OK, I didn’t actually go back to high school as a student – as much as I would love to hop back 20 years, the thought of going back is a bit, well, terrifying. But I did get a chance to give a talk to 500 high school students at our local high school, as part of their Be Kind Day. Even though I give dozens of talks a year, the idea of talking to high schoolers about happiness and gratitude and being kind freaked me out – I half expected them to sleep through the talk or stay glued to their phones. I was wrong. Not only were they an awesome audience, they were soaking everything up like sponges and had a lot of questions and ideas to share.
You know how kids say things in that awesome pure way that makes you go: “Oh, yeah, totally!”? These were not kids, but when I asked the audience to share some of their favorite ways to stay positive and deal with daily stress, what they said made me feel that, exactly, every single time. So here are 10 things I learned from high schoolers about how to be happier:
- Remember the bigger picture. If you get a bad grade (or a traffic ticket, or a bad performance review, or a nasty look from someone) try to remember that this is just one event among many, many others in your life and don’t blow it up into something all encompassing.
- Take a walk. If you’re stressed out, taking a walk clears your mind. It’s also better than eating a box of cookies.
- Start the day by doing something you really like, like listening to your favorite music. How you start your morning has a huge impact on how the rest of your day goes. (Here are some tips for making your mornings more awesome, even if you’re not a morning person.)
- If you have something on your mind, share it with a friend. Getting things off your chest really helps, especially if you’re sharing them with a friend or family member you love.
- Do something kind for a stranger. When you do something nice for another person you make them smile – and that makes you feel better.
- Cut people some slack. If someone is not being nice to you, think about what might be going on in their lives to cause them to take out some negative emotions on you. You will feel better than getting angry or annoyed if you practice.
- Do something nice for yourself. Maybe treat yourself to a favorite snack or watch some of your favorite shows for a bit – if you’re stressed or anxious, being nice to yourself is a really good way to bring it down a notch.
- Surprise your friends and family with small awesome things. Buy them a small unexpected gift, do a chore you usually don’t like or help them out with something you know is stressing them out. When you focus your attention on helping others you always feel better about whatever troubles you have in your own life.
- Get some exercise. Walk, run, do some yoga, take a class at your local gym. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins help you feel more upbeat and positive. Also, if you’re exercising it’s hard to stress about other stuff so your mind gets a break.
- Don’t take everything so seriously. There are always going to be some bad days or problems you have to deal with. Try to not take every single one really seriously and you’ll have an easier time getting through them.
As the students shared these tips with me, I took notes – what they said was wise, simple, and something we should all try to remember. I was glad I didn’t need to stay for class but I felt like I learned more from them than they did from me.