10 Ways Children show us the way to Happiness.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jun 19, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Chogyam Trungpa, a famous Buddhist teacher, wished people a “Cheerful Birthday.” He didn’t like the word, “Happy.”

“Happiness,” he’d say, is a temporary, conditional state of mind. It’s part of ego’s play—samsara—the cyclical search for pleasure that is itself the cause of most unnecessary suffering in this world. Rather, let’s aspire to “cheerfulness”—in the sense of an unconditional confidence and relaxation and appreciation and sense of humor, regardless of the circumstances.”

Children are far from perfect. They’re children. But they have some very real—and accessible—wisdom that they are born with, and that most of us lose, mostly, along the way.

Anyway, with that prenup, let’s engage in the Ancient Art of Top 10 Lists:

10 Ways Children can point us toward Enlightenment.

1. Say what you think. Be frank, be honest. Is that woman fat? When you’re a child, you’ll say so—outloud, to the consternation of your parents. Is that toy yours? Are you unhappy? Say so. Be who you are. Don’t smile fakely, don’t say “great wonderful lalalalalala” in Facebook comments if you didn’t think something was great wonderful lalalalala.

2. Sleep. Sleep more. Sleep plenty. I haven’t slept enough for 15 years, probably. Arianna Huffington, to her credit, has been on the warpath about this. New York Times agrees: sleeping makes us smarter, more present, better at our jobs and relationships.

3. Cry. Then, forget what you were crying about. If you’re unhappy, go there. Like #1, don’t reject feelings because they aren’t “approved.” Be negative. Regret mistakes. Wallow in heartbreak—briefly. Then, move on.

4. Work hard at Playing. If your work isn’t fulfilling you, get a new job. Seriously. That’s not advice for yuppies—that’s advice for living. If you’re a writer, get a job watching a parking lot or hotel, where you can read. If you enjoy manual labor (my house painter friend loves to paint—especially when the paint is “eco” and non-fumey—he loves the exercise, the money, and being out-of-doors), god bless: no type of workplay is any better than any other (you’ll discover that, parents, when you buy your child a pricey, silly present only to find them playing with a cardboard box, an hour later). In Buddhism, we call it “natural hierarchy—do whatever you 1) love that you’re 2) best at and 3) is of most service to the welfare of others. You do those three things, and work becomes joy…you know, playtime.

5. Get in water once a day. Swim. Bathe. Children swim. A lot. They love water. Old wrinkly cranky uptight stressed cool people don’t jump in water enough. I should know. I’ve been both.

6. Laugh. Children are good at laughing. I’m really popular with children—mainly ’cause I got this whole wink/jump around/laugh/run around/make funny noises/make weird faces moves. They go crazy for that stuff. Last time I laughed? Yesterday, probably. I can’t remember. I smile a lot. I make jokes and all that. I listen to jokes and all that. I remember almost laughing today. I probably laughed a bunch, but forgot. Anyways…that’s my point: we get old when we can’t remember the last time we laughed. Americans spend millions and billions on bodywork and moisturizer and exercise and plastic surgery and hair tinting…when laughter, free, will make you look ravishing and happy and keep you healthy. Get on it.

7. Get lost in the details of every present moment. Just be. Look. Listen. Everything is new.

8. Argue. Someone being mean? Tell them so. Being mean? Let it all out. Either way, get through it, don’t suppress your sadness or anger, and if you make a mistake, be ready to learn from those who are wiser (ie, teacher or parent who might take you to task for being a jerky-pooh).

9. Jump up and down. Run. Nap. Emote. Play. Holler. Be a fool. Smile. Laugh at yourself.

10. Out of ideas? Stuck? Ask for help. Be vulnerable. Don’t worry about things. Can’t think of, say, 10 ideas for your blog? Who cares. It’s just a silly list. Ask your friends for four more ideas, and ask them to write said ideas—things children do that are welcome and inspiring reminders for all of us—children rely on parents and adults for a lot of things. It’s called community. So give me four more ideas. Or three, if you want to count this one (community).

Want just our best?

Get our weekly newsletter.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


46 Responses to “10 Ways Children show us the way to Happiness.”

  1. More things kids get right:

    1. They ask questions all the time. When they don't know something, they don't play it cool—they ask!
    2. They say "I love you" about a billion times a day, without being asked, and mean it (or at least mine do).
    3. They hug a lot, and hold hands and just generally give affection and ask for it when they need it. We forget to do that when we're grown up and important.

    Probably other stuff I can't think of, but yeah, I think most days we learn more from kids than they do from us.

  2. Robert_Piper says:

    This is awesome! I started cracking up when I read "hair tinting."

    1. They break the rules.
    2. They have no real concept of what failure is.
    3. They are constantly fascinated by new things and they have a strong sense of astonishment.

