May has arrived and in Toronto where I live, we are stuck in the middle of the pandemic’s third wave. Morale seems to be at an all-time low. I am sure you’re exhausted of coming up with new things to do, but if we are gonna get a little happy spark back into the humdrum lives of our family – here are some ways that should help:
- Novelty: Break up the monotony by doing something novel every day. It could be as simple as serving pancakes for dinner, walking the dog around the block in the other direction, or trying a new brand of toothpaste. Shake SOMETHING up. Encourage your kids to try this too. Today I am drinking out of a different mug from the back of my cupboard. Hello old mug! Where have you been hiding?
- Surprises: When we get a happy surprise our brain release dopamine, which makes us feel pleasure and staves off bad feelings. Can your family make a concerted effort to add some fun surprises to routine? Think Elf on the shelf at Christmas! Maybe hide Hershey kisses in kids’ pockets or give the kids a gift card to buy a new toy online – just for no good reason. Okay, not that we have to materialistic. What about a love note under a pillow, or a sticky note with a simple riddle to solve posted above the toilet paper roll. Something to think one while you sit. J
- Anticipation: If you surprised them with toy money, now your kids have the pleasure inducing experience of anticipation! Waiting for the new toy to arrive is exciting! You can use the family calendar to add a few things each week that they family can look forward to and anticipate together. Seeing you have an end of school celebration on the calendar in a few weeks breaks the feeling of things being never ending. It is an event horizon to set your sites on, instead of a vast view of nothingness. How about marking the week you’re at a cottage you’ve rented in July? Seeing these things written down on the calendar helps your brain see that there are good things coming up.
- Goals: The reward circulatory of the brain also likes reaching goals. We like the positive feelings that come when you tick something off a to-do list. Similarly, kids ( and adults) seem to really be into keeping “streaks” going. Even my meditation app tells me how many mindful days in a row I’ve spent. Ask your child what goal they might set for themselves. It can be small and simple like practicing guitar for half an hour each night or drinking 6 glasses of water a day. Just pick something small and attainable in a reasonable amount of time.
- IRL Socializing: Kids are starting to forget what play dates are. Many kids are not wanting to connect with their friends when parents offer to set up a safe socially distanced visits. We have to urge them to stay connected in some cases. Get them to stretch out of their comfort zone and go for a bike ride with a buddy. When they’re back, have them self-reflect on how the feel now. Happier, right? Let’s step up the next one!
- Gratitude: Again, science shows us that expressing daily gratitude does make us happier. Why not take a moment at bedtime to ask your child what they are feeling grateful for today when you are tucking them in at night, or go around the table at supper time when you are all together to share what your feeling grateful for today.
Give some of these a try and hopefully the family will feel a lift in spirits. Hang in there!