Shonda Rhimes made a powerful statement in her recent TED talk. She said "My tiny humans show me how to live."
Children are wiser than most of us acknowledge and have a great deal to teach us. They interact with the world in an unassuming way, not yet programmed by the routine thinking of the adult world. They have a youthful spring in their step and a sparkle in their eye.
My training as a psychologist taught me to observe and look for trends in human behavior. I'm a mother of two boisterous boys and when I stepped back recently to observe their behavior I noticed some powerful yet simple patterns in the way they approach life.
We all have the ability to learn from children and those around us. Here are five of the lessons my children have taught me about how to be happier.
1. A lack of sleep makes us grumpy.
We are quick to put a child's whiny mood down to being tired, yet as adults we frequently underestimate how important adequate sleep is. As we grow-up we get better at hiding the pure frustration and moodiness that comes with being exhausted. Tragically, many of us begin to think it's normal to feel this way and constantly live in a state of sleep deprivation. But just as it is for children, adults tend to get grumpy when they're tired. Being grouchy impacts on the quality of our interactions with the world around us, and ultimately undermines our happiness. Sleep is an essential prerequisite for a positive mood for both children and adults.
2. You can run-out excess mental energy.
Just like the kid's song states, watching my children has taught me that we really can "shake our sillies out." When my boys are getting titchy, there is nothing like some physical outside playtime to turn their moods around. It's appears to feed their brains fresh air and push out all the mental cobwebs. An excess of mental energy in adults often feels liked a stressed, anxious or overactive mind and my boys have taught me that exercise can act as a physical release for that mental tension.
3. Joy is found in the moment.
Our lives are happening in the now, right in front of us. Children naturally commit themselves fully to what they are doing and immerse themselves in the present moment. When they are actively involved with a task they are not lost in their heads contemplating tomorrow, but focus intensely on the activity at hand. Adults too often run through life completing tasks on auto-pilot while absorbed in their minds or while on their phones. Children know that true joy is found in interacting fully with the present moment.
4. Remember the good things and don't dwell on the bad.
My children naturally have a willingness to let go of the drama and concentrate on the happy times in life. Each night when I lay down to tuck my 4-year-old into bed, even if parts of the day have been tough, he always remembers the positive moments. As adults we too can encourage positive feelings by making a conscious decision to concentrate and recall the good-stuff that is happening in our lives.
5. Friendships are essential for our well-being.
My boys are never happier than when they are playing with their friends. We are naturally social beings. Even if some of us have a lower need for contact with others, we all still need genuine human connection. As we move further into adulthood, finding time to spend with our friends and maintaining our friendships can feel like a luxury that time doesn't afford. Yet it shouldn't. My children have taught me that friendships are an essential key to our lasting happiness. We were born to crave connection and if happiness is important to us then our friendships deserve to be at the top of our to-do lists.
Kate is a Life and Executive Coach at www.thrive.how. She helps people who want the good stuff out of life, get it. Through her individual coaching programs, she helps people clarify their thinking, grow into their potential and re-gain balance. You can learn more about Kate by following her onFacebook or Instagram, or sign up to get a copy of her free guide with 8 Tips on How to Thrive in Life.