According to a survey conducted by Lingnan University, Hong Kong schoolchildren are unhappier than ever. In March 2016, researchers released survey results of 25 primary and secondary schools with students rating their happiness on a scale of 0 to 10. Overall ratings dropped to 6.49, the lowest it has been since the survey started in 2012, with a then average of 6.91. Survey results indicate that children aged 14 experience the lowest level of happiness. Findings also reveal an increase in time spent on homework and a decrease in time spent sleeping.
If you are a parent or student reading this, worrying about the survey results will only make them lower. Try these proactive strategies instead to help maximise happiness levels in Hong Kong students:
Get more sleep. A tired body and a tired brain will lead straight to unhappiness. When asleep, the body repairs physically, mentally, and emotionally, all of which are crucial for happiness. Until age twelve, children should aim for no fewer than ten hours of sleep each night. From twelve to eighteen, students can get the reparative sleep they need with eight to nine hours nightly.
Active play. Physical activity increases endorphins and reduces stress hormones. Moderate intensity such as jogging, walking briskly, playing with a dog, or engaging in outdoor sports and games with others will increase energy and feelings of engagement. While participating in league sports is popular, allowing your school age children unstructured physical activity will do wonders for their happiness levels as well.
Laugh more. Laughter has been shown to bring about a host of positive benefits, including an overall enhanced mood, a decrease in stress and hunger hormones, increased immunity, reduced anxiety, and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Research also shows that people learn better when they laugh. Help your child laugh more by reading a joke book, listening to comedians or funny podcasts, or watching silly videos on Facebook or YouTube together each day.
Focus on the positive. Negative self-talk is a happiness thief and it’s a bad habit that is learned by the example of the parents. Parents can increase the happiness of their children by intentionally focussing on and commenting on positive traits. Encourage positive qualities rather than specific outcomes and children will learn to do this for themselves too.
Do some good. As humans, we are inherently compassionate and caring. Helping others increases our sense of purpose and connection to the world around us. It is also a powerful distraction from worrying thoughts or feelings of isolation. Children can benefit from small efforts like sharing or donating snacks and toys, or spending time with peers who are sick and in need of quality time.
Practise gratitude. When we slow down and notice the things we have, it allows us to shift our focus from anxieties about what we do not yet have or the fear of not getting what we want. Try a nightly exercise of reciting with your child two specific things that you are each grateful for from the day. This will help put things in perspective.
The good news is that happiness is in our hands and we are able to control many of the aspects in our children’s lives that impact their happiness levels. Pick a few things that you or your child can start doing differently and be sure to encourage and support your child along the way.