Wellbeing In Children - (5 Steps To Happiness)
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Wellbeing In Children - (5 Steps To Happiness)

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Most parents, when asked what they wish for most for their children’s lives, will say… Happiness and health. The overall well-being of your child is always the most important thing to a parent. Figuring out how to get there, on the other hand, can be mind-frazzling. Today, more than ever, the ‘How to be Happy’ research, articles and tips are denser than ever before. Through this crowded forest overloaded with do’s and don’t of well-ness and mindfulness, we can often struggle to see the wood for the trees! At Designer Minds, we are fortunate enough to regularly see happy children during our STEAM Clubs and Camps. Having done quite a bit of research on the topic of happiness, we wanted to share some of the core principles of happiness for curious parents.

So what is happiness?

Some people might think, happiness is just the way you are. You’re either a happy, optimistic person or a pessimist. You are either glass half full or glass half empty. That's just the way it is. It is said that 40% of your ‘happiness baseline’ is determined by genetics. Then 10% accounts for the basic needs; having enough food, shelter and safety. This still leaves us with 50% that is completely up to us. This is the percentage we can work on through choices and behaviour.

Up until about a decade ago, we thought our brain pathways were set in early childhood. Meaning, that once we were who we were and had developed a way of thinking, we couldn’t unlearn or re-write our brains. Thankfully, we now know this to be untrue. Our brains are malleable and we can literally train ourselves to develop our minds to see the glass as half full. The optimistic scientists at Designer Minds argue that the glass is always full unless it’s in a vacuum ? In addition to training our minds, we can practice positive habits and behaviours. We can develop routines, make conscious choices to choose activities that are proven to make us happy.

The Parents Must Go First (You)

Before we focus on our child, we should have a little look at ourselves. As parents, we are the biggest influence on our children. We’ve all had an ‘Uh oh’ moment where we’ve witnessed our child mimic (often to a tee), something they have seen and learned from watching their parents!

So you’ve heard the phrase; ‘Do as I say, not as I do’... yeah, that one doesn’t tend to work out too well when it comes to happiness. Research has shown a link between mothers who feel depressed and ‘negative outcomes’ in their children. The children have been reported to act out and have other behavioural problems. It seems that happy parents have happy children. You may think, well, that's genetics. It turns out the research didn’t actually find any genetic component here. So maybe we can say that happiness is infectious. Maybe the behaviours chosen to develop Happiness are also mimicked, learned and repeated by our little ones. Be selfish sometimes, make sure you’re happy. We need to mind ourselves to mind others.

Learning from the happiest country in the world.

You may have seen the annual reports on the happiest countries in the world. Here in Ireland, we do pretty well in this department (we were ranked #17 in 2020). Of course, the Nordic countries are renowned for kicking the Happiness ball out of the park with their consistent high ranking. So what can we learn from them? What do these countries have that others may not have?....

Nic Mark’s research with the Happiness Index, pretty much answers this question. Mark’s measured how good a country is at providing happiness for its people and citizens in relation to the resources of the planet. In doing this, he came out with some simple fundamentals needed to achieve happiness. Well, if they work for the happiest people in the world, they've got to work for us, right? Having all five things present in our lives may be the key to long term happiness according to Marks. In fact, most research around happiness includes these five things in some variation or another, so we thought it would be a great place to start. Take a look and let us know if you have any other tips!


  1. Connect

    Humans are social creatures. With all of the technology today, we must not forget to connect with one another face-to-face. We can all see the value of connection in our everyday lives but we must remember to prioritise it for our children and ourselves. A dinner with friends and time well spent with family is invaluable for our state of mind and happiness. Research has shown a strong link between people with high-quality relationships and positive wellbeing in adults. For adults, it's important, even when busy, to set aside time to spend time with friends. The same goes for our children. Kids these days have eight fewer hours of unstructured playtime than we had 20 years ago. We need to connect with others to belong, to feel a part of something outside of ourselves. We get away from self-obsession which can often be the source of unhappiness for us. When we are isolated we can become lonely with a lack of connection. Find time to be completely present in the presence of others. Family dinners are a simple way of putting this habit into practice.


