Tag Archives: Teaching Happiness and Innovation

Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)

As author Mike Ferry points out, adolescents today experience alarming rates of depression and stress. He shares five ways parents can help their teen be happier. We present, “Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier.”


Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)Pimples. Hormonal changes. Emotional extremes. Argumentativeness. Romantic relationships. If you have an adolescent son or daughter, you may be living through these and other aspects of the teen years. It’s a period of great upheaval, for kids and parents (not to mention the teachers who never escape the drama of middle and high school).

Stress, anxiety and depression

Adolescence has always been hard, but today’s teens are having an especially difficult time. For a variety of reasons, teens are suffering from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before. Consider this statistic:

17% of high school students seriously consider suicide (22.4% of girls)

That’s unbelievable! Unfortunately, the trend continues into the college years:

54% of college students have extreme anxiety
30% of college students suffer from severe depression

As parents, there are some strategies we can employ to help our teenage children endure this rough patch and emerge stronger in young adulthood. We can practice these “protective factors” at home to boost our kids’ emotional immune systems.

Five Things Parents Can Do

Here are five ways to make teens happier and to promote long-term positive mental health.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike Ferry(1) Have a consistent home or family routine. I know how tough this can be. My wife and I have four kids; managing their sports schedules and social calendars seems harder than running a federal agency. If possible, try to have at least one family meal per week. You could also plan a family game night once a month and make it clear that nothing will take priority over it.

(2) Promote healthy habits. Our physical health impacts our emotional health. Encourage plenty of exercise and a healthy diet. Sleep is often sacrificed due to homework and hanging out with friends, but it is an essential aspect of sound mental health. Do all you can to help your teen get at least eight or nine hours of sleep every night.

(3) Practice spirituality. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. Spirituality offers emotional support and guidance, in addition to a sense of purpose. If your family actively practices religion, help your teen grow in the faith by attending services on a regular basis. Getting involved with your religious community’s youth group strengthens social bonds and creates shared experiences that can sustain your teen in difficult times.

(4) Boost confidence. Many teens suffer from negative self-esteem. This may result from poor body image, stressful social interactions, or feeling inadequate in some way. You can help your teen feel more confident by celebrating his or her victories, large and small. Show your teen that effort leads to results, and that he or she has the power to achieve success in a variety of areas. For more ideas, you can check out my blog post on ways to develop a growth mindset in your child.

(5) Know what’s going on. Monitor your teen’s activities, both in the “real world” and online. Take a peek every now and then at your son or daughter’s social media profiles. Invite your teen’s friends to your house to hang out. Stay in touch with how your child is doing at school and beyond. Often, troubling emotional situations can be avoided by proactive and positive parenting.

Hang in there, parents of teens! It’s a wild and unpredictable ride, but it will be over before you know it. Your child will grow up and leave the nest (hopefully) with the tools needed for academic and personal success. With a great deal of patience and care, we can get our teens on track for stronger mental health in the present and down the road. If you’re interested in learning more ways to guide your teenage child through this tumultuous time, you may want to check out my online course, “The Parent’s Guide To Surviving Adolescence.”

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7


Can Thanksgiving Boost Your Child’s GPA? (Mike Ferry)

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, Mike Ferry offers some excellent suggestions on how kids and families can express their gratitude and realize some of the differences it can make. We present, “Can Thanksgiving Boost Your Child’s GPA?


Mike Ferry, Can Thanksgiving Boost Your Child's GPA?Thanksgiving, one of our country’s favorite holidays, is revered for many reasons. We love to recall the kindness and good will that was shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans so long ago. We devour feasts of pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes. We laugh as we tell stories among family and friends. And, of course, we watch hours of football.

Gratitude and Academic Performance

While we think of Thanksgiving as a time to dwell on our blessings, we may not realize that this holiday can actually boost academic performance for our children. This is because of gratitude, which has many benefits for adults and kids alike.

Numerous studies have pointed out the positive impact of gratitude on heart health, stress level, immune system, and longevity. Research has also shown that “prosocial behaviors” such as gratitude lead to improved performance in the classroom. In addition, kids who engage in these prosocial behaviors experience better job prospects, stronger mental health, and fewer negative interactions with law enforcement. As parents, isn’t it a good idea to foster gratitude in our children to make these outcomes more likely?

Putting it To Practice

There’s a good chance that your child could improve in the gratitude department. Actually, if you’re like me, you could probably demonstrate more gratitude yourself! The good news is that we can get better at being grateful with practice. Shouldn’t we focus on our blessings throughout the year instead of during a few days at the end of November? We’ll reap many rewards as adults, and our kids will see success at school and beyond.

Here are five tips for cultivating and practicing gratitude at home.

