One Simple Way to Increase Happiness

One Simple Way to Increase HappinessIn two weeks, I’ll be graduating with my master’s degree in Psychology. Why at 46 did I decide to go back to school? Mid-life crisis reframing was definitely part of it, but I was also compelled to return to school because I was inspired by the new field of positive psychology. Positive psychology focuses on why some people flourish – and are incredibly happy – while most others just get by or, even worse, suffer from severe mental health issues like depression and anxiety. With ever-increasing numbers of young people (and adults) suffering from mental illness and the average age of onset getting lower each year, I wanted to know how the people I love and work with can be in that 17% who thrive in life, or are what positive psychologists call “flourishing.”

Besides reading just about every book positive psychology researchers have written, I conducted my own study on how summer camp contributes to happiness and social skills development. That study became my master’s thesis, which I finished a few short weeks ago. And, even though my thesis is at the bindery and I’m officially done with my degree, I’m still reading every new book and article that covers the latest positive psychology research. I’m hooked! In the past, I’ve written about happiness habits, especially gratitude, that research has shown will actually improve overall well-being. Today I want to share one simple, proven tip to increase happiness in adults and children alike.


It’s that easy. When we become others-centered and give something to someone else—time, talent, or treasure—we are happier. This begins with getting ourselves and our kids outside the bubble of thinking exclusively about our own needs.

We don’t always have to give money (which most kids don’t have much of anyway), but that is certainly one way to give. With the recent earthquake in Nepal and people suffering deeply there, we can talk as a family about giving up something (like dinner and a movie out) and instead donating that money to one of the charities working in the devastated region.

We can give in many other ways, too. We can give our time and mentor someone who’s interested in our profession, and we can encourage our kids to tutor a younger child. We can give positive words via phone, snail mail, email, text, or in person. And, of course, we can give away some of our stuff. Even better, we can buy something new for someone who needs it more than we do. There are so many great resources showing who in our area needs our time or donations. (One that I really like is

Try some giving with your family and see if it makes you happier. The research says it will!


How to Help Nepal
6 Reasons Why Giving Back is Good for You
Teaching your child the importance of giving
Altruism & Happiness
Brain Can be Trained in Compassion
10 Things Science Says will Make you Happier
Happiness Habits
Focusing on Our Kids’ Strengths
Study Finds Campers Really are Happy

Sunshine’s Positive Psychology Reading List:

Flourish, Martin Seligman
The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky
Happiness, Diener and Biswas-Diener
Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
StrengthsFinder 2.0, Tom Rath
Positivity, Barbara L. Fredrickson
Love 2.0, Barbara L. Fredrickson
The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

How to Change the World with Kindness Video:

If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in column on the right), or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for links to other articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading and have a happy day with your kids!


I'm blessed to have five great kids (ages 13-23) call me “Mom.” As a summer camp director for the past 30 years, I've also had the privilege of working with thousands of kids, college-age counselors, and parents. I follow the latest research and trends on parenting, education, and children’s development and love to share what I learn!

  1. Love it! I looked into going back to get my masters, and almost did. GIVE is what it’s all About!! You are so right on! Audrey, so proud of you and love reading your posts and blog and emails Hope I can read your thesis. We almost got Peter to come to Notre Dame. Kent and Danny would have loved it. Alice Kate is going to join her brothers. We got the Trifecta Have a great weekend Sue

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Hi Sue! How wonderful to have all three in the same place – great for sibling support and parent visits. Congratulations! Thank you for reading my blog!

  2. I don’t know whether the knowledge about the MA degree spurred me on, or the marvelous revelation you provided about Positive Psychology, or simply that you write beautifully, professionally, and address what i can relate to as key issues involving children and, therefore, the world.

    I just passed on your latest posting to 9 of my staff and family. I love reading each one! Thanks for your marvelous contribution. I expect you are getting very high honors with your thesis.

    Warm regards, Phil

    Philip Lilienthal, President Global Camps Africa 1606 Washington Plaza Reston, VA 20190

    Tel: 703 437 0808 Cell: 703 966 9547 Fax: 703 437 8620 Web Site: Tax ID No. 91-2191939

    South Africa Cell Phone: from the US: 011 27 82 682 9225 from South Africa: 082 682 9225

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Phil. Your life is an inspiration and example of giving. I’ve been inspired by you and how you have chosen to use your time and talents. Global Camps Africa is making the world a better place!

Leave a Reply

Get my FREE eBook 10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs.

Looking to help your kids improve their social skills?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter and get a free copy of my eBook 10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs.

Conflict Resolution Wheel


Questions for Connection PDF


10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs

Looking to help your kids improve their social skills?

Sign up for my weekly newsletter and get a free copy of my eBook 10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs


%d bloggers like this: