Claude Cyr has a prescription for happiness – and it’s 100 per cent drug-free.

The University of Sherbrooke professor says he has a way to combat increasing rates of anxiety and depression amongst children. All it takes is reminding yourself of what makes you happy.

“We tend to forget that happiness is not trying to get what we don’t have, but recognizing and appreciating what we do have,” Cyr told CTV News.

In the study, researchers asked children to write a letter of gratitude to someone they appreciated. They were also asked to think of three things they were happy for in life.

Although simple, Cyr says these “happiness exercises” had a noticeable effect on the group of children studied.

“We were really surprised to see that happiness and subjective well-being increased in kids,” he said.

Interestingly, Cyr said parents indicated an increase in their own well-being as well -- something Cyr might be enjoying first hand. His son Antoine says he had felt stressed in the past, but saw improvement after taking part in the pilot study.

“Sometimes it’s good to have fun and happiness, to balance it,” says the 15-year-old. “It helped me a lot stopping that stress.”

Marie-Pier Grondin, another researcher from the University of Sherbrooke, says the exercises let children develop character strengths.

“With the help of their family they were able to be happier,” she says. “And parents were actually happier too with the intervention.”

The study relied on subjective measures, meaning kids were asked to gauge their own happiness for researchers.

But it’s not surprising that researchers in Sherbrooke might have stumbled upon the key to well-being – a few years ago, Sherbrooke, Que., was rated as the happiest city in Canada by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

With a report by CTV's Medical Specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip