A few weeks ago I was talking with a mental health professional about a happiness study she'd heard about. Unfortunately, though I gave her my email, she never sent me the link to the research. The gist, from what I remember, was that if you take a few moments each day to focus on what made you happy that day, your overall sense of happiness increases, especially as you start to recognize the joy in the actual moment and not just later, upon reflection.
At at first I was skeptical that this pollyanna approach would teach the kids to tamp down emotions surrounding anything hard in their lives, but I was also intrigued. I actually do a really good job of letting the kids express their full range of feelings, so I decided perhaps this was an idea worth pursuing. So, a few nights a week, when we all happen to sit down together for a relaxing meal, we go around the table and share what made us happy that day. It's only been a few weeks, but we've stuck with it, and some neat things have happened.
First, we've actually learned a little more about each other's inner lives, goals and priorities. For me, it has been a chance to share with the kids that I have started writing a little and how happy and grounded that makes me feel. I also use the time to complement them on their kindness, or to share how much I appreciate the special time I have with them. Abe, our self-defined pre-teen, has been surprisingly revealing, especially about his peer interactions. For Oscar this has been a wonderful way to help him feel more comfortable sharing in a safe setting, something we are working on at school. And now we can't get him to stop talking -- he has so much to share. I think Ruby loves our new tradition the most -- she is often the one that reminds us. In typical Ruby style, she always attempts to control the order of sharing and time spent on each person. In the long run I think this will also benefit Ruby the most. She is fiery and quick tempered and prone to upset. Perhaps, just perhaps, focusing on the joyful moments in her day (she got to play "babies" with her best friend T.) will help her take the little disappointments (spilling a teaspoon of cold coffee on her pants) less seriously. I can always hope.
We are only a few weeks in, but I am definitely liking this addition to family time. Here are just a few things that have made me happy in the last couple days. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
1. Receiving "presents" from Ruby -- little drawings wrapped in paper with more tape than you'd use to wrap all your christmas presents.
2. Watching Oscar sing and play zampona in the recording studio. It was hard work for him, but he was such a champ and just loved the experience.
3. Hearing Abe try to relieve Oscar's anxiety over getting xrays, urine and blood draws today. I said to him privately "Abe you're so wonderful, but I want you to know I don't see this as your responsibility" He looked at me earnestly and said "But I'm his big brother, Mom. It is my responsibility", and went back to talking Oscar down. Guess what? It worked. Best blood draw EVER.
4. Paul, who desperately needed to work this afternoon, put on one of my favorite CDs for me while I was cooking. A simple way of looking out for me that I truly appreciated.
So, what made you happy today?