• Maria

How The Happy HeART Activity Builds Kids' Selective Attention And Boosts Their Happiness

Updated: Feb 22


Drawing of a young girl filling out her happy heart picture

You read about selective attention and it’s benefits in this post. If you’re now wondering how to help kids develop this skill and improve their lives, read on! At the end of Happy Hunting we included the Happy HeART Activity for this very purpose. In this post, I’ll take you through how it works and how to use it. But, first, let’s begin with a quick review.



A Review Of Selective Attention


We don’t pay attention to everything we experience. We can’t. There’s just too much. So, we focus our attention on certain things, while others fall to the background or pass us by. Consciously and unconsciously, we select what’s most important. When we do this, we’re using our selective attention.


Like the beam of a flashlight, we focus our attention on a limited part of our experience.


Drawing of a flashlight beaming onto the words 'what will you focus on?'

When we focus our attention on things that make us happy, these things can exert their positive effect on us. The key is to shift our attention. We do this through presence; by noticing and appreciating the things that bring us pleasure. We can train our brains to do this. Like most things, it takes practice. And the more we practice, the easier it becomes.


Happy Hunting uses storytelling to share the idea of selective attention with kids. It shows how Liza’s experience changes as she shifts her focus. And how this takes her from feeling BLAH to seeing her happy everywhere. We created the Happy HeART Activity so kids could practice doing this too.



How The Happy HeART Activity Works


Selective attention has us LOOK for the positives in our outer environment. What if we use it on our inner experience too? This is where the Happy HeART Activity comes in.


Using the Happy HeART Activity, kids focus their selective attention on their imaginings. The positive ones. What do they remember, enjoy, love, wish for?


When kids bring presence to these imaginings, they become like-real. This is because our bodies can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. They respond as if what’s imagined is actually happening. And the response? According to the HeartMath Institute, the whole body benefits from a flood of feel-good chemicals.



5 Easy Steps To A Happy HeART


The Happy HeART Activity is easy to use. The following steps are also shared in the Happy Hunting book:


1

Ask kids to close their eyes, take some deep breaths and imagine things that help them feel happy. Encourage them to LOOK for the meaningful stuff. When you spend some time on this, kids can find their deeper sources.


Drawing of a young girl with a thought bubble above her head containing things that make her feel happy

2

Encourage kids to experience their imaginings. The sights, smells, sounds, tastes, feelings. This is the presence part of selective attention mentioned above.


3

Explain to kids that regularly imagining happy things can help them feel good.


4

Show Liza’s completed HeART. This may be helpful for younger or more reluctant artists.


5

Use the blank Happy HeART we provide in Happy Hunting (as seen in the image) or have kids create their own. Draw. Paint. Collage. Share. Display. You can make this as simple or as grand as you like.


Black and white drawing of a heart on a page


Lead With Your HeArt


From Happy Hunting kids learn that happy is everywhere if you LOOK for it. When they do the Happy HeART Activity, they use their imaginations to try this out for themselves. What they put in their HeARTs they can access anytime.


Which is especially important when things are hard.


As a therapist I worked with kids in care. At times it was tough for them to see happiness anywhere. They taught me that selective attention can be used in a more reflective way. Through their imaginations. And that this could build an inner storehouse of happy things. A place they could draw from when their outer situation was lacking.


Every child can find past, imaginary or current things to place inside their HeART.




Take Action:

Learn more about selective attention in this post

Discover how to expand this Happy HeART Activity using the full Lesson Plan


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