The immortal thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” In essence what he says here is that the ultimate purpose of life is to matter in some way. However, what needs to be understood is that there is no way to matter if you are miserable. While happiness may not be the ultimate goal of life, it is certainly a prerequisite to attain it. You must be happy if you want your life to matter. While teens today have the tools to do extraordinary things that matter, many simply are not happy and thus cannot do these remarkable things. 20% of teens reported mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. The scary fact is that estimates agree that only 50% of mental illnesses are reported. Fortunately, what has been found is that happy teens are not just happy because of who they are, but rather because of what they do.
Here is a look at the five habits of the happiest teenagers
1. Breathing and Mindfulness
This isn’t a joke. We all do it everyday and yet so few of us do it right. Improper breathing leads to various health problems and studies have shown that simply breathing fast and shallow will create a stress response in the body. Take a look at the breathing and posture of the average teenager. They are slouched and have very shallow breathing. You will also find that the average teenager has a great deal of anxiety. This is no coincidence. Have you ever seen a slouch and a sincere smile on the same person at the same time? It is impossible. It is imperative that teens learn how to breathe properly. When one is breathing properly, the body is upright and relaxed and the breath is smooth and deep. As the breath goes, so does the mind.
Also, happy teens are mindful. The average attention span of a teenager is less than seven seconds. They literally have almost no focus. This can very quickly be changed through a daily practice of awareness and mindfulness throughout the day. Do everything in your life with awareness and enjoy it rather than mindlessly buzzing through. Attention is what decides our experience. If your attention is constantly fluctuating, then so will your experience of your life. Do everything with a relaxed mindful attitude and happiness will be the natural result.
2. Proper Exercise
Exercise is one of the best things a teen can do. Exercise has marked physical benefits for teens. It reduces their bodyweight and body fat as well as improving their complexion. Regular exercisers have also been found to have better grades and have more creativity. However, perhaps the greatest benefit of exercise is its benefits to the soul. The sense of accomplishment that comes with improving oneself is a basic need of every teen. It is this sense of accomplishment that will propel a teen to greater heights. A great way to cultivate this is through exercise.
Unfortunately only 29% of teens get the recommended amount of 60 minutes of exercise a day. This is a real shame because exercise is one of the prerequisite practices to attain unparalleled success and happiness. A happy teen gets the recommended amount of exercise through a holistic exercise regimen involving the activities that he most loves to do. This can be walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga or any other physical activity or sport that one enjoys doing. It does not mater what the activity is. What matters is that one loves the activity and does it to the best of his ability with the intention of self-improvement.
The recommended amount of sleep for a teenager is 9-10 hours a night. However, The average teen gets 6 hours of sleep a night. High achieving students routinely get less than 5 hours a night as they try to get everything off the days plate before retiring. Sleep serves two functions that have a profound implication on a teen’s life. The first function of sleep is to repair and grow the body. Sleep deprivation will cause flawed repairs and stunted growth. The teenage years are when one grows into an adult and there will never again be such a period of change in the body of a person. If proper development of the body does not occur in the teenage years, the effects will be permanent.
However, it is the second function of sleep that has the most profound implications on a teen’s life. Sleep is where the knowledge gained in the day is assimilated and where conflicts are resolved. This is why many creative ideas and associations come after a good night’s sleep. It is also why people are considerably unhappier after a bad nights rest. A good night’s sleep lets a teen take in all that was learned from the day and resolve any issues he has within himself. If this doesn’t happen, the inevitable result is unhappiness. In fact, the estimated cost of sleep deprivation on IQ is ten IQ points. For perspective, you only lose 4 IQ points when you smoke weed! Teens need to stop compromising on their sleep to attain real unparalleled success and happiness.
4. Valuing Relationships
Really happy teens value the important relationships in their lives. They are close with their parents, friends and teachers. The relationships with these important people bring benefit not just to others but he also gains something from his relationships as well. He loves unconditionally and takes the time to make everyone of them feel like they are needed in his life.
However, the social media revolution has brought many distressing changes. Teens spend 2.7 hours a day on social media. The average person has 1 to no close friends but 300 Facebook friends. It is easy to get pulled in by the lure of social media and spend more time with your online friends than with your loved ones. However, the happiest teens will carve out the time to spend quality time with their loved ones and won’t let anything get in the way of that.
5. Use Their Screen Time Wisely
The average teen is exposed to a staggering 9 hours of digital media a day. This includes social media, TV and video games. This is 1.5 times the 6 hours that the average teen sleeps. It isn’t a surprise 94% of teens report feeling overwhelmed by everyone going on in their lives. If 9 hours is spent on digital media, 6 hours on sleep and 7-8 hours of school weekdays, that only leaves about 2 hours for everything else. No wonder there is such a high degree of overwhelm among teens. This overwhelm inevitably leads to consequences like depression.
In a world such as our where exposure to digital media is only going to increase, it is not reducing the amount of social media usage that is the solution but rather increasing the quality of it. Spend your time on digital media on studying and following a passion. Take an online course on something you love. There are amazing sites such as Coursera where you can get a university education for free anytime anywhere. If sports are a passion of yours, watch a match and dissect the play styles of your favorite sportspeople and integrate them into your own game. All of human knowledge can be accessed anytime, anywhere with a single touch. Why not discover some of it for yourself rather than wasting time on fruitless activities.
Make these habits second nature and unparalleled success and happiness is the inevitable result.