lap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. – Pharrell Williams
A lot has been made in our culture about how to be happy. Pop stars sing about it. Ivy League professors lecture about it. Best-selling authors write about it.
“Positive psychology” has become a popular field for researchers exploring the roots of what makes for a happy and fulfilled life. What they’ve discovered is that happiness is not something that appears by magic. Nor is it something that a person is born with. Rather, happiness is something you can cultivate.
Yes, you can CHOOSE to be happy.
Moreover, there are things that each and every one of us can do– voluntary and intentional activities― that will increase our levels of happiness and meaning. Here are a few:
If your kids are like mine, they don’t take well to their parents giving them advice on much of anything — academics, athletics, you name it. In many ways, I am thankful for this. My kids are independent and have learned to do their homework on their own.
But I had to step in recently to help my middle-schooler with a term paper that needed a lot of help. I started with my red pen, crossing out sentences and circling misspelled words. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.
I ended up buying him a book on Amazon.com on “how to write a good term paper,” put it on his desk and hoped he would read it. So much for parental guidance.
According to Robert Menzimer, Executive Director of the Oakland, California-based Writer Coach program, which provides one-on-one tutoring to help students develop writing and critical thinking skills, many parents feel completely at sea about offering writing support. “Math assignments? No problem. Science projects? Absolutely. An essay for English? Lemme out of here!” says Menzimer.
As a child, I remember hearing the ominous male voice on the TV commercial asking parents: It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your children are?
These days, it’s a little easier to track our kids whereabouts with the help of smart phones and GPS. What we parents don’t always know, however, is where our kids our “hanging out” online.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t keep track of my kids’ Internet and social media use. I thought I was doing a stand-up job when I got my teenage son to “friend” me on Facebook a few months ago, only to realize that he hasn’t been on Facebook in over a year.
So where is he spending his time online?
According to a study of social media usage by 16-18 year olds, teens today are moving away from Facebook and onto “cooler” sites like Instagram (which is, granted, owned by Facebook), Snapchat, Vine and Kik. A majority of teens also use simple text messaging on a daily basis.
As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our children from harm, disappointment and failure. But doing so is not always in our kids’ best interests.
When my son was in fourth grade, his Little League team– a team we affectionately called the Bad News Bears – was on a 0-7-game losing streak with no apparent signs of a mid-season comeback. After a particularly dreadful loss, he threw his baseball cap to the ground and told me that he was quitting. “I hate this team. I hate losing. I quit.”
The frustration he was feeling was legitimate. The team was pretty awful. But I wasn’t about to let him quit. Instead, we talked about the importance of sticking with it and being a team player. He rode out the season, and the team managed to eek out a few wins.
Let’s face it. Being on a losing team is not fun. Getting a bad grade on a test is not fun. As parents, we often take extraordinary measures to spare our children from feeling the pain and disappointment that comes along with failure, or simply not being the best.
I have four kids – my boys are 15 and 13, my girls are 9 and 5. While my boys nearly drove me into the ground as toddlers with their endless physical energy and constant running around, the girls are currently winning the race to dig me an early grave with their ongoing girl drama and emotional highs and lows.
If I had to choose, I’d take the physical exhaustion of boys over the emotional exhaustion of girls ANY DAY.
I wasn’t expecting the girl drama to start at such a young age, however. This morning, my 5-year-old stopped me at the door of her Kindergarten classroom with tears running down her chubby little cheeks. She told me that she was scared to go to school, that her friends weren’t being nice, and that she wanted to go home.
Oy vey, I thought. Could the girl drama be starting so soon? She’s barely out of pull-ups.
Girls today are steering away from math, science and computers in record numbers.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the percentage of women graduates in computer science is at a 39-year low.
In 2012, women in the U.S. earned only 19% of all math and computer science degrees (compared to 37% 20 years ago) and made up less than 25% of the workers in engineering and computer-related fields.
Fewer than 10 percent (9.8) of American engineers today are women.
These statistics stand in stark contrast to the gains that women have achieved in law, medicine, and other areas of the workforce over the past 20 years.
While the lack of women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is often attributed to lack of ability or desire on the part of women, a more likely explanation is that societal beliefs, or stereotypes, color our view – insidiously sending our young girls the message that women do not have strong mathematical ability and that men make better engineers and scientists.
Christmas morning in my household is like a shark feeding frenzy, with the sharks (my four children) devouring a pile of bloody chum (the presents). After weeks of shopping and hours of wrapping and labeling gifts, I watch my little ones rip off the festive ribbons and tear through the boxes in a matter of minutes. It’s disheartening, to say the least.
How do we, as parents, cut down on the materialism and overriding consumerism of the holidays and teach our little ones the true meaning and spirit of the season? Moreover, how do we instill in them an “attitude of gratitude”?
A recent Wall Street journal article about raising kids with gratitude cited studies showing that children who “count their blessings” reap concrete benefits, including having stronger GPAs, experiencing less depression and envy, and having a more positive outlook on life.
Teaching our kids to say “thank you” is important, but according to happiness coach and author Andrea Reiser, “gratitude goes beyond good manners—it’s a mindset and a lifestyle.” It includes being grateful not just for material things, but also for the experiences we have and the people around us.
Whether you think life was easier back then, or better now, the Internet has created a sea change in the way we live our lives. Let’s take a look at the way things were before the Internet took over our lives.
When I was a teenager back in the 1980s, the Internet didn’t exist. Imagine, people walking around without iPhones glued to their hands. There was no email, no texting, no Facebook. How did we ever survive?
In 1995, Netscape introduced the first Web browser, which enabled anybody with a computer and Internet connection to “surf” the World Wide Web. Still, most people didn’t have readily available Internet access in their homes until well into the new millennium.
Fast forward to today. Most of our parents, if not grandparents, are now connected to the Internet via high-speed WiFi connections. Things have changed so fast, it’s hard to remember what life was like a mere 15-20 years ago.
Stay-at-home moms: Don’t fall for the media chatter that “opting out” of work to raise kids will sound the death knell for your career. It IS possible to get back in. You just need some advice and inspiration.
Remember, as a full-time mom, you opted in to the most important job in the world – raising the next generation of capable and responsible adults. There’s no need to regret your decision; it was the right one at the time.
But now that the kids are older– and you are able to get out of your jammies before noon – you may be ready to re-enter the workforce.
While job hunting may seem like a daunting task (do you even have a copy of your resume anymore?), these tips will give you some guidance as you begin your back-to-work journey: