What Helps Us Be HAPPY? Make Your HAPPY Action Plan.

What helps us be happy?

What factors contribute to a sense of joy even though we face challenges?

What, if anything, can we do to help ourselves and our children be happy?

Here is my model for how we can think about how we can help ourselves and our children be happy.

This is the second part in a three-part series from the Helping Your Child Be a Happy, Successful Self-directed Learner workshop.  Link to part one, about setting the stage here.

Let’s take a deeper look at HAPPY and how we can support our happiness.


The H in happy stands for Health.

All kinds of health – physical, mental and emotional.

You can’t make someone feel happy. And life isn’t about only feeling happy. You want to help your child feel and express their full range of emotions to support their mental and emotional well-being.

You can help your child identify and express emotions, feelings and communicate their needs effectively.

Sleep, nutrition, and daily exercise are huge factors in health and happiness.

You can model taking good care of yourself and showing them how to care for their own needs.

Getting out in nature and free, unstructured play help us develop skills, learn and connect with ourselves and others in ways that contribute directly to our health and happiness.  We are seeing the negative repercussions in adults and children who do not get enough time in nature or at play.

We can’t control the genetics and many of the health issues we are born with. But we can learn about our issues, research our options, and make daily choices to improve our health.

Learning and practicing meditation and mindfulness can improve can reduce our stress, improve our health and contribute to increasing our happiness.



The A in happy stands for Autonomy, Action and some use the term Agency.

Feeling contented, happy and joyful in life is associated with feeling empowered and motivated.

It comes from having both responsibility and freedom. To have choices, control over your actions and real decision making power.

To know you have the freedom to try, to fail, to learn and start all over again.

To understand that even in situation when you lack control, that you can choose your attitude and how you will approach the actions that you take.

The feeling of being the driver of you life instead of a powerless passenger leads to motivation and contributes to happiness.

As parents, our challenge is to learn how to encourage, support and scaffold independent action that leads to successful learning and resilience in dealing with failure and challenges which are part of life.

One P of happiness is for People.

People, accepting and knowing your self, relationships with family and friends, finding your peeps in the community and in the big wide world!  People are all about connection, compassion and caring.

No matter whether you are an introvert, or extrovert, at a certain basic level we all need to feel that we belong – maybe it’s just to one other person, or a very small group, or perhaps you are a person who craves a big wide open tribe. But how we learn to have empathy for ourself and extend it to other people has a huge influence on our sense of well-being.

A good sense of self and connection to others are the birthplace of generosity, empathy and attention.

You can help your child with your acceptance, unconditional love, presence, and attention. You can help them learn how to connect and model great listening skills and empathy.

Often we think these people skills just happen, or only certain folks are born with the knack for connecting. But we can all learn to do better in these areas if we choose to. And we can help our kids if these are areas where they struggle,

Learning to connect and build community, within your family, neighborhood, group of self-directed learners, or with colleagues and employees are life skills that will be used again and again.

Connection is key – from entrance to exit on this planet, love and support, family and friends, have the power to shape our attitudes and actions. We can improve our communication skills, pay attention and connect to increase our happiness.



The second P is for purpose.

Purpose you set. The purpose fueled by curiosity and passion.

Led by interests, meaning, values and priorities.

Purpose puts the power behind motivation and working toward mastery when it doesn’t come easy.

Purpose is knowing what matters to you and that what you do matters.

Sometimes you have to try many things until you find your purpose, your true north, and you want to prioritize your most precious resource, time.

Finding our purpose, and knowing our purpose goes beyond ourselves gives our toil meaning.

Am I just washing the floor again,  from the newest spill of grapes squashed into the floor a mere 17 minutes after I washed the floor? Do I want to feel like a downtrodden Sisyphus condemned to the same, unrewarding task again and again, or can I try to see beyond the boring chore to the possibility of passing on a sense of humor, of dealing with the small stuff with good cheer, of doing what needs to be done quickly and asking for help instead of spewing guilt and negativity.  I am not saying I  always do, but sometimes I remember to try and I can find a bit of transcendence in the task by giving it my full attention and taking care of business with love.

More often I dive into complaint and blaming, instantly regretting when I see the negative impact.

Why can’t I always remember to breathe and laugh first, and that work is love made visible?

Purpose is served by progress, not perfection.  Repeat after me, progress not perfection.  And working on our perspective.

Yes! Your outlook! Your perspective.

Y is for Yell Yes!

Being positive and optimistic. You can practice seeing possibility and how you can learn from what life throws your way.

Adopt and model a growth mindset. Figure that all life is learning and an experiment in progress. Your ups and downs, successes and failures, and many mistakes are are data for learning what to try next time.

Say yes to taking responsibility for your attitudes and actions, and adopting an attitude of gratitude.

Say yes to curiosity and engaging fully rather than sitting on the sidelines and waiting or judging.

Practicing and modeling a positive outlook, growth mindset, and a playful approach to learning will up the happiness quotient in your home.

So, in quick review – my quick nemonic for the major components that contribute to our happiness are:


Autonomy and Action



Yes/Your outlook

So what can we DO?


10 Daily Happiness Helpers

Following are a list of 10 daily happiness helpers.

Whether you think of them as tips or tools, they are specific actions that you can add to your daily routine to increase happiness and joyful learning.

Since happiness contributes to success, well they will help build the foundation for successfully dealing with an uncertain future.



  1. Nature

Get out in nature, in some way, everyday. Raise a wild child!



2. Exercise

Move, move, move. Set up an exercise habit for the whole family.



3. Time! with loved ones.

Yes, time with loved ones, be they family or friends. Maybe it is in person, maybe on skype.  Maybe you exercise with friends and family out in nature! This is one area where you could combine and conquer.



4. Gratitude.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading and listening and paying attention.

Thanks for letting me share my mistakes and lessons learned.

And my singing, songwriting, memories…

“Start you day with some gratitude,

no matter what your lattitude,

it will change your attitude,

so start your day with some gratitude.”


Feel it, express it, pass it on.




5. Mediation and Mindfulness


Breathe in, breathe out, slowly. Again.

Embrace, let go.

Feel your heartbeat. Count your breath. Listen.

Practice presence and quieting that racing monkey mind.

Do you have a link to a great mediation? Drop it in the comments, please.



6. Quality and Quantity of Sleep  and  7. Taking Naps

ZZZZZ, I will quote myself here:

The secret of life is not too profound,

You must Zzzzz enough, is what I have found

 from my ABC’s of Learning Beyond School, Z is for ZZZZZ

What can you change to improve your sleep? Your child’s sleep?



8. Challenge/Learn

Learning something new is so much fun – and for me, even when challenging, relaxing when my focus is complete.

Learning new chords on the ukulele and struggling with fingering for a new song has been a wonderful way for me to challenge my brain and banish the blues. It helps me relax from the strain of too many responsibilities, troubles I can’t control and too little time.

Maybe it is solving a puzzle, conversing in a new language, trying a new recipe.

Feed your curiosity, your learning muscles and your happiness.



9. Laugh and Play

Laughter is the best medicine, a great way to connect  and P is for Play!




10. Touch

Hug. Kiss. Massage. Hold.

A pat on the back. A touch on the arm. A handshake. An arm over a shoulder, around the waist, a shoulder to cry on.

Greeting, commiserating, comforting.

Sometimes it seemed to much but now I miss the days of non-stop touch; holding my baby boy in the rocking chair, cuddling on the couch, stories and snuggling before bed.

And making time and energy for touch for partners, not just kids.

Beyond tired? The camel and last straw are beating at your door? Maybe touch is just what you need.



Okay it is time to  put all the swirling ideas into a plan. Below is one way you can make a happy action plan.  Each person can assess their strengths, concerns and things they want to try and implement to boost each area which helps you be happy.





What else do you think contributes to your happiness?

What kinds of happiness habits and routines do you have in  your family?

What sounds easiest to try?

Most difficult? Most important for you? Why?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!


Thanks so much for helping ME be happy, XO Lisa





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