5 Ways Parents Can Cultivate Teen Happiness

I was listening to Dan Harris’ ‘Ten Percent Happier’ Podcast the other day, where he was talking with his guest Dachner Keltner  on fostering more happiness. I instantly got thinking about how the ideas that he shared, if applied to parenthood, could make a real difference in bringing more happiness into teens’ lives!

Teen Happiness – Remembering the “Awe Factor”

Picture walking on a grassy ridge that overlooks a large valley. The sun is breaking free from the few puffy white clouds in the sky, illuminating the valley below. The green peaks and valleys go as far as your eye can see. If you imagined this and felt a vast amazement kinda feeling, this is awe.

What do you notice when you think of feeling awe?

For me, I feel an expansiveness in my heart centre; a sensation of openness. My body feels good vibes, you know the warm, fuzzy, tingly kind. I get these feelings when I see my kids doing something they truly enjoy, watching a spectacular sunset, seeing the mountains in the horizon, to name a few. I’m so grateful for the feeling of awe- what brings you awe? 

When your teen does something that frustrates you (and they will!), or when they push back (they will do this too!) it is easy to jump into reactivity, or feel like you want to lay the hammer down. Often, this ends up in a head to head conflict and doesn’t solve the situation.

At one point, though, you probably felt awe in the presence of your daughter- perhaps she was itty bitty and gave you her first smile or when she took her first steps- read her first word. It might have been recently, responding to a situation in a way you admired –  an act of kindness, standing up for someone, etc.

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When you’re frustrated with your teen, try to think of them in those moments – the way you felt; the thoughts and sensations you experienced while in awe. Use these sensations as an anchor to hold onto when you feel frustrated, discouraged, or disappointed in her behaviour. Try it and see what happens! 

It’s harder to be reactive when you’re feeling lovey….and more lovey feelings translates to more Happiness. 

Teen Happiness – Play and Laughter

In Dan’s Podcast episode, he shared the importance of creating joy, play, and laughter in our lives. There are various elements that affect the way humour/play is perceived – cultural factors, gender nuances, past experiences, etc.

In the context of your relationship  with your teen, think about how you bring play and humour into the relationship. Do you read the room and drop in a playful tone, some lighthearted teasing, or joking and laughter? 

There’s a time to be serious no doubt, but consider how your tone influences the conversations with your teen. You can show lightheartedness through your actions and your words.

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It’s also a respectful approach to check-in with how your teen is perceiving the joking and playfulness that you bring into the relationship. 

A friend of mine gave my son an endearing nickname only a few days after he was born, and it stuck ever since! I recently became aware that when I use the nickname in front of his friends, they playfully poke fun at him about it. When I recognized this, I later asked my son how he felt about the nickname – and if he wanted some boundaries around when and where it was used?

It turns out, my son was totally fine with the nickname and I had nothing to worry about! However, asking your teen can increase their sense of connection to you while elevating their voice.

Bring lightheartedness and play into the conversation with your teen whenever you can, in a way that you both feel comfortable.

 

Teen Happiness – Gratitude

I talk a lot about gratitude –  appreciation and gratefulness of things, qualities, aspects, etc. Gratitude, from my perspective, can be a really great parenting tool to increase your teen’s happiness.

Acknowledge the things you are grateful for as a parent – recognize when your teen does something kind and share the special things you see in them. Notice when they’ve made an effort to do well, or try something new, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big deal! When there is a quiet moment just the two of you, point out a thing or two you’ve noticed recently.

You can also build in a more formal practice with your family, perhaps checking in around the dinner table each night (or any night you manage to gather around). There’s an acronym exercise called GLAD- where each family member takes a moment to name something for each of these letters:

Gratitude – acknowledge something you are grateful for and appreciate.

Learned – share one thing you learned today.

Accomplished – recognize one thing you accomplished during the day.

Delighted – name one thing that lit you up today.

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Creating this practice (or any that you find helpful) with your teen can create a positive mindshift and highlight things that bring happiness into your space. You can get some other ideas for family gratitude practices HERE.

Modelling gratitude and appreciation is a way for your teen to naturally build it into their own life. It probably drives my kids crazy (even though they don’t say it!), but I will often point out my gratitude for the majestic mountains on our drive into school. Or I’ll point out the beautiful sunrise, and notice the different shades of light and clouds. Sharing these moments of appreciation can help your teen appreciate things around them, too.

My colleague Jessa Tiemstra, wrote a really great article on gratitude last week, including the science behind why it improves happiness. Jessa also shares 10 ways you can increase gratitude in your teen’s life; exercises they –

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or you – can do on your own (instead of as a family). Read the article HERE.

Teen Happiness – Respectful Communication

There are various styles of parenting, all of which involve different ways of communicating with your teen. If you aren’t sure of your style, you can read about the four different ones in my blog article ‘Parenting Styles 101: Bridging the Gap of Communication With Your Teen’. The authoritative style of parenting – where you set the expectations for your family with room for collaboration, is a form of respectful communication that I really see fostering positive outcomes for  teens.

Communicating with your teen respectfully, in a way that allows them to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, elevates their voice and their confidence. There is a give and take in your relationship and this fosters autonomy, individuation, and the belief that they are capable.  Not only are these important developmental pieces for teens, but it increases their overall satisfaction in their lives, and therefore happiness.

When you’re speaking with your teen, it can be helpful to focus on the way you are communicating more so than the content. How you say something – the tone you use, the way you say things, your body language, the head space in which you do it etc., makes a deeper impact, sometimes even more than what is being said.

Here are three tips for conversing with your teen in a way that will increase happiness for the both of you:

  • If you’re feeling really emotionally fired up – which trust me, I understand! – give yourself some space. It’s okay to cool down and come back to a conversation another time.

  • Try to use “I” language as much as possible. “I” language expresses your experience as opposed to “YOU” language which can feel blaming, that they made you feel a certain way (and oh I know it can seem that this is very much the case sometimes- but the reality is our thoughts cause our emotions not others), or putting the other person quickly on defense mode

    So instead of saying, “you are making me so frustrated” you can try, “I am feeling frustrated with…”
  • Active listening – share back what your teen is saying with them. Check for accuracy… “It sounds like you’re feeling upset about how unfair this rule seems” or, “You seem sad about this decision”.

    Reflecting back to your teen isn’t about changing anyone’s opinion or perspective, but rather allowing your teen to feel heard and correct us if we’re not understanding it the way they intended.

And, yes this is a two-way street. The more you model respectful communication with your teen, the more you build the foundation for them to pick up those ways of communicating. 

Teen Happiness – Physical Touch

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Physical touch is one of the oldest modes of communication known to humans. In ways of increasing happiness, touch can represent celebration, encouragement, fun, and pleasure. 

While listening to Dan’s Podcast episode, I was fascinated by some of the research his guest had done on touch in high school basketball teams. The study looked at how much touch was happening – chest bumps, pats on the back, high fives, etc. The results of the study showed that the teams who had higher touch points in this kind of way did better overall.

Interesting, right? 

Adding touch and physical contact when you are interacting with your teen increases your social connection with them, and their level of happiness as a result. A teen I was working with recently described how great a head massage feels. Or, it can be as simple as sitting close together, high fives, or hugs! 

When you’re doing this, it’s important to consider welcome vs. unwelcome touch, as well as your teen’s personality – are they someone who generally enjoys touch? Are they comfortable with the physical contact you are making? Check in with them – make sure it’s okay to sit next to them, or offer a hug, etc. When the situation is feeling strained, your teen’s boundaries around touch may be different than when you are having a more connected interaction.

To recap how you as a parent can increase teen happiness you can focus on-

  1. Touch
  2. Respectful communication
  3. Gratitude
  4. Play
  5. The ‘awe factor’ 

You can make small, impactful changes in each area that will increase your teen’s happiness overall.

I recommend picking one or two areas to work on. Become aware of how things are in this area for you and your teen right now. Notice small differences in how your teen responds to you as you become intentional about your actions.

Happiness seems more complex today  than it was when I was growing up. Your teen has a lot more on their plate than we ever did – navigating the current world, the overload of stimuli and information online, the various stressors, the pandemic! There is so much going on, that it is normal for families to struggle with their teen’s happiness.

Tackling the elements above is not a “try it once and your teen is happy” fix, the same as prescribing a depression pill isn’t an immediate fix for your teen’s problems – despite the fact that many of the teens I work with mention that a pill would “fix” everything. Increasing your teen’s happiness involves giving yourself grace, and continuous growth for both parties. The Happiness Pill Program is a 6 month coaching program for you and your teen daughter specifically designed to collaborate with you and other parents, as you navigate through which tools will work best for your teen. Your daughter will create a map of the life that she wants to live, and will work to design that life alongside other teens – she’ll know she isn’t alone with her struggles. You will both have a working frame to build on for happiness, so your daughter can intrinsically create it for herself. 

When you’re ready to create a concrete plan for your daughter’s wellbeing, and want the support to follow that plan, you can book a free 20-minute call with me to discuss your options, including The Happiness Pill Program.


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Pyramid Psychology

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude…. And Ways to Cultivate It! Gratitude is a term that has increased in popularity in recent years. Most of us have heard that gratitude is good, that we should practice it, and cultivate it … but what exactly is gratitude? How does teen gratitude relate to their happiness?

 

 

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, or a frame of mind that encourages us to pause, acknowledge, and reflect on the good things in life. Many of these good things can easily be taken for granted, whether that be other people, the ability to move and breathe, experiencing the five senses, or even having new opportunities and challenges in the future. Teen gratitude puts the brakes on autopilot mode and invites us to be present and appreciative.

With the growing interest in gratitude, researchers have delved into what the actual benefits of gratitude are. The benefits can be broken down into three categories: psychological, physical health, and relational.

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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Teen Gratitude – Psychological Benefits

Research consistently shows that individuals with higher levels of gratitude are happier, have higher self-esteem and improved overall well-being. They tend to have greater optimism and hope for the future.

Gratitude also serves as a buffer for negative psychological experiences, as those high in gratitude are also less likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Teen Gratitude – Physical Health Benefits

Peaceful and happy teen

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In terms of physical health benefits, people who practise gratitude tend to have lower blood pressure and are at a lower risk for burn-out. Improved sleep is an additional benefit correlated with gratitude.

Gratitude also changes the brain itself, with new neural networks developing and strengthening the more that gratitude is practised. The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, typically associated with “feeling good”, are also released when gratitude is practised.

Teen Gratitude – Relational Benefits

The benefits of gratitude can extend beyond the grateful person and into their relationships. Expressing gratitude to others strengthens relationships and builds trust and connection. Even if gratitude is not verbally expressed, being grateful tends to increase social support and reduce feelings of loneliness.

The science is clear that there is a range of psychological, physical, and relational health benefits to gratitude, and the research is only growing. While there are numerous ways to cultivate gratitude, finding a way that works for you, your teen daughter, or your family is best.

Happy mother and Teen daughter

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Check out this PDF for ideas on how to boost your gratitude:

To begin creating gratitude in your teen daughter’s life today, download this free PDF: 10 Ways to Boost Gratitude (for Teens)

✅ Download ‘10 Ways to Boost Gratitude for Teens’ Here

 

I hope these ideas give you a place to start cultivating your own gratitude for you and your teen daughter! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – it’s designed to support you AND your teen daughter through the journey of happiness – giving you the tools to help your daughter find her joy, and your daughter the confidence to step out of anxiety and depression into happiness.

You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy here: 

✅ Download Free Anxiety & Depression Toolkit Here

Email us with any questions, any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

Love,

Jessa

 


Jessa

Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Teen Happiness Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

Teen Happiness: Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

 

“Teen Happiness Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark.” At the end of the day, you want your teen daughter to experience happiness in her life. Finding her spark is a way for her to create happiness. Her spark is what lights her up!

As a parent, there are ways you can encourage your daughter to discover her spark and increase its presence in her life.

First, let’s define what a spark is.

Teen Happiness – What Is a Spark?  

I’ve come across this concept over the last few years. Finding your spark is about discovering what speaks to you, what really matters to you. Your teen is her own, unique being – there will be things that she is passionate about, that will be different from what others care about. You might notice they are in direct contrast to yours- ever tried talking politics or social issues with a lit up 15 year old?!

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Picture your daughter’s spark as different strands of a rope – they are whole when they are intertwined together. One strand of your teen’s happiness spark is tangible, specific things – art, sports, favourite activities, physical objects, etc. Another strand includes qualities and values. Perhaps being kind to others is really important to your teen’s happiness, taking care of animals, or standing up for vulnerable populations. Many of the teens I work with are keenly aware and taking small and large actions to rally around LGBQT+ communities, our homeless populations, and others who don’t have access to basic resources.  

The third strand includes what your teen daughter strongly believes in. This can words to live by, important lyrics, quotes or mottos that move her. 

There are all sorts of components that are part of finding your daughter’s spark and increasing her level of happiness – being playful, or finding joy in making others smile, can be part of it too!

For me, creativity is an important part of my spark. Being a self-identified high achiever, I always want to be getting so much done; I get caught up in the daily grind to accomplish things. Even though I do find joy in these things – having my own business, doing well in my sports, etc. – not setting aside time for creativity is a disservice to myself. I feed my spark when I set aside time to get creative through art and writing, or when I dance and sing. I feel a great connection to my body and myself when I feed my spark. There is a hollowness when I’ve gone too long without getting creative.

When your daughter is living in alignment with her spark and behaving in ways that  are  connected to what’s important to her, that is when she is living her best life. Being in alignment with her spark will create more joy, passion, peace, and motivation in her life.

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Hannah Alper shares a wonderful perspective in her TedTalk on How to Find Your Spark.

Teen Happiness – Encouraging Your Teen to Find Their Spark

I have compiled a list of ways you can encourage your daughter to find her spark – I challenge you to take a look at the list for yourself, too!

  • Encourage her to try new things – Your teen daughter can get a feel for what she likes and doesn’t like by trying new things – school club, sports, animals, art, volunteering, etc. She can use the ‘rule in, rule out’ method – rule in what she does like, and rule out the things she doesn’t!

    If your teen has a tendency to feel anxious, there may be a hesitancy to try new things. However, it’s still important to encourage your teen to try. You can encourage trying something new in smaller steps – a one time thing before committing to it long-term, or giving it a try with a friend, etc.

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  • Connect with your parent peers –  This is for you. Be curious when you have the opportunity to chat with or meet other parents. Check in with what they are doing and trying with their teen daughters. What interesting things have they come across? What are they trying with their teens? This can give you connections and ideas for your own family.

Routines and rituals as a family – There are two types of routines, or rituals, you can create in your family that can help your teen daughter find her spark: routines that shed light on their uniqueness, and rituals that highlight gratitude and appreciation.

These routines can be very small, even something like changing how you ask about their day. Oftentimes we ask the regular questions – how was your day? What did you do? How was school? … Try asking a different question! It can be an opportunity to highlight something unique. A question I recently heard that you can ask instead: “how was it like to be in the lunchroom today?” This small shift can surprise them! Use routines like this to highlight what is unique about your teen’s responses, to hear more about what interests them, and highlight the qualities they possess.

Highlighting gratitude – the second type of ritual you can create in your family –  puts into focus what your teen cares about (their spark). If your teen often says they appreciate their friends, family, etc., (for example), then connection and relationships could be part of their spark.

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A gratitude circle at dinner time, where each family member shares something they are grateful for is one great ritual to try this with. You want to create a way for your teen daughter to appreciate something about themselves that they love, or have family members highlight something about everyone. The key is to be intentional about highlighting gratitude and noticing the things your daughter is grateful for (these are likely strands to her spark).

Ask about and encourage interests + passions – Ask your teen daughter what interests her and be curious to hear what she has to say. Encourage her to become more involved in the hobby’s, causes, activities, etc. that she gravitates towards.

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If your teen daughter is passionate about doing her makeup, be curious about that! Ask her why she enjoys it. What techniques is she learning? Be interested in who she idolizes in the makeup industry.

It doesn’t have to be makeup – your daughter could be into sports, politics, etc. Anything, really! All you have to do, is listen to what she’s talking about a lot, and get curious about it.

I was out and about with my teen son the other day, a cold day, and there was someone outside asking for some money. When I pulled some change out of my wallet, I dropped back some and only gave this person some of what I had. My son asked why I didn’t give all of it to the person, and I explained that I may see others who need money throughout the week, so I give a little to each.

A little while later, my son said ‘we need to do better’. When I asked him what he meant, he said giving homeless people little bits of money here and there isn’t solving the problem of homelessness… My son sharing this with me tells me this is something that speaks to him,  so I continued the conversation with him.

Your teen daughter may or may not have the solutions for what gives her a spark. But if she cares about it, that’s half the battle of happiness! So encourage her to talk about it! Express interest in the things she’s passionate about.

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  • Find a camp or program –  Camps and similar programs are underrated. A parent and I were reminiscing about the camps they attended as a teen themselves – they dragged their feet, not wanting to go… But it always ended up being a great time, and created good memories.

    Camps are fun, playful, inviting, and explorative. They can really help your teen daughter find her gifts, strengths and joys. I’ve even worked with a lot of teens who have gone to camps and have wanted to become facilitators or leaders and support other teens going through it.

Pick one or two of these things, and give it a try! Encouraging your daughter to find her spark will go a long way with her happiness.

Spark Tools with The Happiness Pill Program

 

If your teen daughter is living her life with the above symptoms – feeling hopeless, struggling with her diet, difficulties coping or sleeping, experiencing a lack of motivation, etc. – it isn’t easy (for her, or the rest of your family). This is a heavy way to live some of the best years of her life!

The Happiness Pill Program is designed to give you and your daughter long-term tools and skills to find and keep her spark, while holding anxiety and depression at bay.

When you book a free consultation with me today, you will immediately feel relief. A weight will lift off your shoulders; you don’t have to walk this path alone!

If you don’t get the extra support right away, it’s another day – week, month – of struggling blindly through this with your teen daughter.

You don’t want to keep struggling. Neither does she.

Happiness Pill

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Pyramid Psychology Article

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness – for Teen Girls (and Parents too!) You know that feeling you get when you’re having a great time with your best friend or you’re doing something you love so much… that feeling of happiness? Well, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness when it comes to my own life and the world of the teen girls I work with. 

Oftentimes, they tell me how little they experience joy, motivation, excitement, contentment, peace, and happiness. Their lives are filled with stress, anxiety, pressure, sadness, and sometimes feeling nothing. The thought-feeling loops continue to feed each other, whether it’s sadness, anxiety or whatever they are experiencing. And it’s hard to break out of those cycles once they get started. As a parent looking from the outside-in, you might feel the urge to scoop them up in a great big hug and tell them it’s all going to be ok or shake them (gently) and say please snap out of it!

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

I’ve decided this month to do some digging into this thing called happiness. I’m just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg and learning there is so much to this concept- What is happiness? Why do humans seek it? How much influence do we have over our own happiness? 

I’ll be going down the rabbit hole a few times this month, I’m sure. I’ve started my journey of rediscovering happiness by reading “The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin” and I’m taking the Science of Happiness course by Berkeley University of California. 

Research suggests that a person’s happiness is made up of things like their genes and circumstances, but up to 40% is determined by a person’s daily actions! So, in fact, your daughter (and you) have a lot of sway when it comes to your levels of happiness. I want to backtrack a minute because the definition of happiness and the interpretation of what that means can be so different for people- so for the purposes of this article, when I’m saying happiness, I’m thinking about her subjective interpretation of well-being (how good am I feeling right now and overall, how satisfied am I with my life).

Whether you’re a parent of a teen girl or you’re a teen, let’s get into some practical ways you can start bringing more happiness into your life:    

What makes me feel happiness? 

You are uniquely you. From your personality to your interests and strengths, you have your own unique profile. In order to bring more happiness into your life, a good place to start is to know what makes you happy. It will most likely change over time, you’ll add new things to your list and drop others. If you stop and think to answer that question, what comes to mind?

I asked myself and a few others in my life and these are just some of the ideas that came up – 

  • Hearing people laugh
  • Being near water
  • Learning new things
  • 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Photo by Liz Sanchez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Completing a goal or task

  • My daughter, best friend, partner, mom, dad, etc. 
  • My dog, cats, hamster, etc.
  • Gatherings with the people I love
  • Loud family dinners
  • Hiking
  • Reading 
  • Heavy blankets
  • Being in nature/outdoors
  • Watching my kid do their thing
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Good morning texts
  • Playing hockey
  • Smell of freshly fallen leaves
  • Receiving small gifts
  • A massage
  • Travelling with my sister
  • Listening to music
  • The sound of the ocean
  • Singing birds
  • Quality time with loved ones
  • Yoga
  • Cup of tea
  • Funny movies
  • An afternoon nap
  • Dancing

What’s on your list?

 

Happiness – See it, Feel it, Hear it, Taste it, Smell it

I’m a food person- like I can truly appreciate the most delectable meal and feel like I am in tastebud heaven. My mom makes the most amazing manicotti. Just writing about it reminds me of the  warm savoury tomato-cheese smell, the flavour explosion when I take a bite and the popping colour contrasts of the spinach, tomatoes, and pasta. In that moment and even now thinking about it, it puts a smile on my face.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Florendia Vaidana on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Some say happiness is found in the pleasures we experience in life. Whether it’s what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, etc., paying attention to your world through your senses can turn the decibels up on your happiness. 

You can try this a couple of ways. First, try thinking of something you already know makes you happy. It might be something from the list you created above. Let’s say you pick being with your best friend. Try thinking of that person and the thing you might be doing together and imagine what you see in front of you. Imagine your best friend’s characteristics, what they are wearing, the space you are hanging out in, the colours and objects surrounding you. 

Ok now try imagining what you would hear, your best friend’s voice, their laughter, music or noise playing in the background, a familiar buzz of the place you’re hanging out in, etc. Do this with all of your senses and really experience that thing that makes you happy in full way. You can do this exercise at any moment to recall that great feeling and bring happiness into your present moment. You can also try this exercise while you’re doing the thing you enjoy and take a few seconds to check-in through each of your senses. 

The second exercise you can do to bring more happiness through your senses is to actively treat yourself to more pleasure. Think of things that are pleasing to each of your senses and include those as much as you can in your daily routine. Below are a few ideas for each sense.  

Visual/seeing

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Roman Melnychuk on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

  • Decorate your room with your favourite words or colours
  • Wear clothing that appeals to you
  • Get outside in nature and look around
  • Read a book
  • Hang a new piece of art
  • Choose a new background for your phone/computer/tablet
  • Paint 

Feeling/touch

  • Pick out clothing that feels nice to the touch
  • Add some new bedding
  • Fidgets
  • Take a bath
  • Pet a soft animal
  • Get a massage/give yourself a massage
  • Dress extra cozy

Hearing/sound

  • Make/play a favourite upbeat playlist
  • Try sound dampening for a period of time
  • Listen or watch something funny
  • Listen to sounds of nature (e.g. waterfalls, rivers, animals, etc.)
  • Try autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)

Smell

  • Bake/cook
  • Use essential oils 
  • Make a cup of hot chocolate
  • Hug your favourite person and give them a good sniff (I know sounds a little bizarre- but trust me)
  • Smell your favourite article of clothing
  • Use a really nice smelling shampoo
  • Think of the smells of nature you most enjoy
  • Remember smells from your childhood that remind you of happy memories
5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Canva. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Taste

  • Bake/cook
  • Take your time when eating something you enjoy
  • Use flavoured gum or mints
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Experiment with new foods/drinks

Bringing happiness to the greatest number of people

Turns out when you do things for others it actually boosts your own happiness. It is kind of a mind over matter thing in some ways. If you’re grumbling and not really happy about doing the thing for the other person, likely you won’t get the happiness perks. But if you are doing something kind for someone else or you feel like you are contributing to someone else’s well-being in some way, you will also reap the benefits of increased happiness. Volunteering or joining a group that has the wellness of others in mind is a great way to do this. You can also look at singular acts, like making or getting a thoughtful gift for someone, helping someone with their chores, offering to lend a hand without being asked, asking someone about their day, sending someone a “I’m thinking of you” text, etc. It doesn’t have to a huge gesture, anything that adds to the happiness factor of another person, will count towards yours as well.  

Connection and Happiness

As a general rule, people are social beings. You benefit from feeling connected to others and it’s a pretty natural desire that most of us have. To take control of your happiness in this area, think about the current friendships and relationships you have. Who is a part of your inner circle? Do they have your back, lift you up, support you? 

You can think of the people in your world and put them into 3 basic categories – you have your toast, sweet milk, and your sour grapes. Looks like I’m making this about food again. Your toast people are kind of plain, neutral if you will. They are the people you might consider acquaintances, maybe you talk to them sometimes, maybe they are part of a larger friend group or a relative you don’t see that often, and you really don’t have a ton of positive or negative associations with them. You also have your sweet milk people. They are the people you most like in this world. They have your back, treat you well, support you, you enjoy their company most of the time, and you have positive feelings towards them. Then you have your sour grapes. They are the people that don’t treat you well, maybe they lie, break promises, backstab, bully, are two-faced, and overall when you think of them you are probably conflicted or feel pretty negative about them. 

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

In order to boost your happiness, you want to put time and energy into your sweet milk people. The more you focus on those relationships and making those a top priority the less room it leaves for sour grapes to spoil the day. Chances are you’ll also have many more moments of positive feelings when you’re with your sweet milks. Don’t have a lot of sweet milk people in your life?

Here are a few articles on how to meet new people:

Move your body to find happiness

I know, it probably doesn’t need to be said, sleep and exercise are good for you. You know this, I’m sure. Happiness is something that is felt in the body just as much as in your mind. You can use movement in your body to up your levels of happiness. Mercey Livingston wrote an article here on 4 ways exercise makes us happier and Dr.Debra Fulghum Bruce  writes about the chemical responses that happen in our body and how to consider the “right” movement for you.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Teens in image used in article on this blog called, 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Whether you are dancing, running, doing yoga, skiing, walking, hiking, going to the gym, playing a sport, stretching, or standing in your power poses, physical movement is a great way to increase happiness. It’s important to start where you are and move from there. If you do very little movement throughout your day and you imagine yourself exercising each day, but that seems impossibly unmotivating, start small. Take your dog for a short walk, call a friend and walk through the mall or shoot on some basketball hoops, choose a beginner workout video and follow along, etc. Be kind to yourself through the process and watch as your happiness meter climbs.

 


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Self-Compassion: How Caring Can Stop Teen Depression in It’s Tracks

Whether you are a teen struggling with depression or a parent supporting your teen daughter through depression, suffering is likely a familiar concept. I work with dozens of teens whose feelings of pain, sadness, hopelessness, numbness and helplessness are a consistent repertoire. The way you and your daughter handle these painful thoughts and feelings probably ranges from trying to express your inner experience outwardly to diving deep into distraction. 

One of the approaches that can offer you and your daughter a way of handling the pain of depression is teen self-compassion.  This article shares more on how self-compassion can support you both and start to lift the fog of depression.

What is Self-Compassion?

One of the simplest ways I’ve found to understand self-compassion is to think of it as offering yourself the kindness and caring that you might offer a close friend or loved one. Self-compassion is equally valuable for support people, the ones caring for teens with depression (e.g. mothers, fathers, relatives, etc), as it is for teens experiencing depression.

As a parent, you’ve probably heard of the importance of putting your oxygen mask on first, in order to best help your child. Besides being explicit instructions on an aircraft, its generalization to the parenting experience is on point. If your teen daughter is experiencing depression, in order to be there for her for the long haul, you’ll want to ensure you’re in a good place, filling your cup consistently, so you avoid burnout or even spiraling into your own mental health issues.

Teen self-compassion is valuable for teens suffering with depression. Depression clouds your thinking. Your daughter probably has many thoughts similar to  “I’m wrong, I’m bad, I’ve done something wrong, something to upset someone else, etc.” and feeling lots of guilt and shame. The thoughts are harsh and critical and impact what they say and do. Self-compassion can really help teens take a step back from these thoughts and feelings and open more space for hope and self love.

Objections to Self-Compassion

Most teens I work with don’t outright say “I don’t want to try this self-compassion thing”. The resistance to buying into trying a little self-compassion is usually a little more subtle. 

Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher and leader, talks more about the objections to self-compassion here.

I have heard things like:

  1. It sounds like a poor me pity party.
  2. Of course I wouldn’t talk that way to a friend. It’s just different because I’ve always talked to myself this way, I’m used to it.
  3. I don’t even know where to start to be kind towards myself.
  4. It feels weird.
  5. I don’t have time for that. By the end of the night I’m so exhausted (….being there for my daughter, worrying about her, etc.).

You can take a moment to check-in with yourself. Whether you’re a support person or a teen struggling with depression, what justifications, reasons, excuses does your brain come up with to resist the idea of self-compassion?  Are any of these objections above relatable? Recognizing your objections towards the idea of self-compassion is the first step in allowing it to work for you.

Myths About Self-Compassion

1. Self-Compassion is a “poor me pity party”.

Self-compassion is so much more. It’s not at all about pitying yourself or thinking your situation is worse or better than someone else’s. Stewing in your suffering is not self-compassion.

It is about acknowledging your humanity and being human means that we will all experience suffering at some point. Everyone experiences difficult things and you are not alone. It’s hard to be in pain. Taking those moments to acknowledge how hard it is to be suffering and then offering yourself some caring and kindness is what self-compassion is all about.

You might ask yourself…”What is something caring I can do for myself like encouraging words or actions I can take to get myself moving in a direction that is more supportive for me or my daughter?”

2. Self compassion practices take a lot of time.

Self-compassion practices have a lot of variety. Some practices take as little as a few seconds. It can be something as simple as placing a heart on your heart and taking a couple breaths while recognizing this is a tough moment. This sucks. This is hard right now. 

You can also choose practices that are more in depth and require more reflection. There are many different practices; there’s something for everyone.

3. If I’m focusing on myself then I’m neglecting others.

If you’re a support person you might think that by focusing on self-compassion, you’re not there for your daughter and what she needs right now. If you’re a teen experiencing depression, you might think that by focusing on yourself, you can’t be there for others who need you and that leads to more guilt and shame and bad feelings. 

Offering yourself kindness and caring actually creates more room to be there for and with others. The more I am harsh on myself or criticize myself, the more energy I’m actually spending on myself and my own problems- thinking about my troubles, difficulties, etc. So when you are unkind to yourself, you actually spend a lot more time thinking about yourself. 

When you practice self-compassion it leads to  possibilities such as problem solving, more love and joy, room for compassion towards others, and so much more. The more your cup is filled, the more freely you can give to others without being totally encumbered by your own thoughts and feelings.

A Case for Self-Compassion for Parents and Support People for Teens

As a parent supporting someone who is experiencing depression, you already know how much energy is required of you. It is taxing on your emotional, mental, psychological and physical energy reserves. It can quickly weigh you down. Of course you do this from a place of love and caring. A large part of you doesn’t hesitate for a moment to stay up late watching over your daughter or answering those panicked text messages throughout the day. It is important to realize that there are consequences to being present for someone with mental illness, and the impact can be mitigated. 

Self-compassion cares for those energy reserves ensuring you can show up to support while maintaining your own wellness. Self-compassion shows, models, and teaches your daughter that if you tend to yourself in a kind and caring way, you can actually propel yourself on a journey of wellness. 

Self-compassion can also be a way to relay important values to your daughter, about how to prioritize wellness and look after herself, in relation to herself and others. In practicing self-compassion, you put wellness as a priority while unconditionally loving others and loving yourself.

A Case for Self-Compassion for Teens Experiencing Depression

The inner critic, aka self-dialogue or negative self-talk can be so harsh… So mean! When you’re experiencing depression, the thoughts you have about yourself and how you behave are usually quite critical. It continues the spiral of depression.

Self-compassion is a way of offering yourself something completely different. Imagine that your brain and all the thoughts you have are like actors on a stage. People have so many thoughts each day, research says 6000+….that’s a lot of actors on stage lol. Some of those thoughts are heavy, harsh, and critical. Some are more neutral, random, even encouraging. Imagine all those actors of your mind on stage, all available for you to notice.

Now hopefully that doesn’t feel too overwhelming. You also have this part of your brain that you can call your observing self or noticing self or mindful self, that is like a spotlight director. This part of your brain shines the spotlight down on a certain actor (thought) and highlights it. The thing is, we can get kind of stuck on certain thoughts, leading us to feel kind of rotten about ourselves.

Self-compassion allows you to move that spotlight a little, focusing on some of these other actors. By recognizing this part of being human, you can also take stock in the fact that you can shine your spotlight on thoughts about things you are grateful for, appreciate, or even admire in yourself/others, shifting that focus and offering yourself a different way of treating yourself.

Self-Compassion Strategies

So if I have even slightly peaked your interest in giving self-compassion a try, here are a few of my clients’ favourites. Try them out and let me know what you think!

  1. Self-compassion break.
  2. Thinking from the perspective of what would say to a good friend or how you would  respond to a good friend.
  3. Compassionate friend visualization.

Next month, we are focusing on joy and happiness… Which reminds me of our signature teen life coaching program for teen girls – The Happiness Pill Program. The key to unlocking happiness in your life is within you already and you have the power to activate it. I’ve designed the program to have some 1:1 and group parts. Group can seem intimidating at first, and I get it- so I focus on creating a safe, relaxed environment for you (teen girls) to feel welcome so you get the full benefits of the group experience: 

  • Knowing you are not alone 
  • Feeling like people your age (not just an adult) get it
  • Connecting to a supportive group of peers 
  • More heads are better than one  ideas and strategies to try
  • Helping others out by showing up and sharing some of your experiences 

Email us to learn more, info@pyramidpsychology.com 

Love,

Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Through Teen Depression

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder as it’s diagnosed, is on the rise in teen girls. According to the Pew Research Center, teen depression for girls increased by 66% between 2007 and 2017, with 1 in 5 girls experiencing at least one depressive episode.

There hasn’t been a lot of published data for 2020 – 2021 yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this number continues to rise. The impacts of the pandemic have been hard on everyone, particularly teen girls. Teens are in this important developmental stage of pulling away from their parents to assert independence (a key transition for adulthood!). They turn towards their friends and peers as an all important source of connection and finding their identity. Recently, these have become trickier to navigate. Stack on top of that, rising stress and you have a recipe for disaster. But let’s not leave it on this grim note – I want to send a message of hope – there are things that you do that help your teen rise above depression. There are things she can do to bring more joy and meaning to her life. 

Photo by Mark Decile on Unsplash

If your teen daughter is experiencing low moods most of the time (including anger, irritation, sadness, and numbness), isn’t acting like herself, is pulling away or losing interest in activities she usually enjoys, is struggling to socialize, and/or having trouble sleeping (either over or under sleeping) she may be experiencing depression.

In my years of practice,  I have developed a program – The Happiness Pill Program –  specifically to help your daughter through her  depression. Oftentimes, teens wish they could simply take a pill and fix their depression, but this is often not a long-term solution. The Happiness Pill Program will give your teen daughter the skill sets to get through depression, and step into the joyful, confident person she wishes to be. You can check it out HERE.

And to get you started right away, to support your teen daughter to shift beyond depression, here are 5 tips that you can share with your teen by:

  • Learning about them
  • Modeling them
  • Inviting them to try these out for themselves 

Teen Depression Tip #1: The Power of Thought

Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Give this a try (thank you Amira Alvarez for this exercise!) Imagine someone you love deeply. Picture them in your mind doing something that makes you smile. Notice what happens in your body when you really imagine this person doing that thing that brings you pure joy. What did you notice? My heart feels full and expansive and a smile paints itself on my face. But that person is not in front of me doing that thing. This is not happening in real time, I am simply using my thoughts to shift my emotional state and the sensations in my body. 

Helping your teen daughter recognize that she has the ability to overcome difficult moments and switch things around is an impactful tool to take away the power of depressive thoughts. Invite  your teen daughter to start simply noticing her thoughts and being curious. You’re not telling her what to do with any of her thoughts. Instead, you are simply getting her to start checking in with herself when thoughts pop in.

 “Is this thought serving me, or blocking me?”. You can help them start to tell the difference between a helpful thought – one that empowers them to be the confident person they want to be, and respond to things in the way they desire to – and a thought that blocks them. A blocking thought is one that isn’t serving them. 

“What can I do with this thought instead?”

One exercise you can offer to help with thoughts that don’t serve your teen daughter is a ‘mental vacation’. This is a tool to unhook from a thought that is leading to low emotions and turning into a negative spiral of thoughts. She can (you can do this too!)  picture herself somewhere peaceful and safe, it can be somewhere she’s been, wants to go, or somewhere completely imaginary. Next, she can take a few moments to really imagine what it would be like there, with all of her senses – what can she See? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? 

One easy way to shift gears and create a break for herself. 

Teen Depression Tip #2: Self-Care Assessment

Self-care might bring up the staple image of bubble baths, candles and soothing music. This is great if that’s your vibe. Self-care is in fact sooo much more than that. The way I think of it, is any action (small, medium, or large) that you take that is one step above just surviving. It may not take you

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

into thriving and that’s ok! 

Help your daughter, by getting clear for yourself on what some of your self-care rituals are. Do you have an amazing lotion that you use? What about reading quietly for a few minutes after everyone’s in bed? Do you invest in therapy or coaching? How about going to the gym or go out with a friend from time to time. It’s for you to decide what self-care is and what is a level up from just getting by. 

You can encourage your daughter to be curious about how she is taking care of herself, to look at things from a different angle. Bring awareness to it, and then ask how it impacts her.

Body movement is an especially neglected one that I like to bring awareness to in my sessions with teen girls. It’s an integral part of overall health. Your daughter can check in with herself by asking things like, “How am I taking care of myself physically? What’s my sleep like? How is my tech use impacting my physical health?” The key here is not to tell her what to do, instead have her come to her own reflections on how physical health behaviors are positively or negatively impacting.  

From there what action (small, medium, large) can she take to make an adjustment. This gives her the power to choose what she does next.

Teen Depression Tip #3: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to one’s self,  and you can help grow this skill.

Teen girls tend to be harder on themselves than others (aren’t we all?). I find asking teen girls to imagine what they would tell their best friend in the same situation a good start to lead into self-compassion. “If  your best friend were struggling in the same way you are, how would you help them? What would you say to them? What support would you offer them?”.  They can then turn that around to themselves and see in what ways their response is similar or different to how they would respond to someone they care about. 

For many of us, the way we respond to ourselves is V-E-R-Y different,  often a lot more negative, than how we respond to others. Instead of the kindness and empathy you might offer to your best friend, you are thinking things like – “Why can’t I get this? Everyone’s judging me. I’m a failure”. Your daughter is probably experiencing something pretty similar or even more intense.

When she is in the headspace of “I’m a failure, I can’t do this, I keep messing up”, etc. it can be really hard to take action and move forward. Bringing awareness to this opens up a space for your daughter to start treating herself a  little more kindly. 

Teen Depression Tip #4: Being in the Now

If your teen daughter is going through depression, her nervous system is feeling it too. She might experience detachment, or a numbness; where there is a  lack of feeling, sensation, and/or emotion. She could be feeling cut off from the world, from herself, and her environment; a loss of connection.

Helping your daughter connect to the present moment by using grounding and mindfulness techniques can help to rewire the nervous system to a place where she’s more relaxed and calm – so she can feel safe in her body and connect to self, others, and environment.

Here are a few ways you can help your daughter feel more grounded:

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

  • 5 Finger Breathing
  • Box Breathing
  • Slow down the breath with one hand on your chest or stomach while you breathe in and out 
  • Taking a breath in and humming as you breathe out
  • 54321 Senses Exercise (noticing what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc.)
  • Placing feet on the floor and really noticing the pressure and sensations of your feet being connected to the ground
  • Placing hands on the wall and applying pressure. Noticing what it feels like
  • Taking a walk and combining the 54321 exercise
  • Rubbing your palms together to create some heat and slowly noticing as they cool off
  • A little cold exposure like washing hands in cold water, splashing face gently with cold water, etc. 

Teen Depression Tip #5: Highlighting Uniqueness

Last, but certainly not least, highlighting your daughter’s strengths, qualities, skills, and resources is a wonderful way to help them realize what makes them unique. And further to that, start taking actions that move them in the direction of who they actually want to be and how they want to show up. 

What is it that makes your daughter, her?  What characteristics or skills does she have? Which does she want to develop? What’s important to her (her values)?

If there are things your teen values, but feels she isn’t stepping up  in the way she wants to, how can she get there?

Highlighting strengths, qualities, characteristics, uniqueness, values, etc.  is really important because it can help them see and step into who they want to be; their most confident selves.

I like to use the character strengths exercise with teens to help bring awareness to their strengths, how they are playing out right now,  and which ones they would like to grow. 

I sincerely hope these tools have given you a place to start! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – I designed it to support you AND your teen daughter through this journey. You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy HERE.

Tool Kit

Email us with any questions, any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

Love,

Chantal


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Keeping Teen Depression at Bay: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood

If you are in Canada or anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, the change of season is in full swing – along with the increased likelihood of falling into depression. There are less daylight hours and gone are the freedoms of summer until next year. The stress of being back to school combined with the colder dark days hits hard for many teens.

This is not always the case, some of you might be welcoming the routine, knowing what to expect, and activities and things to keep you occupied. But if you have been finding yourself feeling a little more sad, irritated, angry, or stressed, or know you could easily slip into one of these, this article is for you.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Be sure to scroll to the bottom to get your printable version of the 100 ways to boost your mood and keep depression at bay.

Get your printable PDF here: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood – for Teen Girls. 

The weather change and back to school routine are just some reasons you might be feeling low. Sometimes you might not even be totally aware of what’s leading to that down feeling, but you know how hard it is to get motivated to do anything. It can seem impossible to want to take action even if you know those things will make you feel better. 

When I get in a slump, it can be really hard to do my workouts even if I know in my brain how good I  will feel afterwards. I’ve come to learn that oftentimes the more I’m resisting doing something, the more I really need to be doing that thing.   

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Things can quickly spiral into that bummed out dark place. Like if you’re feeling more and more tired, your emotions might feel like they are rollercoasting or flatlining into numbness. The idea of picking yourself up and doing something to change how you feel can truly be a challenge, even down to showering, eating, reaching out to a friend, doing something fun or active, etc. 

And even though it might seem like turning around the Titanic when it comes to boosting your mood when you’re feeling depressed, there’s a reason why it’s so important to take action to lift your spirits. Because what you do is what gets set into your habits and what you think is what gets patterned into your brain. The brain loves the path of least resistance, so if you constantly give it low, sad, depressed, unmotivated energy and motions, that’s going to be your brain’s go to and what it will want to continue.

On the other hand, the more you give yourself that boost – doing and trying things that lift your mood – the more your brain and body are going to want to do those things, bringing more joy, love, excitement and contentment into your life.

It doesn’t mean you’re not ever going to feel sad, crappy, or depressed sometimes. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be hard to get up and do that thing. However, I have compiled a list of 100 things that can help boost your mood out of feelings of depression. You can use this as a quick reference guide to go back to…

Pick 3-4 to try each week or pick your top 10 and do those consistently over this month. I really hope you will see a positive difference in your life!

  1. Move your body for 20 minutes today
  2. Hang out with someone you like
  3. Help someone out
  4. Get some more sleep – try a 20 minute nap or go to bed earlier for the next couple nights
  5. Eat something that has mood enhancing properties – like berries, bananas, nuts, etc.  
  6. Listen to something funny- funny video, song, podcast
  7. Call someone who makes you laugh 
  8. Smile- fake it til you make it – science that says boost serotonin and dopamine (feel good endorphins)

    Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

  9. Think of something you are looking forward to in the next week/month/year
  10. Remember a happy memory
  11. Try a self-compassion exercise 
  12. Spend time cuddling with an animal
  13. Go for a drive and just take in sights
  14. Sign up for something new (class, webinar, activity, club at school, etc.)
  15. Volunteer – giving back makes us feel good.
  16. Dance
  17. Eat some chocolate – Go dark for this one.
  18. Create a bucket list or a list of things you’ve never done but would like to and choose one thing to go and do
  19. Go outdoors in nature
  20. Ask a friend to make plans for a future date
  21. Make a happy or mood lifting music playlist
  22. Take an amazing selfie
  23. Go back and do something that you used to enjoy when you were younger
  24. Go see a movie – preferably something inspiring or funny
  25. Read a book 
  26. Draw something
  27. Make art (paint, sculpting, collage, etc.)
  28. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time (e.g. aunt, friend) and ask them about their day
  29. Write down some affirmations 
  30. Make your own list of mood boosting ideas
  31. Go shopping
  32. Put on your favourite outfit and go out
  33. Go to a party
  34. Organize or plan a party
  35. Play a sport
  36. Do something kind for someone else unexpectedly 
  37. Read poetry
  38. Write poetry
  39. Do something thrill seeking (e.g. roller coasters, mountain biking, ice climbing, cave diving, hot air balloon, etc.)
  40. Go to a pet store and pet the cutest furry fluffy critters you can find
  41. Write a letter to your future self
  42. Do a series of pushups, situps, squats and lunges for 90 seconds each
  43. Look in the mirror and say 3 nice things about yourself
  44. Get a spa treatment (e.g. massage, manicure, pedicure)
  45. Go to a laughter yoga class
  46. Go to a regular yoga class
  47. Do something a little extravagant (e.g. expensive dinner, rent a limo, wear something nice, splurge on something)
  48. Give/get a hug

    Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

  49. Snuggle a baby
  50. Play with a younger cousin/sibling
  51. Do something physically vigorous like a run or hike
  52. Offer yourself words of encouragement
  53. Go for ice cream or another delicious treat
  54. Give someone a compliment
  55. Make a list of things you’d things you like to do today and knock them off celebrating each one you get to
  56. Research your dream career
  57. Have a meal with people you enjoy
  58. Book a session with a therapist or teen life coach
  59. Play a game 
  60. Cook a nice meal
  61. Ask 3 people what they like about you
  62. Listen to inspiring videos
  63. Watch funny memes
  64. Make a video
  65. Set a 28 day challenge
  66. Go into a crystal shop and pick out one that speaks to you
  67. Journal your feelings, hopes, and dreams
  68. Use a mood tracking app everyday for the week
  69. Garden or do something that has you getting your hands dirty
  70. Read a book from your childhood
  71. Learn something new
  72. Run some stairs for 5 minutes
  73. Buy a inexpensive gift card to your favourite treat place and give it to the next person in line
  74. Start a gratitude journal/list 
  75. Download and start on an acts of kindness calendar
  76. Create a dance routine with a friend
  77. Write a song
  78. Make up the most outrageous touchdown celebration move
  79. Flip through a fashion magazine and snapshot your favourite outfits
  80. Find someone famous who looks like you 
  81. Check out this calendar to download all kinds of action calendars to boost happiness and download the app
  82. Watch a ted talk on happiness
  83. Clean out your closet or another space
  84. Show love to someone your care about
  85. Write a thank you letter to someone (you can send or not)
  86. Tackle a to do list
  87. Drink plenty of water

    Photo by quokkabottles on Unsplash

  88. Meditate
  89. Organize something
  90. Find, printout, write out quotes that you like and make them visible
  91. Scrapbook a favourite memory
  92. Sing
  93. Make a new friend
  94. Give something up 
  95. Try a new wellness app
  96. Play video games
  97. Write down a list of your strengths and qualities
  98. Create a vision board where you imagine your ideal self/ideal life- 
  99. Use mental vacation technique (imagine a favourite place- imaginary or real and take it in through all your senses – what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste).
  100. Use your posture to boost confidence and mood.
Boost Your Mood

Love,
Chantal

 


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Thought Distortions: You Have the Power to Choose Happiness

Sometimes, your brain can play tricks on you and create thoughts that bend the truth, or alter reality –  these kinds of thoughts are called Thought Distortions. They can also be called Thinking Traps or Cognitive Distortions.

Having these thoughts doesn’t mean you can’t trust your brain, but you may want to ask yourself how you can look at these thoughts differently… The ability to find happiness in your thoughts and experiences is already within you. There are techniques and strategies to activate what I call your ‘Happiness Pill’.

Photo from Canva Pro

Getting Hooked

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has between 12,000 – 80,000 thoughts A DAY! over 6,000 (can we please reference) thoughts A DAY! Your brain brings your attention to some of them more than others; the thoughts you believe in the most..

