As the Green leaves of summer become the Gold leaves of fall, many people consider trying something new, learning a new skill, or dedicating themselves to a new hobby. As you know, we love that at Camp Echo Lake. What are the two reasons a camper or staff person can get a fuzzy at CEL? Being a good person or trying hard at something. We want campers and staff to try new things, even when it may feel hard. When you are trying something new or learning a new skill, what is incredibly important to remember? You must practice, of course! If you want to learn a new skill, you must practice it, and practice it, and practice some more, until it truly becomes part of you. That is when your muscle memory takes over, the thing you have been practicing becomes habit and it is just a part of you.

What I would like to suggest is that happiness is a skill you can practice until it becomes a habit. While there are always going to be things that naturally make you happy and unhappy, it is better to take control of your happiness, rather than choose to wait for it to come.  You can choose to see the happy. You can look for the happy. You can choose to be happy. At the very least, you can practice enough so you are happy most of the time.

How do you practice being happy, you ask? Thank you. I’m glad you did. I think there are three important parts to your happiness practice plan: smiling, being grateful, and seeing the positive side of things. Smiling, that’s a simple one. When you are watching, someone smile or laugh or genuinely be happy, it is almost impossible (thanks to mirror neurons in your brain), to not smile too! Smiling is contagious! Watch happy people, find reasons to smile, consciously put a smile on your face when you are talking to another person. That will cause them to smile and that will increase your smile. Studies have even shown that when the muscles in your face move into a smile chemicals in your brain that make you happy are released. The moral of the story is, the more you practice smiling, the happier you will be.

There is a great saying, “Happy people are not always grateful, but grateful people are always happy.” I believe, and have found in my own happiness practice, that the more you find things to feel grateful about the happier you are. Gratitude is the act of being thankful or showing appreciation for something kind or thoughtful. Think about all the many things that we take for granted every day, that we truly are grateful for. Think about the people in your family, your friends, your teachers, your counselors, your coaches, and all the people in your life that make you feel good. I bet you are grateful for them? Think about the skills and talents you have. I bet you are grateful for them? Think about the people, places, or things that make, you laugh, or make you smile, or make you feel good. I bet you are grateful for them? So, how do you practice being grateful? Grab a notebook and every night before you go to bed write down a list of all the big and small things that you are grateful for that day. You can include people, pets, things you did, food you ate, songs you heard on the radio, a beautiful sunset, great weather, or just feeling healthy. Write down at least three things you are grateful for but don’t stop there and see how many you can write each day. Over time you will have a notebook full of things that make you feel grateful and, ultimately, happy. You are also thinking about things you are grateful for before bed and that will help you fall asleep happier and have a better night’s sleep and a great morning. Trust me, this works.

Finally, seeing the positive side of things. There’s another great saying, “you can’t always control what happens to you but you can always control the way you react to it.” If you look at things positively and choose to see the good, the life lesson, the happiness in a situation, it can not only make the tough times easier but help train your brain to see the positive rather than the negative. Imagine if I said to you to pay attention to red cars. Suddenly, all you see are red cars…everywhere! Your brain will notice what you tell it to pay attention to. So, when you are out in the world, see the good, look for the positive, and I promise you, you will feel happier. How do you practice positivity? In addition to consciously looking at things in a positive way you can also practice positivity each morning. You almost rehearse in your mind what a positive day looks like. When you wake up in the morning, put a smile on your face, take a deep breath, and imagine the parts of your day. See yourself getting dressed, going to school or work, talking to friends or colleagues, participating in your class or meeting, etc… Practice in your mind seeing yourself happy and positive in each part of your day. When you rehearse positivity in your brain, you are prepping your brain for the experiences to be positive. Now doesn’t that make you happy?!

I promise you, just like you must practice a musical instrument, practice a sport, or practice something you learn at school or work, you can practice happiness too. Through practicing smiles all day long, practicing gratitude before you go to sleep, and practicing positivity when you wake up, you are creating a triple threat of ways to practice happiness in your day. What happens if you do all this practicing of happiness? If you practice happiness enough your muscle memory takes over, happiness becomes a habit and being happy is just a part of you. My wish for each of you, as the Green leaves of summer become the Gold leaves of fall is that you practice happiness daily through smiles, gratitude, and positivity so that each of our individual happiness can help make this world a littler warmer and fuzzier for all of us.

Happiness, Hugs, and Warm Inner Glows,

Laurie xo