In the Eyes of a Child

Obviously, life gets stickier and more complicated as you age. As for many of you, the childhood wellsprings of joy shrink to a trickle. Luckily, people have found ways to make things better: take a few happiness lessons from the children themselves. It always helps to first start small. Happiness and appreciation for the small stuff are a great first step. Happy people report that they enjoy simple things such as a sunny day or having lunch with a friend. You also need to take less for granted, because with this, you learn to be more grateful.

People who regularly take note of the positive things in their lives feel more overall satisfaction, more connection with others, and greater optimism than those who focus on their burdens. By this, it means that you need to consciously savor each moment, pausing to appreciate the positive components, large and small, of your life. But don’t take savoring itself for granted. List down the things you are most grateful for, but don’t turn this task into some sort of a routine.

Of course, you also need to play hard. That kids are so often on the move is part of the reason they are so upbeat. The mood-enhancing effect of physical activity has been well-documented. For adults, short bursts of exercise are enough to change your state of mind. Just ten minutes of aerobic activity improves mood, increases vigor, and lowers fatigue. Physical activity has a positive effect on people’s perceptions of their own capabilities, which in turn increases their sense of wellbeing. And this isn’t about running marathons.

Moderate, brisk activity can be just as effective in getting the desired results. Instead of simply adding treadmill time to your routine, opt for a kid-style workout. This is the kind of physical play that experts refer to as active leisure. Rather than plopping down in front of the TV, take walk and play a game of Frisbee. See your mood improve along the way.

Never forget to listen to your body. When you need to cry all that anger and anxiety out, then do so. After your venting session, you’ll feel a lot better. Children know when they need a good cry, a snack, or a nap. You can also profit from reconnecting with that kind of natural self-regulation especially when it comes to getting enough rest. You may focus too much on your diet and exercise, but get way little sleep, which is just as important. People without enough sleep feel sadder, angrier, and more stressed. So, how do you make sure you snooze well at night? First, get enough daily sunlight, since changes in light signal the brain to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime.

And while it may seem like a good idea to finish your work before your workout, you’ll pay in the long run with exhaustion and stress. When it comes to health and happiness, thinking like a child keeps you feeling young and fit. So, it may be time to look at the younger generation for a few of life’s lessons.

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Updated: February 17, 2014 — 9:33 pm

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