Most parents want their children to be happy. In fact, we are willing to do almost anything to ensure our kid’s safety, success, and happiness.
We struggle to protect their safety, do all we can to educate and motivate toward success, and we work hard to provide for their happiness.
However, the reality is that the things we fight against – risk, vulnerability and failure – are necessary factors on the journey toward success. And happiness is not something we can provide or something to be achieved once and for all.
Happiness is tricky. Pursuing happiness is like chasing your own shadow. You know it’s there, but you can’t seem to grasp it. One moment it’s in plain sight and the next you’re not sure where it’s at.
When we pursue happiness, it’s always just beyond reach because the things we think will make us happy do not last very long. For instance, chocolate cake makes me feel happy while I’m eating it and getting a new toy makes me feel happy until a better model comes out.
Happiness is elusive if pursued. It’s usually more of a byproduct of circumstance or mindset.
The great thing about this is that if we interrupt our desire to achieve happiness and strive for things like purpose, meaning and significance, we often experience greater happiness.
When we seek deeper virtues like compassion, relationships, contribution, learning, and becoming a better person, our lives take on deeper purpose, meaning and significance.
There are the kinds of pursuits that are rewarding and enjoyable beyond fleeting circumstances.
In Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about his experience in Nazi concentration camps. He explains that even in the midst of terrible suffering, he observed people who chose an attitude of hope and optimism.
Every person has the opportunity to choose how to approach life. We can choose to be a victim of circumstance or we can choose to tackle life head on by seeking deeper virtues.
The happiest people are the ones who choose to be warriors instead of victims. They choose to get better instead of bitter. They choose to see the good in people and circumstances and experience deeper joy and happiness in the process.
So what does this have to do with happy teens? What are the secrets to happy teens?
Well, teenagers are in the middle of a complete brain rewire (see more on this here). They are setting patterns, behaviors, habits and mindsets that will continue for life (unless consciously and purposely challenged).
If we can help them understand the truth about happiness and teach them the following 2 secrets to joyful and happy mindset, I believe they can learn how to choose happiness for the rest of their lives.
The first simple secret to happy teens is gratefulness.
As a family, make it a habit for each person to share at least 3 things they are grateful for. When you feel grateful toward something, it’s very difficult to feel fear, worry or anger at the same time. It’s like the feeling of gratefulness uplifts and overpowers the negative emotions and washes them away.
Studies have shown that people normally wired to be pessimistic can rewire their brain to be optimistic by taking a few minutes everyday to think about 3 things they are grateful for in the last 24 hours!
The second simple secret is to do something to help make someone else happy.
The happiest people are the people who help other people. Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.”
Whether it’s giving money to a charity, going on a mission trip, helping someone lift something heavy, smiling and saying “hi,” or any number of other things, giving benefits the giver as well as the receiver.
Simple doesn’t mean easy. Yes, these ideas sound easy. The hard part is putting them into practice and repeating day after day. Jim Rohn said it well, “Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tones.”
Teach your teen the discipline of these two actions and reap the benefits for years to come.