Giving your attention to some thoughts can be helpful – like if you think you are a great artist, or you believe you have good support in your life. Of course you want to believe these thoughts! They make you feel really good. You want to let yourself believe in them.

However, there are other thoughts that can get you hooked or hijack your brain and don’t serve you as well. Things like “I”m going to mess this up. I ALWAYS make mistakes here. People don’t actually like me, they just feel bad for me.” These thoughts can make you feel really down, or bad about yourself, and they impact your behaviour negatively. You might not step up and do the things you want to do because you’re stuck in your thoughts (or trapped). It happens to all of us!

These thinking distortions are kind of like those mirrors at the carnivals, you know the ones that are curved, and wobbly. They make your body look bizarre, and wonky; distorted. Your thoughts will sometimes do things like that – they will distort reality.

The difference between the mirrors at the carnival , and the thoughts in your head is that sometimes you don’t know you’re looking through the wonky mirrors, so you believe what you’re seeing/believing is true.

The key to seeing through thinking distortions is to recognize times when you are standing in a mirror like this; when you are hooked on a thought. To bring awareness to what it is leading you to think and feel about yourself. If you look into the mirror and see something you don’t like, then maybe that’s not a thought you want to hold onto. You have the power to choose which mirror you want to look into.

There are many different types of Thought Distortions. Here are the six most common ones I hear from the teens I work with:

Photo from Canva Pro

Six Types of Thought Distortions

  • Catastrophizing is when you think about something that has happened and immediately jump to the worst case scenario – “I got a bad grade, so now I am going to fail the whole class. I said something that wasn’t cool, so now I’m never going to have friends; everyone is going to hate me.”
  • Minimizing is when you take your accomplishments and your successes and dismiss them. If you believe you aren’t good enough, you minimize any thoughts that could prove that wrong. Like if you got a part in a play, or a new job and you say things like “Oh, I only got the part because the teacher didn’t have other options” or “My friends works there, that’s why I got the job.” You dismiss that any successes may actually be because of you! Who you are. Your personality, characteristics, talents, skills, etc.
  • Labelling is when you put a label on yourself, about who you are, rather than it being something you did, or that may have happened. You label yourself as something, rather than labeling the behaviour.

    Photo from Canva Pro

    Instead of thinking “oh, I made a mistake” you’re thinking “I AM stupid, or I AM lazy.”

  • Mind Reading/Jumping to Conclusions is when you think you know what another person is thinking or feeling, without having any proof of that; nobody is actually saying that. Let’s say you’re at a party, and you’re feeling a little awkward, so you’re hanging out in the corner, not really talking to anyone. Mind reading could look like: “they all hate me, nobody wants to talk to me. Everyone here thinks I”m so weird.You jump to conclusions!
  • Black & White Thinking (AKA all or nothing thinking) is when there is no grey zone in your thoughts. It’s either/or; can’t be anything else. This shows up in ‘always’ or ‘never’ type of language – “I ALWAYS mess up new conversations. I NEVER get picked first for the team.” Oftentimes, you might have thoughts that begin with “everyone” or “no one”… If your thought begins with some of these, you’re likely in all or none thinking.
  • Personalization is when you make a situation about you, when it isn’t really about you. You take the blame for things that have very little to do with you or are outside of your control. It is different from taking accountability or responsibility for something you’ve done; this is where everything is your fault.Let’s say you and some classmates at school got a bad grade on a group presentation. A personalization thought would look like “this is all my fault because I didn’t draw the poster well enough. I caused everyone to have a low grade, because I was so terrible at presenting.” The truth here is likely that everyone had a part to play in the low grade.

 

Photo from Canva Pro

Alternative Thinking

Now that you can recognize the different types of Thought Distortions, you can begin to notice when you are thinking in this way. Here are some questions you can ask when you notice these thoughts:

  • What situations are these types of thoughts showing up in? ( E.g.: do they show up more when I’m at school, or when I’m with my friends?)
  • What are the most common thinking traps for my brain?
  • Is this actually true?
  • What’s the evidence for this thought?
  • What’s the value in standing in front of this mirror? Why do I want to stand here?
  • DO I want to???

Photo from Canva

The next step is to think of alternative thoughts – if the thought you’re currently thinking is a possibility, what else could it be? Ask yourself:

  • How does this thought make me feel? Is this how I want to feel?
  • What is the behaviour – or the way I am acting – because of this thought/how it makes me feel? Is this the behaviour I want?

If your answer is no to either of these questions, what could be an alternative, another thought that would lead to a different feeling or behaviour?

For example, you could be thinking “I didn’t get invited to the movies because nobody likes me” which is making you feel really crappy about yourself… You may choose to stop talking to your friends (the behaviour), or isolate yourself from others. Or instead, you could think: “what else could it be? Could there be something else that is true?”

You want to find thoughts that may lead you to feeling better, or taking a different action.

Imagine all of your thoughts in a day (12,000+, remember!) are all in one big glass house that is covered in the mirrors we talked about earlier. Which ones do you want to stand in front of? What is a mirror you would rather look into?

Photo from Canva Pro

That could be a mirror of confidence – if you want to stand in front of that mirror, ask yourself what would it look like?

A mirror of confidence might look like: “They didn’t invite me this time, maybe they didn’t know I wanted to come to the party/find it fun. I really like hanging out with people and can’t wait until the next opportunity to join them!” Where does thinking these instead lead you to feeling? It may help you feel better; motivated, and confident.

Your actions will look different when you feel differently – you might go talk to new people, or be active in the social media group your friends are in.

Being aware of your thoughts, asking these questions, and thinking alternative thoughts is the power you have to make a choice about what you think and feel. It is how you find happiness in your experiences – your own ‘Happiness Pill.’

This work is not easy. There might be a lot of mirrors in front of you with distortions and images you don’t like! You have to work to find mirrors without the distortions, the ones that will support you. It takes effort and work, which can be discouraging. But I promise – it is so worth it!

The Happiness Pill Program is a program I created just for you and all the other teens who are also feeling anxious and thinking worried thoughts. It is a program designed to give you the power to find, create, and choose your own happiness. You will get to connect with me personally to map out the life you want, and build a friendship circle (online) of friends who are building the same skills as you are. Send me an email for more information – you can feel light, and free with the things you will learn in the program!

You can also follow me on TikTok (@therapywithchantal) or Instagram (@therapywithchantal) for daily tips, resources, and quotes.

As always, reach out any time!

Love,
Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Your Body Image: 6 Things That Will Make You Think Twice

Do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror thinking “I wish I had …..[bigger, thinner, longer, better ____________]” – this is you looking at your body image.

Every day youth are bombarded with images and messages about their appearance and the impossible beauty standards put forth by society. Measuring your worth by how your body looks is a slippery slope of negative self-talk, body bashing, and self-loathing.

What if you could use your appearance to tell a story, to share your uniqueness, to uplift your self-image and stop the negativity in its tracks? 

If you’re ready to think twice about how you feel about your body image,  read on.

Photo found on www.medium.com, an article by Juliet Torrisi.

The Difference Between Self Image and Body Image

Self-image is a larger term that includes how you see yourself in relation to yourself, other people, and to the world that you live in. Basically anything that is involved in ‘self’ impacts and is a part of your self image – values, beliefs, memories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, physical appearance, spirituality etc. Your self-image and sense of self is always evolving and changing.

Saying that, there are some core messages, or beliefs,  that develop when you are younger (like under the age of 10), when we are generally very reliant on the adults in our life. They become core to your identity and how you see yourself. Sometimes you might be clearly aware of what they are and sometimes these beliefs might be a little more on the subconscious side. These could be things that were verbally said –  ‘you are so athletic’ or ‘she’s so shy!’ The things you  believe can also be nonverbal – things that weren’t said, and/or behaviours from others that you then internalize as beliefs  about yourself.

Body image is one aspect of self-image that focuses on how you see your self physically –  Your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about your physical appearance. Body image is built on many different things – past experiences, things you see in the world, messages you get from parents/adults, friends, cultural groups, etc. Media is a big influence on how you develop body image as well – what you see and hear on social media, in shows, movies, and advertisements.

Photo from Canva Pro

Ideal Body Image

What is an ideal body image anyways?

The way I see it, it’s about feeling  good in your own skin – with how your body looks, knowing that it is unique. When you’re aware of what your body is capable of; you feel empowered by that. Noticing the power in your body and all that it is is an important first step –  INSTEAD of picking apart the flaws – the things you think are wrong with it, or how it doesn’t meet up to certain standards (standards that are, for the most part, unattainable and quite unrealistic to reach).

An ideal body image supports your wellbeing and mental health.

How can you move towards a body image that supports your wellbeing – and make good choices for your mental health –  in spite of all the different things and people that influence your self-image?

Here are six ways to think twice about your body image:

1. Find Your Body Image Role Models

Surround yourself with people who practice body positivity for themselves. People who love their bodies even with their imperfections, and even if they don’t look like what social media advertises as the body. They love themselves and focus on what their body can do, and on putting things on and in their body that make them feel good, strong, and powerful.

People who may have goals for their bodies – like strengthening their body, increasing their fitness level, or gaining/losing weight – but are kind and compassionate with themselves. They love themselves where they are at, while having their goals.

Photo from Canva Pro

Body image role models can be in the circle of people you already know – a parent, teacher, friend, or other relative.

You can also look for role models outside of your circle too, people you don’t know. These could be influencers or famous people that are modelling body positivity.

Find public figures, celebrities or influencers that look similar to you – e.g. same ethnicity, body shape, or style. It can even be about finding a specific feature – a hairstyle , or something else unique about your body. It’s a great thing to have more diversity and representation of different types of people so you can do this! For me, I also found people who had similar values and beliefs that I have.

It’s important to see and hear others like you, who love their bodies, so it’s easier to see that you can love your body, too.

2. Be Critical of Social Media

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone’s highlight reels” and it is often very true. A lot of media out there – photos, videos, etc. – are not a true depiction of reality.

When you see an image or someone on a show and you notice you’re feeling a little low on yourself, you can do a little check-in and ask yourself:

  • Is this photo really how this person looks? Is it a real life image, or has it been altered? Is it just a highlight moment, or is this how this person looks on the daily?
  • How much time and energy did it take for this person to look this way? Is that something I want in my life?

    Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

  • What do I admire about people in my life that I respect? Do I admire just their looks, or are there other things I respect and look up to them for? What other things could be important?
  • Could this image have been photoshopped? Is there a filter or other edits going on?

It’s really important to be critical of the different things you see. To question the highlight reels being posted on social media vs what reality really looks like.

Every body comes in different shapes and sizes, with different marks, tones, scars and unique features. Your body tells the story of your life! Of who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and how you’ve gotten this far.

3. Know Where to Get Information

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

 

Seek out credible resources – through coaches, teachers, websites for teens etc. Here are a few to get you started:

4. Social Media Breaks

Did you know being on social media increases cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone?

When you’re online for long periods of time, it increases your stress response. It comes with dopamine spikes (depending on what you’re doing), the natural pleasure/reward chemicals, followed by a crash or constant stress, which can ultimately plummet your mood, confidence, and self-esteem – you really begin to feel down on yourself.

It’s important to get breaks from this rush of stress so you can be in a place to make decisions that are going to support a healthy self image. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you will see yourself in a positive light, and take actions that line up with the kind of body image you want.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here’s how this plays out sometimes. Say you were planning to go for a run tomorrow, and were scrolling social media late into the night, you wake up feeling exhausted and totally unmotivated. The likelihood of you going for that run is not

great. Your brain may start telling you things like – “I didn’t run, I’m so lazy, I’m not getting healthy, I don’t look good etc.” and it can spiral so you’re all caught up in your thoughts.

You also want to take social media breaks to distance yourself from the constant game of comparison – constantly filtering through and comparing bodies, faces, and filters, seeing people who look a certain way/look differently than you, etc.

Your brain is running a mile a minute trying to make sense of all this stuff! The more that you are hooked to the comparison machine, the worse you feel about yourself. It’s good to take a break and interact with real life people and the world in front of you to give you a different perspective on things.

5. Practicing Body Acceptance

Body acceptance isn’t simply accepting your flaws. Body acceptance is about recognizing that there is so much more to your body than appearance alone. Practicing body positivity can bring you to a place where you allow yourself to see your body for what it is. Yes, it has an appearance that shows to the outside world. But it can also do all these things, and that’s really important to be curious about and dial into.

What is it that your body is capable of? What can your body do? Stretching, moving, dancing, walking, playing a sport really well… It could also be that your body is really great at being still and chill. There are so many different things!

There is so much more to your body than just looks, and they are ALL unique! No two bodies are alike – even identical twins have differences. It’s quite fascinating!

Honing in on what YOUR body can do allows you to look at your physical self and see all of the things your body is great for… Your body may be able to do things better than someone else – and their body could do other things better than you, etc.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here are 3 things you can do to practice body acceptance:

  • Create a really great feeling about yourself by naming the following things:
    – 3 things your body can do
    – 3 things you enjoy about you body
    – 3 things you enjoy about your personality
    – 3 things you have done or can put on your body (accessories or clothing) that feel good
    – 1 recent accomplishment
    Once you have everything listed, keep the list somewhere safe that you can access any time you are feeling low – a note on your phone, or a piece of paper in your purse or wallet.
  • Make a list of 10 things you love about yourself – you can choose to have some body orientated things on your list, or not. This is also a list you can keep handy to review when needed. Or even hang on your bedroom wall!
  • Download my Body Image Tips guide to have a condensed reminder of all the things you’re reading in this blog article. A reminder of all the things you can do to create a healthy self image.

4. Be Body Aware

Being body aware means tuning into your body and using it as a really cool resource, instead of body shaming and bashing it all the time.

Think about how amazing your body is, and how informative – it’s constantly giving out messages! When you’re nervous or stressed, your stomach might be in knots, or your heart is beating faster. If you’re having a super fun time, or with people you love – your heart might feel expansive, your face might light up with love. The messages your bodies give you are a really cool thing.

Instead of thinking ‘this body is this thing that I must hate, that will never live up to any standards’ do a mindset switch to think ‘my body is actually SO cool and SO unique and there isn’t another one like it… My body is imperfect, and that’s okay! It’s capable of so many things – it is an amazingly beautiful information giving machine that can be a resource for me.’

You can tune into this ability, ideally every day, by stopping for a minute and noticing what messages your body is giving you; what kind of sensations. Is your stomach grumbling because you’re hungry? Are your toes tingly because you’ve been sitting down for a long time? Is your back tight because you’ve been in a hunched over position? Is your body feeling energized? Really good? Sluggish and wanting to move?

There are a few ways of doing this:

Pause for a minute, take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel from head to toe OR toe to head.

Mindfulness meditation practice – focus on just one part of your body. I will sit with my eyes closed and see if I can just pay attention to my left hand and see if I can notice any sensations in my hand, or my fingers. I try to notice the weight, sensations, and temperature of it. Then I’ll draw attention to my right hand and repeat the process.

Tune into your body by focusing on only one thing it’s doing. Focus on just your breaths, or your stomach as it expands and contracts.

As you’re noticing these different sensations, notice what your mind is telling you about your body – the messages that are showing up.

Are there moments when it’s being really kind? When you look in the mirror and think ‘I love what I did with my makeup! My arms are looking toned right now.’ Or is your mind telling you things like ‘this is not looking good right now. I wish I had a body like ________.’

Notice what the ratio is between good and bad thoughts. Are there more bad thoughts or good thoughts?

Go for a 5:1 ratio. Let’s say it takes saying 5 positive things to balance every 1 complaint or negative comment. Try this for yourself! Practice doing it on purpose – for every negative message your mind sends, create five good ones back!

Another thing you can do with these messages is to ask yourself – would I say the same thing to someone I love or care about? To my best friend? If the answer is no, ask yourself what you would say instead.

I want you to know that struggles with body image are not something you are alone in – even when it feels that way. Many, many teens – and adults! – are also struggling. If you’d like to connect with other teens just like you, and learn all of these tools in-person, with tangible things you can use to support your self-image, check out my upcoming Body Image Workshop for Teens.

You can reach out any time.

Love,

Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.