A very good friend of mine tipped me off to the great cover story of the current Atlantic. As she said, “It’s all stuff I’ve read before, but I liked the way the author synthesized the information.” Indeed, the Lori Gottlieb mentions various researchers whom I admire and have quoted from in talks and past newsletters … people like Wendy Mogel and Barry Schwartz.
It has an intriguing title: “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.” I highly recommend it to all parents, so please forward it to your friends.
A warning: this isn’t what you would call “light summer reading.” For one thing, it’s a long article with somewhat of a “heavy” subject. So, I’d like to add one note here to “lighten” your load.
In the piece, Schwartz is quoted as saying, “… happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” I agree with the inherent message that both Lori Gottlieb, the author of the article, and Schwartz are trying to convey. But I would also argue that the happiness they are discussing isn’t quite what I would call “true happiness.” They are talking about an overall mood.
True happiness, however, as monk and author Mattieu Ricard (http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/index.php/index/) would define it, is an inner calm that exists within yourself no matter what “mood” or circumstance you are in and is something you practice, not a destination at which you arrive. To say, “If x happens, I will be happy” is not true happiness. But to say, “No matter what happens, deep down, I live happiness” is true happiness.
Teaching your child how to “practice” happiness is therefore a worthy goal. And that can really only happen when you, as a parent, practice happiness and model it through your behavior, not your words.
I imagine that at this point you’re thinking, “Just great, Stacy. Thanks for adding one more thing on my already long list of things to do. For someone who doesn’t give advice, you sure are dishing it out today!”
But, as with everything I say or write, this is just a suggestion, or perhaps an invitation. And I do try to present research-based strategies that you can incorporate into your parenting in “baby steps.” Furthermore, practicing happiness is not difficult. In fact, here are two ways to “quick-start” it:
- Listen to or make music.
- Express gratitude.
These are two proven ways to change your mood immediately and increase your true happiness over time. You can do both with your children.
It doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to or make, as long as you enjoy it. It doesn’t matter to whom you express your gratitude, or what you say you are grateful for; just say it aloud or write it down. You don’t have to try both suggestions—just test out one.
Have a happy summer.