I was fascinated to watch Hugh van Cuylenburg, founder of The Resilience Project, on the Today Show last week, discussing why so many kids are struggling with anxiety.
Cuylenburg believes the keys to happiness are gratitude, empathy and mindfulness. He thinks we’re too focussed on what we don’t have instead of appreciating all the good things in our lives.
He says we should be teaching our kids gratitude, empathy and mindfulness to build their resilience.
Those characteristics also build kindness. And the world could do with a lot more of that.
Earlier this year, Jody Scott asked in a Vogue article: “Is kindness the key to health and happiness?”
She wrote: “Numerous studies show when we are kind to others, we activate the reward centres of our brains, create new neural pathways, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, boost immunity and secrete feelgood brain chemicals including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, triggering a warm glow or ‘helper’s high’.
“Along with providing a mental boost, these neurotransmitters have physical health benefits. Dopamine is connected with memory, focus and motivation. Oxytocin, the love hormone, boosts self-esteem and optimism, soothes anxiety and protects heart health by lowering blood pressure. Serotonin is calming, wound healing and makes us feel happier. Endorphins also make us happy and help reduce chronic pain.”
Dr Ali Walker, a social researcher and author of ‘Get Conscious: How to Stop Overthinking & Come Alive’ added: “In the 80s and 90s, the emphasis was on helping your children be extraordinary and achieving more than others. Now we are teaching children to be empathetic and kind and mindful of others. It is a values shift from achievement to togetherness.”
Dr Walker said research had shown a strong link between our happiness levels and the quality of our relationships. “So if you want your child to be happy, you have to teach them how to have good relationships,” she says.
Their words crystallised something that I’ve been trying to practice without being able to articulate why.
The simple, selfish reason why I’m kind to my ex is that I’d rather fill my body with feelgood brain chemicals than bitterness.
I also want my children have good relationships in their lives, rather than avoiding love because it might devolve to hate.
As for mindfulness … OK, I’ve still got a long way to go on that front … I can’t say I’m a great example on that score.
But I’m making progress on being “present”. Nothing immerses me more in the moment than a gorgeous sunset or dip in the ocean.
And, while life’s challenges occasionally get me down … like yesterday … I know that I’m incredibly lucky – the good things in my life far outweigh the bad.
Song of the day: Crowded House “Don’t dream it’s over”