The year: 1938. The question posed by the Bolton Evening News: “What does happiness mean to you and yours?” Bolton is a town in northwest England. Bolton “reached it’s zenith in 1929” with over 200 cotton mills and textile industries. Recently, researchers from the University of Bolton recovered and analyzed the answers given by the original 226 respondents. Three themes emerged in the analysis of the respondents’ answers.
- “Contentment” and “peace of mind” contributed to happiness. In other words, being satisfied with what one has rather than constantly seeking more contributes to happiness. Having a healthy family filled with emotional connection and acts of honor increases a sense of contentment, even when we don’t have the most expensive shoes or the newest gadgets.
- “Family” and “home” were important to happiness. A happy marriage, healthy children, loving family contribute to happiness. A home is a celebrating community of honor and grace. As we shape our homes around honoring one another and sharing grace to one another we find greater contentment and more happiness. That is a reason to celebrate!
- Helping “other people” contributed to happiness. Actively seeking ways to help other people brings happiness. It turns our focus outward and opens our lives to relationship. Helping others as a family strengthens our family. And family, as noted in #2, contributes to happiness. (Read more in Lessons from the Past on How to be Happy.)
These three themes can still help to build happiness in your family today. Read these blogs to discover ways of building each of the characteristics into your family.
- For ideas on filling your family with “contentment” and “peace of mind” read
- The Secret to Family Peace
- Recognizing the Benefit of Emotions in Parenting
- Beatitudes for a Happy Marriage
- To improve your “family” and “home” conenctions
- Why Family Honor
- Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family
- Help “other people”
- The Paradox of Happy Families
- Give It Away for Family Fun
You can find many more blogs to build these characteristics into your home and family. Just explore the many blogs on this site, put them into practice, and…find family happiness.
I love being married. I find more joy and happiness, adventure and excitement, joy and contentment, even fun and ecstasy with my wife than I could have ever imagined. But, let’s face it. Marriage is not all fun and games. It’s not always easy. I also experience irritations and frustrations in my marriage that impact me more deeply than any I experience in other relationships. I’m sure my wife can say the same. (Still, I did plead perfection when telling her about this blog. She simply snickered and shook her head in response. Go figure.) Anyway, the Florida State University’s Family Institute suggests a way to increase the positive side of marriage and decrease the negative, increase the joy and excitement while limiting the frustrations and anger. And, it’s based on over 20 years of research! (Full disclosure—I only reviewed some of the studies from the last 10 years.) Based on their research, staff at the Florida State University’s Family Institute suggests an activity that any of us can engage in on a daily basis to improve our marriages. It’s simple, yet powerful; easy to do yet profound in its impact. Want to know what activity they suggest? Praying for your spouse. That’s right. Praying! Coming before God (your Higher Power) to ask that your spouse be blessed and protected. Making intercession with God for your spouse; asking Him to help your spouse achieve his or her goals. One caveat—none of these prayers in these studies asked for their partners to become the person they wanted them to be. No, they offered sincere, unselfish prayers focused on their partner’s well-being. Overall, research suggests that saying prayers for one’s partner has many positive effects. Let me share just a few from the last 10 years of research (Read more here).
- Praying for one’s spouse has a softening effect on conflict (Butler et al, 1998). In other words, conflict becomes less harsh for those who have a praying spouse.
- Praying for one’s spouse predicts relationship satisfaction beyond what positive or negative behaviors in the relationship can predict (Lambert et al, 2008).
- Praying for one’s spouse over a 4-week period leads to greater gratitude toward one’s spouse than did thinking positive thoughts about one’s spouse or engaging in daily activities together (Lambert et al, 2009).
- Praying for one’s spouse increases the willingness of the one praying to forgive and did so more than simply speaking positively about one’s partner (Lambert et al, 2010).
- Praying for one’s spouse predicts greater commitment to the marriage (Fincham et al, 2010).
- Praying for one’s spouse while praying with your spouse leads to a greater sense of trust and unity in the relationship (Lambert et al, 2012).
Increased relationship satisfaction, more gratitude, more willingness to forgive, greater commitment, greater trust and less harsh conflict…all through the simple act of sincerely and unselfishly praying for your spouse. I’m getting started now. How about you?
What can the price of a cup of joe teach us about family? Last year (2016), CUPS Coffee & Tea in Roanoke, VA, taught a great lesson that applies to families and the Family Bank of Honor. (Read about the coffee shop here). The owner “felt the need to help solve all the injustices of the world” and decided to start close to home by encouraging polite manners and connection. So, he put up a sign outside his coffee shop, a menu with prices associated with how a person orders their coffee. If someone simply ordered “one small coffee” the charges was $5. However, if they politely placed their order with a “one small coffee, please” the cost was reduced to $3. But, you could get the same cup of coffee for a mere $ 1.75 if you connected before placing a polite order: “Hello, I’d like one small coffee please.” His sign went viral in a matter of days.
I think he had a great idea. “Solving the injustices of the world” begins at home. We can contribute by encouraging polite manners and connection within the family and with those our family meets. Each time we make a connection with a family member, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor. Each time with make a polite statement, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor (Learn more about the Family Bank of Honor). The more we invest in the Family Bank on Honor, the stronger and more intimate our family bond. And the stronger our family bond, the greater the potential impact on the world (Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship).
Just like that coffee shop owner, encourage your family to practice polite manners and a little connection…and change the world!
In a previous post I mentioned that the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single and even alienated from His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. The advice comes in two parts. Part one was to “deny yourself.” Part two is to “take up your cross.” When this advice was first spoken, the cross was a way to punish, in a very public and humiliating way, those who threatened the way the world was organized under the ruling authority of the Romans. To take up our cross as a family means to live a family life that will stand in stark contrast to the world around us, to have a revolutionary family life based on principles in opposition to the “world powers” around us. Let me explain by offering a few examples.
- The world encourages us to assert our power, stand up for our rights. A family that “takes up a cross” will submit to one another in love and service.
- The world encourages us to promote ourselves and “build our brand.” We are told to climb the ladder of success on the backs of others because it’s a “dog eat dog world.” A family that “takes up a cross” will encourage one another, promote one another’s success, and build one another up rather than focus on my own success.
- The world calls us to achieve a status in which we can BE served. A family that “takes up a cross” strives TO serve one another within the family and TO serve others as a family.
- The world encourages leadership through power brokerage techniques, such as taking charge, delegation, and telling others what to do. A family that “takes up a cross” will lead through love. Each one will want to lead in forgiveness, showing kindness, and serving one another.
The family that “takes up a cross” exhibits different values than the family that lives according to “the world system.” It may, at times, lead to some ridicule or misunderstanding from those outside the family. However, it will also lead to a stronger more intimate family. “Taking up a cross” creates a family whose strength is found in humble service, loving accountability, sincere encouragement, and kindness. It sounds odd, even wrong, but taking up your cross to build a strong and intimate family is a wise and powerful action to take!
Just came home from the 2017 family camp weekend at Camp Christian. If you weren’t there, you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning of God’s will for our family lives. Ken and Laurie Muller honored us with practical teaching focused on becoming part of the “Kingdom Family.” Using Psalm 128:1 as the primary verse, they described our “one job:” to walk and obey. We also learned about the importance of balance in our lives as we had the chance to walk a “tightrope” that was simply drawn on the ground. Although walking the tightrope drawn on the ground proved nearly impossible, the balance in our lives and our families can be found through the three P’s of prayer to God, provision from God, and peace by God. We then had the opportunity to ride a “bicycle built for two” (really, we got the chance to ride a tandem bike) and learn how communication helps us keep our balance as a couple. We also learned how the three R’s (respect one another, respond to one another, and react to problems with love) help our family run like a well-trained team…with an honoring voice and attitude proving an important aspect of precision teamwork. We even had a visiting knight, William, who encouraged us to be strong in our faith by wearing the full armor of God.
You can see we learned a lot…and we had a lot of fun. I love to see families smiling, laughing, sharing, and worshipping together. And I observed of all four this weekend. As the weekend came to an end, Ken and Laurie gave us “carry out orders” to go. (How often do you get to leave camp with a Chinese takeout container?) This “carry out order” is a great tool to help us “carry out the orders” of our King, making us stronger kingdom families! Like a said, if you didn’t get to be with us this weekend you missed a great weekend of fun, fellowship, and learning how to live as a “Kingdom Family.”
Jim and Terry, thanks for organizing another great weekend. Ken and Laurie, thank you for sharing God’s wisdom in such a practical and meaningful way this weekend. And, thanks to “Bald Greg and the Dirty Pirates” (the name given our worship leaders by one of “bald Greg’s” students) for leading us in wonderful times of worship. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.
- Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
- Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
- On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
- Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.
See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.” By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration. I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.
In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life. So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”
- Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
- Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
- Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
- Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
- Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
- Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
- Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
- For more ideas, read this.
You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”
Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen. But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way. He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary. I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.
- Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
- Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
- Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
- Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
- Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
- Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
- Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
- Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
- Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
- Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.
I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.
Our youngest daughter moved out of our house and into her college room today. I won’t get to tell her “good night” at the end of each day, hear her come down the stairs in the morning to start her day, or enjoy our “Tuesday Daddy-Daughter Days” now. On the other hand, I won’t have to ask her to put her stuff away every day or work my way through her leftovers in the fridge. I will really miss her daily presence in my life. Still, I have to say, it’s not the first time I’ve had to watch her take a step away from me and toward independence. This is just another step in a series of steps that began many years ago with the words, “No, I do” as she pulled away from me to zip her own coat. Some of her steps have been sure-footed, some hesitant. Most have proven more difficult for me than they were for her. She has learned the pace most comfortable for her in stepping toward independence. She has grown more confident in her abilities. Me…well, I’m just a “therapist with separation anxiety” (her words, by the way). I don’t completely agree with her assessment, but I have to admit…I have experienced some separation anxiety with each step she has taken. Overall, watching my daughter mature and walk toward independence has increased my joy. But, I have experienced some separation anxiety…and, I have learned at least two things from this adventure of letting go.
