Tai Chi combines focus on the mind with focus on the body, and can help practitioners discover ways that attending to the body can calm the mind.

While some psychology studies have investigated this connection, more research is required to establish a firm link between Tai Chi and improvements in children with severe learning disabilities.

3.     Tai Chi May Improve Attention Deficits Occurring in ADHD

The most common way to combat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) is pharmacological treatment with drugs such as Ritalin. The prescription and use of Ritalin is a matter of some controversy, however, and alternative methods of treating ADHD are important to investigate.

One study tested healthy adolescents for ADHD indicators before, during and after a 15-week introductory Tai Chi course. Results demonstrated that the students who had been performing Tai Chi during the 15 weeks reported improved abilities to pay attention relative to the students who had not been doing Tai Chi.

4.    The Vestibular Sensations of Tai Chi May Decrease Nightmares

Children can sometimes be affected by recurring night terrors or nightmares. In many of these dreams, a vestibular (balance-oriented) sensation occurs, such as a feeling of falling.

Tai Chi involves a large component of balance training, and so it is very intriguing to consider the possibility that there might be a connection between Tai Chi and vestibular sensations in dreams. One study showed that a population of college-age women who did Tai Chi reported decreased nightmares compared to a similar population who did stretching exercises that did not contain vestibular stimulation.

5.    Children Hoping to Benefit from Tai Chi Must Do It Often

While several studies demonstrate that children may benefit from performing Tai Chi, it is important to note that these benefits do not come about without consistent effort.

A study done on secondary school students (with an average age of 13 years old) did not find that Tai Chi had any significant benefits on levels of stress or anxiety, despite the Tai Chi sessions being well-attended. The authors of the study conjectured that this was because students only performed Tai Chi once a week for 10 weeks, and results might not have shown until later.

Tai Chi can definitely improve longevity, but that doesn’t mean it should only be performed by elderly people. With sustained effort and the right attitude, the practice of Tai Chi holds benefits for all, including children.

Fiddlin' Across America

Last summer, the six members of the Ferry family did something truly crazy.  We drove our 2003 Honda Odyssey nearly 7,000 miles from Richmond to Seattle and home again.  Needless to say, it was a very loud minivan.

Along the way we saw some of the most beautiful vistas our country has to offer.  Many of these were in the seven National Parks we visited: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Wind Cave, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Shenandoah.  We planned to hit several more before returning to Virginia, but our transmission died in Boise.  What was supposed to be a relaxing week's drive became a three-day sprint so that we could get back in time for school. 

I had my violin with me, since I planned to play at our cousin's wedding (the reason for our epic journey).  Somehow I got the notion that it would be fun to play fiddle tunes and American favorites with these famous sites in the background.  Jenny agreed to film my performances, and they became the "Fiddlin' Across America" series on my YouTube channel.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service's founding, here are the videos we shot in the parks we enjoyed during our journey.

 

 

Want More Energy In The Kitchen? Teach Happiness!

What Teachers Really Want For Teacher Appreciation Week

Every year, students bring in baked goods, gift cards, handmade notes, and other presents during Teacher Appreciation Week.  Keep them coming - teachers love that stuff!  However, there's a FREE gift that teachers really want their students to carry with them into the classroom during Teacher Appreciation Week and the rest of the year.

 

It's called the growth mindset.  Students with a growth mindset will embrace challenges, persist when the going gets tough, value effort above natural ability, and achieve more in school and life.  If the whole classroom were filled with growth mindset kids, teachers could move mountains every day.

 

Wouldn't it be great if parents could help their kids develop the growth mindset?

 

Here are five tips for giving your kids a growth mindset:

 

- Avoid using words like "smart" and "talented."  It may be hard to break this habit at first, but try to find a different way to praise your child. 

 

- Show your kid that effort leads to success.  Did she bring home a stellar report card?  Tell her that her grades come from her hard work and discipline, not her natural ability.

 

- Tell your kids that there are few "overnight" success stories.  Whether you're talking about an athlete, a musician, a politician, or another type of celebrity, focus on the fact that he probably had to work for a long time before reaching the pinnacle.

 

- Embrace struggle.  Is your child having difficulty in a subject at school?  Praise her for persevering.  Let her know that self-discipline and grit will take her far in life (much further than the actual grade she receives in school).

 

- Celebrate victories, no matter how small.  Did your son's baseball team have an exciting come from behind victory?  Did your daughter master a difficult dance routine?  Did your kid do well on a test after preparing for it for weeks?  Take the time to celebrate success.  If we feel that our effort leads to positive results, we're more likely to try hard in the future.

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