  3. Mamaste says:

    JUst intro'd on FB to: Family, I'm Not Spiritual, Enlightened, Culture & WOW.

  4. karla says:

    Drink warm milk and chamomile tea…and eat just what you like!

  5. Cat says:

    I laughed yesterday when I saw a boat called BUMFISH! I'm actually still laughing!
    My kids have a way that when I start lecturing them or am getting angry about small stuff, they say I Love You Mum!…and how can you be angry in the face of Love?…

  6. Jia Ni says:

    Love it!

    1. Children dream a lot, they imagine a lot. Nothing is impossible for them!
    2. Children are true to themselves – and do not care what others may think of them.
    3. Children live in the moment. They don't care about the past or future – what is real is what is happening right now! 🙂


  7. Rajni Tripathi says:

    Lovely 🙂 Also, to be just purely fascinated and being curious. Somethign we forget about as we get older.

  8. RMB says:

    Dream. Children allow themselves to build castles in their minds, with fairies and dragons. Go there. Your mind is an infinite world of story-telling possibilities.
    Eat with your fingers. There's something amazing about eating with your hands. First off, it's natural. Mankind and food shared a bond long before utensils broke it up. Second, the food seems to taste better. Third, it's fun!!! All within reason, of course. But hey, it's picnic season.
    Be inspired. A new recipe. An outfit you invent with your own clothes. A flower you stop to smell. A sunset. It's all around you. Just take a moment to observe and absorb.

  9. Purva says:

    Money cannot buy happiness!
    Children have no concept of money and they are the happiest people in the world. Happiness is in the little things :o)

  10. Amanda says:

    Approach everything with a new mind! I watch my daughter do it every day.

  11. Bella says:

    Appreciate yourself…
    Every morning when I pass by the bathroom with my baby, she spots herself in the mirror and gives herself a gigantic smile like this one. http://whatisamom.com/the-natural-self-appreciati
    When's the last time you remember giving yourself one?

  12. Allison says:

    Young children do not pass judgment on people who are simply different than they are whether it be accessories, skin color, culture, etc. They embrace it and ask more about it. The older we become assumptions are made on this kind of thing that are not naturally present with us at birth. Prejudice is a learned thing and no child is born with it.

  13. […] It’s good to have daily reminders of happiness. Some of the best? Children. [Via Elephant Journal] […]

  14. […] What if you could take ten minutes and be a child again? […]

  15. Patty says:

    1. Children aren't afraid to think about their future. I love asking my dance students what they want to be when they grown up. Fireman, ballet teacher, astronaut, princess are just a few listed by the same child. The future is limitless to them.
    2. They love freely.
    3. They don't hold on to their moods. They change freely. Adults often try too hard to hang on to positive or negative moods instead of moving on and accepting.

  16. Morgan says:

    Twirl. Remember when you were a child and you would spin and spin and spin until you stopped and then looked around and fell to the ground because you were so dizzy. Then, as soon as you came to your senses, you would stand back up again and do it over? Children don't necessarily care about repercussions of actions. They just do. They learn as they go. As adults, we fear what we don't know. We think too much, overanalyze, plan out what could or may happen. Instead, seek out new experiences. The kind that raise every one of your emotions. So, next time you enter into a new situation: spin until you can't spin anymore. What's the worst that can happen? You fall…and get back up to do it again.

  17. Maritza says:

    Children take their shoes off and run through the gravel, dirt, muck, leaves…you name it.
    Children get smoothie mustaches and laugh about it and then don't want their faces wiped off!
    Children wiggle in their chairs while eating.
    Children want to play with you ALL THE TIME.

  18. Dakota-Rae says:

    Children sing songs about everything, about anything. They hum constantly unaware, unconscious. They are just happy little tune makers.
    Children try! again and again and again. New things, scary things. They know the secret because the world is still so new to them- the only way to know is to try!
    Children tell you when their feelings are hurt. They tell you precisely what happened and how they feel about it. They make it seem so simple!
    Children are always making… new rules to old games, costumes and gadgets out of what ever is lying around, funny faces… nothing is ever ordinary. They really know how to spice it up!

  19. Linda V Lewis says:


  20. jill says:

    In my experience children say what they think..but the examples above mentioned come from their arents..not themselves. Children dont really care about appearances..though they may be curious and ask questions

  21. Sara says:

    children don't care about falling down; they just bounce right up again! I was always amazed watching my children learn how to walk, falling down, getting back up again, over and over. Never discouraged, never giving up. Never moaning about how hard it is to up skill these days 🙂

  22. belinda lee says:

    hate to be pedantic but where were the other ways, said 10 only listed 7??

  23. Starre Vartan says:

    Children can also be unrepentant bullies, assholes, are pretty much totally selfish beings, expect others to clean up after them and cry and scream to get their way. I've seen soooo many kids torture younger siblings when they thought nobody was looking. Even otherwise "good kids". Kids are great in some ways, sure, but this piece is really idealizing them. They often lack the intellectual abilities to think things through well. (Something tells me you've not spent a ton of uninterrupted time with kids. They are fun and amazing…until you get to know them.) Kids have done most of the cruelest things I've ever seen (which is OK, they're kids and still learning). I choose not to spend much time with kids anymore (I spent about 10 years with kids most days) because I find them to be really undeveloped beings, overall. At least adults have the ability to know when to keep their mouths shut. I also like that adults rarely shit all over the walls when they use the public restroom.

    • Alice Cote says:

      Being a bully, asshole and selfish are all learned abilities… your right in saying that children are undeveloped: which means that there are alot of external things that influence their behaviour. Children are highly influenced by their parents and on the methods inwhich the parenting is followed through. Your statement is so ignorant, obviously this makes you seem like you do NOT have any children of your own but were just around some bad ones…
      "Kids have done most of the cruelest things I've ever seen" Really? Where do you think they learned this from? Other children? Maybe, but those children learned it from an ADULT. Do you ever read the paper? Adults have done the worst things that could ever be done. Adults are prejudice. Adults are racist. Adults kill other Adults. etc, etc. This blog post was meant to be a positive post for people to be inspired, so maybe you should take your negativity and shove it up your ass.

  24. Dee says:

    This is great – yet, actually only true of "happy" children. There are many children in this world that are not happy and carefree. Lets not forget that…

  25. Eszter Csaki says:

    probably the number one thing that I credit my parents for allowing me to do when I was a child was just sit there , bored out of my mind. I feel like this is the most valuable things left over into my adulthood. to allow myself the time to be bored and to look at a crack on the wall…look at it some more…look at it closer…and let my mind go where it wants to go.

  26. […] Tips on living a happy life from children. (Don’t forget to read the wise comments at the bottom.) http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/10-ways-children-show-us-the-way-to-happiness/ […]

  27. Paula Nelson says:

    They live in the moment 😉

  28. rachael says:

    Love this. Thanks for writing and inspiring. And I love that you invited people to contribute.

  29. so beautiful, loved this article and the comments completing the list…
    Children are full of love…

  30. […] Happiness starts from within ourselves and if we are just pretending, then we are doing ourselves a great disservice. Obviously we can’t be happy all the time, but it is important to be true to yourself. […]

  31. […] decided today, that come what may, I want to be happy. I want to hold my grief and challenges in my heart and acknowledge them but I want to focus on the […]

  32. […] If it had been up to me, I would have chased every single child away from our property and kept Xavier locked away. I would have yelled at them, I would have banished them from visits. I had to asses the urge to react that way, because who would that serve other than myself? How long could I shelter my child from the world? Xavier wanted to play outside, and it was our responsibility to facilitate that desire. […]

  33. Hold your mother's hand. Hold your father's hand. Hold your teacher's hand. Hold a new friend's hand and realize it's the same size as yours, small.
    Watch your teacher walk all the way across the lunchroom, blowing kisses to former students, knowing the whole time she's on her way to your class. Hug her teacher around the waist, knowing you're all your way to recess!
    Play chase
    Help another child. Help your teacher. Help your mother. Help your father! Feel amazing.
    Write a complete thought with memorized high-frequency words AND words you've sounded out for the first time.
    Realize that you're here, you're you, and you like being you!
    Remember that you're going to see your mom, right after school.
    Feel like the luckiest little person in the whole world.

    I'm extremely lucky that I get to share a lot of happy moments with Kindergartners. They're the best teachers I've ever had.

  34. Julie says:

    ~ My three old will wear a tutu, Carhart coat and pajamas. She will then walk to the mirror and state how beautiful she looks.

    Kids don’t see clothes, make ~up or said “hair tint” as beauty they FEEL beauty from their insides out.

  35. Dawn says:

    Children forgive and forget . With my own child, i noticed that she really never cared about what time it was until the fifth grade .just a couple things ive noticed that might lend to the cheerful nature of children .

  36. fatatabata says:

    Want to marry me, Waylon ?

  37. Shannon sunderland says:

    From my own sons today:

    1. Request a lollipop upon awakening in the morning.

    2. Run a lot & wear a cape.

    3. Crank the volume on cool tunes in the car. Roll down window. Sing loudly with sun on face.

  38. Gail says:

    Yes! I love being around children as the see things so clearly. Being able to go back and be like a child is so rewarding even though people including family don't get why it seems so important to protect these special days. But I do.

  39. "Anyway, with that prenup, let’s engage in the Ancient Art of Top 10 Lists"……best line EVER!!!!

  40. Annabel says:

    1. Pee and poo on the floor and simply carry on playing
    2. Eat all food with fingers
    3. Snuggle up and cuddle, lots

  41. Jennifer Martin says:

    This is pure gold LOVEEEEEEE

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.