  2. Be Active

    Many of us in today’s world live in a society where we can go without exercise if we so choose. Thankfully, a lot of us have a life full of convenience. However, this convenience means we can often miss out on the major benefits of being active. It’s no secret that when we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, natural opiates. Some runners might know this to be the ‘runners high’, which can make it somewhat addictive (one of the good addictions!). This, of course, brings mental health benefits, makes us resilient, de-stresses and boosts our moods. It is said to boost memory and helps us think faster! Being active should not be reserved for the ‘sporty type’, nature, exercise and moving our bodies is for everyone. We just have to find our activity and the way we enjoy moving. Whether that is a hike in nature, a bike ride, or even some time with a hula hoop, we should all aim to get that 20 minutes a day and it’s key for our children’s wellbeing.

  3. Take Notice

    Artists and Photographers have this special knack for looking at things in a certain way. They pay attention to the smallest details, they see and find the beauty in their surroundings. This special knack is because they have learned to take notice. The world then becomes a fascinating place. Being curious helps to keep our minds looking for new and interesting things. Take moments to slow down and notice the world around you and all the beauty it holds. Encourage your child to practice gratitude for the little things in life, the beauty and mystery of all that surrounds us. In doing this we learn to practice gratitude in all aspects.
  4. Keep Learning
  5. ‘The happiest years of my life,' this phrase is quite often used when speaking about years in education. The carefree years where our only responsibility (for the most part) was to learn. Many people stop learning when they leave school and formal education. However, research shows that the brain rewards us for a couple of things, one of which, you guessed it…. is learning!

    Nic Marks, says we get a powerful buzz of delight from learning something new! So why don’t we keep learning? Well mostly because there’s often work involved, an effort we have to go through to get to that moment of new knowledge. The 'aha' moment! Of course, we can get around this by making the journey to knowledge more fun and enjoyable. For us at Designer Minds, this very point helps us to shape our Clubs, Camps and Classes into an exciting and enjoyable experience for children! We always try to encourage children to learn by doing, engaging and having fun. 

  6. Give

    In such a materialistic world, we often get caught up in the need to have lots of materialistic stuff! Often indulging in our own emotional needs thinking that materialistic things will somehow satisfy these needs. When we choose to look up and give, it can give us that exact happiness we were looking for in ourselves. Giving doesn’t necessarily have to be materialistic, we can give time, a listening ear or even a kind gesture.

    Studies have shown that this occurs in children even as young as toddlers. It seems children have a more positive emotional response when they give, specifically when it's something of their own that they choose to give up. Giving makes us happy! We can build beautiful memorable experiences with our children when we teach them the value of giving to others. This practice can start with the simple act of sharing their toys!

    This shortlist shows just five foundational truths to happiness in humans. When worked into everyday life they can improve the happiness of you and your children. We like to think of these as the baseline. They represent the why behind the choices we can take to improve our happiness. Of course, with the high degree of research into the Science of Happiness, we could have continued on and on, but we may have never stopped! We could have mentioned some ways you can work on sharing, but instead, we shared the importance of giving.



What we can do at Designer Minds, is welcome you to a community that practices many of these principles. Here, we run fun, interactive, hands-on science, design and technology clubs and camps for children. We prepare children for a brighter future, where the only limit is their own imagination! At these clubs and canos, children engage at least four out of these five keys to happiness. They connect and collaborate with friends, learn to share and give with others. They take notice of the world around them by finding solutions to life's challenges through STEAM activities. Here, children are continually learning through hands-on experiences. So, to tick off the fifth principle you would just need to get a bit of activity in before the club and they can get that at our outdoor Summer Camps!
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Introducing
Designer Minds Summer Camps

Designer Minds Summer Camps are for the curious kids who like to ask why, the creative kids who love to design and make, the little engineers who like to tinker and build and for the tech kids who love gaming, computers and robots. We’ve got a variety of interactive activities that are designed to be so much fun that children don’t even know they are learning!
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