In Family It’s Survival of the Contented

Cornell University recently completed an interesting study about the “evolutionary advantage” of a positive attitude. They were able to simulate 40 generations of people while looking at the impact of attitude on survival. (Read a review here.) The results suggested that those who survived for multiple generations:happy brother and sister laughing isolated on the white

  1. Attached more importance to long-term happiness than to momentary happiness,
  2. Remembered past happiness for longer periods of time, and
  3. Attached greater meaning and importance to the upswings in their situation than the downswings.

You may be thinking, “But I’m not an evolutionist. I believe in creation.” That’s OK…so do I.  One might interpret these results to suggest we were created to live longer and more successfully when we do the same three things listed above. Said in a slightly different way, those who “survived”:

  1. Attached more importance to the eternal than the temporal,
  2. Remembered past blessings and kept them in mind each day, and
  3. Attached greater meaning and importance to times of blessing than the actual struggle itself.

Let me make this a little more personal though. I mean, it’s kind of hard to think about 40 generations. Let’s narrow it down a bit. If we create a family environment that promotes these three actions, our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can learn to be happier, more successful, and “survivors.” How do we promote these three actions in our families? Here are a couple of ways.

  • Develop an environment of gratitude in your family by thanking one another often.
  • Tell family stories of joyful events and successes, funny experiences and surprise blessings.
  • Tell family stories of how persistence and effort in times of struggles led to positive learnings or other positive results.
  • Practice showing kindness to others as a family.
  • Promote rituals of celebration. Mark your family values and happy events with celebration.
  • Find ways to experience awe as a family. Watch the sunset. Listen to a concert. Visit a cathedral or the Grand Canyon. Experience awe as a family.
  • Make prayer and worship a part of your family life.

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