1. Model Gratitude. Parents who complain all the time will have kids who complain all the time. Make an effort to focus on the good. Want to take it to the next level? Set up a “parent’s complaint jar” and drop a quarter in it every time you or your partner complains about something. Your kids will love this!

2. Make a Gratitude Wall with Post It® Notes. Write down (or draw) something you’re grateful for at least twice a day. Do this in a room where you spend lots of time (like the kitchen). We tend to think about things that go wrong and bother us, but the gratitude wall will visually remind us of our blessings. Plus, of course, it’s creative and fun! When you’ve done this for a week, celebrate by going to your favorite restaurant or doing something else you enjoy.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike Ferry3. Earn the Fun with Gratitude. Does your kid want a cookie? Does your teen want the car keys? Make kids “earn the fun” with gratitude. They can get what they want after adding a Post It® note to the gratitude wall or telling you something they’re grateful for.

4. Connect with Current Events. We take so much for granted. Consider water, for example. When we’re thirsty, we go to the sink without thinking about it. What about those children in Flint? They can’t do that. We can point out to our kids how lucky they are by making connections with stories from the news.

5. Serve Others as a Family. Community service is a great way to become more grateful. By working in a food pantry, collecting used sports equipment for disadvantaged children, or singing holiday favorites at a nursery home, kids start to appreciate just how lucky they are. Plus, it’s a fun way to bond as a family.

So give the practice of gratitude some extra effort this season. You’ll like the difference it will make! ###


Speakers Group Member, The Changing Behavior NetworkMike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7


Ten Ways to Boost Creativity (Mike Ferry)

Mike Ferry, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Ten Ways to Boost CreativityCreativity is a path to happiness. The more time we spend being creative, the happier we’re likely to become. In addition, creativity is an essential aspect of innovation, which will propel us to a brighter future. As kids many of us are naturally creative. Unfortunately, our creativity tends to be eliminated as we enter school. So, here are ten ways to boost creativity.

The really good news is that we can reclaim our creativity. In addition, we can help our kids preserve and develop their creative capacity.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike FerryHere are ten (hopefully fun) activities designed to engage your skills of creativity. Using each group of words, compose a short story, skit, poem, song, movie, dance, etc. Let your mind roam free. If this becomes hilarious and a bit chaotic, so be it! Maybe you could try this exercise the next time you need an icebreaker in the office, the classroom, or anywhere else. Plus, you might learn a thing or two by looking up the meanings of any people, places, or things you don’t know about. The more we learn, the more creative we can be!




James Bond
Walla Walla, Washington
Hula hoop


Onion rings
Millard Fillmore


Vatican City
Thin Mints
Al Capone


Golf cart
Guinea pig
Ronald Reagan


Oak tree
Lebron James


Babe Ruth




Silk Road
Flip flop


Louis Armstrong
Columbus Zoo
Hello Kitty pencil

This is a recent blog post of mine that has been getting some attention on Twitter. I’ve tried a few of these with my students, and the process has been lots of fun. ###

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7


10 Ways to Teach Kindness to Our Kids (Mike Ferry)

Mike Ferry photo 3We all want our kids to find happiness in life. Thanks to the “science of happiness,” research has identified several habits that make lifelong happiness more likely to occur. Kindness is one of these.

Being kind is a cost-free way to improve your emotional well-being. Plus, it doesn’t require a prescription! When we are kind, our brains experience an infusion of dopamine, the “happiness neurotransmitter.” The more kindness and compassion we display for others, the happier we become. Plus, kindness will make our world a safer and more sustainable place for our children and future generations.

For many of us, kindness may not be an innate attribute. That’s okay, because we can get better at it with practice. Here is a list of ways that we can teach kindness to our kids.

1. Model kindness. Our kids are always paying attention to our actions, whether or not we realize it. When interacting with other people, try your best to use a kind tone.

2. Give a generous tip. If you’re eating out with the kids, leave a tip that is more than expected. Explain that the server will appreciate being rewarded for a job well done.

THAIBookCover3. Bake treats for a neighbor. Kids will enjoy baking the goodies and seeing the smiles on the receiving end. Doing this will also lead to a stronger social connection, one of the most important predictors of happiness.

4. Develop empathy. We are more likely to show compassion if we have a better understanding of other people’s perspectives and experiences. Discuss the ways that characters from your favorite books and movies might have different opinions based on their unique backgrounds and situations. When your kids are studying history in school, encourage them to try to understand major events from as many viewpoints as possible. You can do this with current events as well.

5. Write a note of appreciation. Leave a kind message for the housekeeper at your hotel on the notepad by the bed. Have your kids add their own words of gratitude.

6. Serve others. Clean up trash at the park, gather athletic gear for needy kids, or serve food at a food kitchen as a family. Faith communities often have family service projects. If not, you could help get the ball rolling. For more ideas, try the HandsOn Network.

