Young children have an innate wisdom that is often lost as they age. It is why I wrote my most recent book, Secrets Kids Know…That Adults Oughta Learn. I wanted to show readers how they can enrich their lives by tapping into the joyous times of earlier years. While the focus of the book is not happiness, many of the things kids do can promote happiness. For example…
KIDS LIVE IN THE PRESENT
One day while I was awaiting to get on a flight, the gate agent announced that because of the weather conditions in the city where we were headed, we would not be boarding for at least an hour. I noticed that many of the adults became upset. The kids on the other hand used the time to enjoy the delay.
Two young boys took out a handful of toy cars and trucks from their backpacks. They sat on the ground and happily used the pattern in the carpet as roads and highways for their miniature vehicles.
Happiness challenge 1: Can you take a difficulty or frustration you are facing and, like the kids at the airport, find something enjoyable about it?
KIDS SEE THE WORLD ANEW
Everything has the potential to bring a child joy. Often the carton a toy came in is as much fun to play with as the toy itself.
When I was young, I loved taking all of the pots and pans out of a lower kitchen cabinet, using them as musical instruments and stacking them in different ways. I’d repeatedly remove them and put them back in the cupboard, occupying myself for a long time.
In Zen Buddhism there is a concept referring to an attitude of openness and a lack of preconceived notions. It is called “shoshin,” or “beginner’s mind.”
Happiness challenge 2: Can you find more joy in your life by seeing it with a beginner’s mind?
KIDS ARE OPTIMISITC
For a child, the sky’s the limit. In their imagination, they can be whoever or whatever they want. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, for example, one young girl said, “I want to be a dancer clown doctor who drives a bulldozer.”
In the world of improvisation, when one actor says or does something, the other actors don’t reject it, no matter what it is. Instead they accept whatever has been handed to them and build on it. It is called “Yes and…” thinking.
Happiness challenge 3:Can you be optimistic and say “yes” to whatever comes along in your life?
KIDS ARE FORGIVING
One teacher I read about gave each of her students a sack of potatoes and asked them to write the name of someone they have not forgiven. Someone who might have made them angry, called them names or bullied them. Then she asked them to carry that sack around the room for a while. Pretty soon the students realized how much not forgiving someone weighed them down.
Not forgiving someone is like a stagnate, polluted river. It clogs up your life and obstructs its flow and impedes your happiness.
Happiness challenge 4: Who are you not forgiving that is weighing you down? (Don’t forget to include yourself in your answer.) Consider finding a way towards forgiveness.
KIDS ARE JOYFUL
When I was growing up I was told to “get serious,” “settle down,” and “wipe that smile off your face.” Unfortunately, many of us do just that as we “grow up” and we forget about our joyful childlike exuberance. Perhaps adults need to reclaim that joyfulness by “growing down.”
Recently, for example, I was in a restaurant with some friends. It was very crowded and extremely noisy. The table next to us was a particular culprit. Two young women with very loud, earsplitting laughs were obliterating our conversation. So, I “grew down.”
I emulated their high pitch laughter. As soon as my friends heard that, they got hysterical with laughter too. Suddenly instead of being annoyed by the other table, we were joyously convulsing with laughter.
Happiness challenge 5: When was the last time you “grew down,” became silly and laughed until tears streamed down your face? Go ahead, and give it a try!