- I learned the importance of observing my daughter closely. Observation builds a foundation for understanding our children’s strengths and interests. It allows us to learn about their competencies and their developmental abilities. Observation allowed me to see what my daughter had learned, what she already knew, and what she was ready to learn and do. With all this knowledge, I was better able to present opportunities that fit my daughter’s readiness to learn while still challenging her to grow. It allowed me to keep the environment conducive to her abilities. Observe your child closely and you will learn the same things about your children. Even learning all this, you might struggle to learn the second lesson. I know I did.
- I learned to trust my daughter to initiate and explore herself and her world. This meant I had to learn to believe in her competence to learn. Sure, I supported her exploring and learning (just check my pocket book), but I had to trust her enough to let her go, to take a step away, and explore more and more independently. I had to trust her ability to manage the discomfort of trying something new with only my distant watchful eye for support. I had to trust her to learn from her mistakes without rescuing her…or sheltering her from future mistakes. I had to trust her to learn her limitations and strengths. And, as she did, she became more confident. Her judgment improved. And, I could trust her more. Trusting your child to takes steps toward independence throughout life will do the same for you as well.
Observing will increase your ability to trust. As you trust, you will observe all the more and rejoice in the growth you see. All the while, you will find yourself letting go one step at a time and trusting each step of the way…even if it does still remain difficult to watch them grow up and leave home.
Remember the age when your children started asking questions? I don’t mean when they asked one or two questions. I’m talking about the age in which they did nothing but ask questions every waking hour of every day. They asked about everything. They even asked questions about the questions! It was a constant barrage of never ending questions. Even in the midst of all those questions your children probably never asked the questions listed below…not out loud anyway. Sure, they wanted the answers to these questions, they even needed the answers, but they didn’t ask them out loud. They asked these questions through behaviors like hanging around your legs, getting under your feet, pushing limits, and even disobeying a request while looking you straight in the eye. What questions were they asking without using their words? The truly important questions like:
- Will you set clear and fair rules and limits? Will you enforce those limits consistently or can I make you give in? Your consistency answers another question I have…will you really keep me safe? Am I safe to explore the world under your watchful, loving eye?
- Do you delight in me? When I walk in the room, do your eyes light up with joy or do you look bothered and annoyed? Am I lovable and delightful in your eyes…or am I a nuisance?
- Do you realize I’m still a kid? I don’t have the knowledge or experience you have. Will you match your expectations match with my ability or will you expect me to do things I don’t have the ability or knowledge to do yet? Will you teach me and help me experience success so I can grow more confident?
- I hear you and see you. I’m listening to you and watching you very closely every day. I learn from everything you say and do. What will I learn from you?
- Can you hear me? Can you respect my ideas, even if they’re different than your ideas? Can I be my own person or am I trapped being the person you want me to be?
- Do you see me or just my grades? My character or just my sporting ability? My dreams or my achievements?
- Can we play together? I talk best when we’re having fun. So, can we have fun together?
- Will you accept me even when I make mistakes, clumsily spill a drink, act like a 5-year-old, or have a different opinion than you?
- Will you ever give up on me? Will I ever do something so bad that you just get rid of me?
- Do you really love me?
Our children need to know the answers to these questions even though they may never ask them out loud. It doesn’t really matter if they ask out loud because we answer these questions whether we know it or not. Our children discover the answers to these questions in how you look at them, how we talk to them, how we act toward them, and how we interact with them. They hear the answers in our speech and see the answers in our deeds. The answers they receive will shape their identity, their confidence, their desire to learn, their character, their self-concept. So, let me ask one final question: what answers do your children hear from you in response to these questions?
I live in Pittsburgh, PA. So, any time I see or hear about a study conducted by one of the universities in the area it catches my eye, especially when it deals with family. Recently, a study by Carnegie Mellon University caught my eye. This study focused on the impact of spousal support and opportunities. The researchers recruited 163 couples and gave one member of each couple a choice. They could either solve a simple puzzle or compete for a prize by giving a speech. Each person then returned to their partner and discussed whether to do the puzzle or compete for a prize. Participants with encouraging partners were more likely to decide to give a speech and compete for the prize. Those with discouraging partners, or partners expressing a lack of confidence, were more likely to choose the simple puzzle. Not real surprising, is it? But, here’s the part I found really interesting. Six months later the partners who had accepted the more challenging speech competition reported more personal growth, greater happiness, more psychological well-being, and better relationship satisfaction than those who chose the simple puzzle! The encouraging, supportive spouse helped their partner embrace an opportunity to “go for it” and grow. They supported their partners’ growth and in doing so supported their partners’ happiness. That, in turn, likely led to a more satisfying marriage as well!
Do you want to see your partner grow and learn? Do you want them to know greater joy? Do you want a more satisfying marital relationship? Encourage your spouse. Learn about your spouse’s dreams and encourage them to “seize the moment” when opportunities that arise to pursue those dreams. When challenges arise, express confidence in their ability to meet the challenge and support them in growing through the challenge. Express joy in seeing them move toward their dreams. Celebrate every step of the way. Then, thank Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, for revealing how encouraging our spouse makes life better! (Sorry for the commercial….I guess I’m a proud “yinzer.”)