• Maria

The Happy Hunting Story Shows Kids How To Find Their Happy (Using Their Selective Attention)

Updated: Feb 22

Want to know the secret of happiness from researchers in the field of well-being? The secret to happiness is selective attention.

A dark cloud hangs over a young girl's head showing how blah she feels today

As a therapist, I worked for many years with kids who were coping with low moods and depression. I’ve experienced depression myself, more than once. Through these experiences I’ve learned so much.

We all struggle to find our happiness sometimes. It can be especially elusive when we focus on limited sources. Like being popular, looking a certain way or having lots of stuff. But are these the keys to happiness?

Research says no. These things can bring us short-term happiness. But we adapt quickly and return to our old happiness baseline. According to positive psychology though, we CAN increase our happiness. With an inner change of perspective and attitude.

We can train our brains to be more positive.

This doesn’t mean that whatever may not be going well disappears. It means we can choose to pay attention to things that support us feeling happy. We do this by using our selective attention to notice and appreciate the good things. The more we do this, the better we get at it. The better we get at it, the easier it becomes for our brains to do it.

What is selective attention? How does it work? How can we teach it to kids?

Selective Attention

In almost every moment of every day we focus our attention on certain things. At the same time, we let other things fade into the background or pass us by completely. Consciously and unconsciously, we select what’s most important. When we do this, we’re using our selective attention.

Like a flashlight beam, we focus our attention on a very limited part of all that we experience.

Flashlight beam focusing on the positive things and letting the rest fade into the background

How Selective Attention Increases Happiness

By focusing our limited attention on the positive, we boost our happiness. When we pay attention to the things that make us happy, they can exert their positive effect on us. So, the key is to shift our attention. We do this by noticing and appreciating the things that bring us pleasure.

Noticing The Good Things:

Happiness requires our presence. When we feel low or stressed it's often because we're dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We're not here, now.

When we focus on the present, we're way more likely to feel peace and happiness. We're also more likely to notice the good things that are happening all around us. Instead of letting them go by - unnoticed and unappreciated.

When we pay attention to the positive details of our lives, we create more happiness.

Appreciating The Good Things:

Happiness requires our full attention. Which is impossible when we're trying to do many things. Focusing on one thing at a time maximizes our enjoyment. Multi-tasking divides our attention and so divides our happiness.

A good thing gets even better when we stop to fully experience it. Lean in.

And share it with others. Shared enjoyment is powerful.

Friends and dog watching the sunset together

How Happy Hunting Teaches Selective Attention To Kids

I searched for a book that could help me share selective attention with kids in a way they could grasp and apply.

A book that showed a character's experience change by changing his or her focus.

In the end, I decided to (co) write it.

In Happy Hunting, Liza wakes up feeling blah and laments that she has lost her happy feeling. Her mom suggests she go LOOK for it. What a wise mom. She has set selective attention into motion ...

As the story unfolds, Liza's focus shifts - she starts to notice her happy everywhere. She slows down to fully appreciate it all and to share it with her dog and friends. And her mood shifts too.

If You LOOK (Use Your Selective Attention), It’s Everywhere

Will we focus on sadness or happiness, anger or peace? We’ll always find support for whichever we CHOOSE.

Selective Attention teaches us that our responses to life are often a decision we make.

If we wake up feeling blah and decide we’ve lost our happy, we’ll likely find reasons to support feeling sad and grey. If we wake up feeling blah and decide to LOOK for our happy, we will likely find many reasons to feel less blah, more TA-DA! This is the magic of selective attention.

Selective attention applies to almost every possible response toward life:

If we look for reasons to feel mad, we’ll find them.

If we look for reasons to feel scared, we’ll find them.

If we look for reasons to feel sad, we’ll find them.

If we look for reasons to feel happy, we’ll find them.

Our attitude isn’t a reaction to our current circumstances. Our attitude is a decision we make every single day. This realization has the power to transform our lives and how we view them in any given moment. Just as Liza discovers in Happy Hunting;

A poem about selective attention; if you look you'll find your happiness everywhere

Take Action:

Happy Hunting was written to support kids’ mental health and happiness in a variety of ways. Check out these links for more:

Introduce Kids to Happy Habits

Develop Kids' Selective Attention With the Happy HeART Activity

Use The Power Of Poems And Quotes To Help Kids Thrive

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