Our third principle in the Kids & The Happiness Advantage series is The Tetris Effect. We hope you are enjoying this series on how to apply the principles from The Happiness Advantage to the kids in our lives whether we work with them or live with them or both!
I am sure most of you know about the (fairly) addicting game Tetris, where you fit multiple squares and rectangle shapes together as they fall from the top of a screen to the bottom and try to complete rows to earn points. In the game of Tetris, you use your mind to look for patterns and how the shapes will fit together most efficiently.
Our brains are always looking for patterns and many of us, including the children in our lives, get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, stress, and failure. The Tetris Effect principle teaches us how to retrain our brain to get into a pattern of positive thinking.
The power of the positive Tetris Effect trains our brain to utilize and profit from the following three tools available to us:
We talked about what happiness can do for us in the first blog of the series. The second tool, gratitude, asks us to look for the positives in everyday life. The more we look for positive opportunities, the more we are grateful. Grateful people are more intelligent, forgiving, and more energetic. Plus, gratefulness can lead to happiness. You do not have to be an inherently happy person to be grateful! Optimism, the third tool, is wonderful as the more your brain picks up on positive outcomes, the more likely your brain will believe this trend to continue. Studies have shown that optimism is a powerful predictor of work performance. Optimists set more goals and even set more difficult goals than pessimists. On top of that, optimists put more effort into attaining goals, stay more engaged when faced with difficulty and overcome obstacles more easily. All of which we want for the children in our lives, to be able to face adversity and persevere.
Like most things in life, practice makes perfect (ish) and practice is what is needed to create this positive Tetris Effect where our brains are continuously looking for the positive patterns in life. For both ourselves and our children to become better at looking for the positives, we can start with a gratitude list. This may be something you do together as a family at dinner, on a nightly walk, or in the car ride home from school. The goal here is to make gratitude a daily ritual so that it becomes a natural habit.
A practice of daily gratitude seems like a small and maybe even silly thing to do every day, but according to studies cited in the book, it has great benefits. These studies showed that people who wrote down their list each day for a week were less depressed and happier at one, three, and six months follow-ups.
Another idea that may work for those who have children who may have trouble verbalizing or just do not feel compelled to share their gratitudes with you from the day would be to write or draw about it.
It really is that simple. Effecting positive change and strengthening a positive mindset does not have to be hard or feel like a lot of work. However, consistency here is key. Working with children to see the positives in their day will begin to train their brain to be looking for those positive opportunities. Then, they will reap the benefits of lasting happiness, gratitude, and optimism.
How does your family practice gratitude? Please share your wonderful ideas with us in the comments below or in our book club.