A recent study by UNICEF reported that Dutch children are the happiest. The top reasons cited for their happiness is that
- Dutch parents ranked among the happiest parents.
- Dutch mothers experienced the least stress.
- Child rearing is a collaborative effort by both parents.
Unfortunately, as a stark contrast, Kerala is among the unhappiest demography in the country. As a result depression rate there is sky rocketing. Women in Kerala are said to be even more stressed than their highly stressed counterpart in USA. Childrearing as a national average is skewed towards mothers, with fathers spending less than 15 minutes a day.
So how do we Happify our children despite the odds? What can we teach them this summer, that can ensure they live a happy and positive life?
Global studies indicate that children who exercise are happier. 20-40 minutes of non competitive exercise is recommended. The objective here is to ‘exercise’ and not to ‘ loose weight’ etc. Children who practiced Vinyasa Yoga, Martial Arts, Dance, Tai Chi, Trek, Swim for the joy of it were found to be better coordinated and happier. This is because such activities release a lot of dopamine and serotonin – happy hormones into their system. Hence, those children who did competitive sports were found to be more stressed .
In addition, the average health of children in Kerala is deplorable. Moreover, stamina, endurance, immunity and motor coordination, even among ‘sports champs’ are far less compared to average children I teach abroad. Children as young as 10 are unable to touch their toes. This has long term negative implications on their lower back. Most teens I meet, already have a slight hunch back.
Vinyasa yoga with its synchronous breathing and movements is a fabulous cardio. It helps develop strength, flexibility, agility and focus. Furthermore, it is a fun, sweaty, full body workout . It stretches and strengthens, builds physical immunity and mental resilience. Teach them a routine they can do. Also ensure they continue practice everyday.
Most children do not take to traditional meditation techniques. Instead they are adept at mindfulness meditation. You only need to remind them to enjoy the moments. For instance if they have the habit of cycling or looking at the setting sun by the backwaters, teach them to be completely present and enjoy all the sensations. Like how the air feels, the colors they see, the scents, the sounds etc. 8 weeks of 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily will help them be more joyful, calm and creative. Additionally it will create new neural pathways in the brain.
Every happy child needs, happy memories – whether they are real or imagined. Create a 15 minute guided visualization routine where they are at their favourite spot in nature. With practice, visualization routines help shift brain waves. It shifts from hyper beta to very soothing, healing alpha frequency.
Affirmations and Mirrors
Our thoughts and feelings have the energy to create our destiny. Teach your child from a very young age to repeatedly affirm a happy and positive day. ‘I am happy’, ‘ I am friendly’, ‘ I am healthy’ , ‘ I am beautiful’ are affirmations that need to repeated. As a matter of fact they should be repeated as many times in a day as possible. The effects are better when done facing a mirror. They should be said with a lot of energy and conviction.
Sharing and Gratitude
Sharing and attitude of gratitude helps release oxytocin. Oxytocin is morality drug that helps us bond, feel fulfilled and be joyful. Thus, those who share and are grateful for the small blessings are known to be happier-whether they are young or old. Thus, kids who share are less prone to be depressed and are more immune.
(As a parent, read up on child nutrition. In fact, unless the meals are balanced children tend to be restless, hyper or depressed. Organizations like Unblind My Mind, clearly document relation of ‘ conditions like autism with diet. What you feed your child may be damaging them. For this reason also ensure that they have unstructured play time. It must be remembered that atleast an hour of play time especially outdoors is important.)
In conclusion, this summer, may we raise children who are happy, positive and create a better change in the world.
Author : Nuthan Manohar
About the author : Nuthan Manohar, Founder of Me Met Me , is an international trainer, primary researcher and TEDx speaker on well-being. She conducts mind body interventions for children to boost their morale and create happiness among them. Recently, conducted an online mental well-being programme Game Changer for a record 1200+ Kerala Police Students.
Need more happiness ?? Reach out firstname.lastname@example.org , @nuthanmanohar