As we all know, fathers play critical roles in the lives of their children. In the midst of driving to baseball games and swim meets, grilling hot dogs, and making your kid laugh, you might not have been thinking about the happiness habits you are instilling along the way. Before learning about the “science of happiness,” I certainly wasn’t focused on the long-term emotional wellbeing of my four children. Instead, my thoughts centered on surviving each intense parenting day with a semblance of a sense of humor. Now, however, I realize that I have the ability to shape my kids’ future mental health by teaching happiness at home.
After learning about the science of happiness at an educational conference, I felt compelled to write my first book, Teaching Happiness And Innovation. Since the book came out, I’ve had lots of people ask how parents can actually teach happiness. I think that the easiest way to begin is to encourage gratitude in your family. Being grateful is cost-free, and it doesn’t require a prescription. When we express gratitude, our brains release dopamine, a chemical known as the “happiness neurotransmitter.” Gratitude literally alters the biological composition of the brain, and it’s a gift that we can give ourselves again and again.
Here’s a fun and engaging way to bring more gratitude into your home. Grab a stack of Post-It notes. Over the course of a week, have everyone write down or draw something they’re grateful for twice a day. Put the notes on the wall in your kitchen. As they walk by this “gratitude wall,” your kids will be reminded of the good things in their lives. This activity will also lead to fun and heartwarming conversations with your children.