Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Science of Happiness: Can it be Taught?

Being a foster parent is alot of things. Exhausting, rewarding, both a blessing and somedays you might think a curse, haha, even a path to happiness. Sometimes. Sometimes not.

Recently my co-author and I were invited to be beta-testers and "pioneers" for a web-site called Happify. Basically its a science based website that uses games, surveys, and challenges to help increase your personal happiness. When you log on, you take a survey to find out where in your life you might need to improve your life, to feel more happy, then, using their research, you are given lessons to work on each day to increase your happiness quotient.

Diane just started this process, and it seems to have some valid and helpful advice and usefulness.  We thought as foster parents, some of you might want to check it out and use it as a stress release, and a way of tuning in to your own emotional needs; something we know as foster or adoptive parents is often put on the back burner. Check it out at

In any case, this whole idea about happiness got me thinking about my foster kids and happiness.  Due to abusive upbringings concepts like "happiness" aren't always understood naturally like they would be with other kids.  How do we teach happiness?

I came upon this Psychology Today article that talks about kids and teaching happiness. Basically, showing that happiness is felt through the act of Giving... I like that idea, and I can see that kids do feel happy when they give (as well as receive, obviously...)
Check out the article and see what you think.
Do you have any thoughts about teaching kids with troubled pasts about happiness? I would love to hear your stories.

Acts of Kindness: Key to Happiness for Children & Teens

Four simple steps to increase children's happiness.

Most parents and teachers want children to be happy.To that end, parents find themselves doing things for kids to make them happy, like buying gifts, taking them for ice cream, playing games together, or helping with homework.
Teachers are constantly doing for children too. In addition to understanding the link between knowledge and happiness, teachers often buy supplies from their own paychecks, bring treats to class, plan fun excursions, and support students in other immeasurable and enduring ways.
Do acts of kindness toward children make us happier parents and teachers? Of course they do.

In fact, studies consistently show that we feel happier when we perform acts of kindness – for our children, students, families, friends, and communities. Not only do good deeds make us feel better, but as David Brooks explained in the New York Times article Nice Guys Finish First, people who are kind and compassionate are usually the most successful.
The Kindness Dilemma – Receiving vs. Giving
Unfortunately, we don’t make children happy by simply enabling them to be receivers of kindness. We increase their feelings of happiness and well-being, reduce bullying, and improve their friendships by teaching them to be givers of kindness.
The truth is that children are born to be altruistic givers. But somewhere between birth and 4th grade, they are socialized to think more about themselves than others. (Yes, we all play a role in how this occurs.)
How do we change this trajectory and improve children’s well-being?
A recent study, Kindness Counts, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside, broke new ground by showing the benefits derived by tweens when they were taught happiness-increasing strategies.
For a month, several hundred 9-11 year-olds performed and recorded three acts of kindness each week for anyone they wished. Another several hundred kept track of three pleasant places they visited during the week.
Not surprisingly, the results were consistent with adult studies. When kids performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited during the week, they significantly increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Read more at:


  1. great post, I'm going to check Happify, sounds like a very useful site

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a HAPPY day!