7. Make a micro-loan. Lend money to an entrepreneur in a developing country (or even your own) through Kiva. You can select the country, loan amount, and see the actual person who will receive your money. It feels great to know that your small investment is changing the lives of individuals and communities. Plus, your kids will improve their understanding of geography and global economics.

8. Send a homemade card to Grandma and Grandpa. It could be to celebrate a birthday, holiday, or for no particular reason at all. Most kids enjoy the arts and crafts elements of these projects, and grandparents love to receive them. Talk about the warm fuzzy feeling they’ll have when Grandma calls to say “thank you.”

9. Go green. Reduce, reuse, and recycle when possible. Discuss our role in the ecosystem. Explain that our actions have an impact on other living beings, and that some of these consequences may be felt for generations. When we care about what happens beyond our immediate circumstances, we are more compelled to act with kindness towards others.

10. Follow the leaders. Learn about historical figures famous for their devotion to the common good. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are excellent places to start. Talk about ways that you could bring their philosophies and actions into your own lives.


Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com.


The Science of Happiness and Our Kids (Mike Ferry)

BTSpotlightMike Ferry, author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation, was interviewed on The Changing Behavior Network (posted on July 12, 2015). We caught up with Mike to see if we could learn a bit more him and his work.


Tell us a bit about your background, Mike.

Mike Ferry photo 3This school year (2015-2016) is my thirteenth year as a middle school history teacher at Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia. My college sweetheart and I have four kids, three boys and a girl. We drive a very loud minivan! I’m also a musician and songwriter.

A few years ago, I learned about the Science of Happiness at an education conference. It had a powerful effect on my perspectives related to teaching and parenting. The experience led me to write my book, Teaching Happiness and Innovation.

Why did you write this book?

THAIBookCoverAs a teacher and parent, I want to help kids design the best possible future, one that is safer, more prosperous, and more sustainable than our current world. If we teach kids the habits of happiness and innovation, we’ll help them get there.

Research has shown that happy people tend to be successful in all walks of life. We can help our kids learn and practice the habits of happiness. As a result, they will be more successful in school, at work, and in other domains. Also, our country and planet need big ideas. After learning the skills of innovation, our kids will create the new businesses, works of art, technologies, and public policy solutions that will increase employment and improve our quality of life.

What habits of happiness should we be teaching our kids?

Well, it’s important to realize that our brains become most adept at doing whatever tasks we perform most often. In other words, practice makes perfect. If we want our kids to become happier, then we should help them identify and repeat behaviors that are associated with happiness.

These three habits comprise a good starting point: gratitude, kindness, and creativity. In our homes and classrooms, we will make great strides toward a happier future if we encourage children to practice these behaviors as often as possible.

How can we learn more ideas related to teaching happiness and innovation?

I have many helpful articles and insights on my blog and on the Teaching Happiness and Innovation Podcast. You can find these on my website, www.happinessandinnovation.com. Also, if you sign up for my monthly email list, you can download a free chapter from my book.

If you go to the “Mike’s Tunes” page on my website, you’ll find many of my original musical compositions. You can download my songs for free. In exchange, all I ask is that you perform an act of kindness for someone. ###

Mike Ferry is a teacher, father, author, and musician based in Richmond, Virginia. He can be reached at mike@happinessandinnovation.com. (website)

Teaching Kids Happiness and Innovation (Guest: Mike Ferry)

BTRadioIntSome define happiness as a positive by-product of success. In other words, if you are successful enough, you’ll be happy.

Mike Ferry photo 3But that definition doesn’t square with the fact that there are plenty of folks who have the appearance of success, yet they are NOT happy. Evidence and research at this point indicate precisely the opposite position: Happy people tend to be successful people, and they conduct their lives and relationships in a manner that is sustainable and consistent with their closest-held values.

Author and teacher, Mike Ferry, defines happiness as an optimistic, communal and disciplined perspective on life. Every part of that definition makes sense; it’s worth sharing with our children as a major lesson in life.

THAIBookCoverIn this valuable and informative program, Mike discusses authentic happiness and how it can be combined with innovation and a growth mindset to give our children a strong base, a platform for managing life in a world containing more than its share of challenges. Mike’s here also to suggest how we can encourage our kids to develop and demonstrate other valuable attributes like gratitude, perseverance, mindfulness, purpose, tolerance, collaboration, faith and creativity. All of these will contribute to their happiness and a life well-lived.

Mike’s in-depth research and his years as a middle school teacher and father of four all come together in a book that’s the focus of this program. It’s entitled, Teaching Happiness and Innovation. (28:50)

(To listen to Mike’s phone presentation, “Teaching Happiness to Your Children This Summer,” follow these instructions: Dial 641-715-3589; enter Access Code 328425#; Reference Number 4#. Normal long-distance rates apply.)

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK