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 enjoyed a short hike along Cedar Creek with my wife and two nieces (6- and 7-years-old). We joined the trail where the picturesque Cedar Creek flows out of the woods and into the Youghiogheny River. We hiked a short distance “up creek.” With a 6 -year-old and a 7-year-old it was not a quiet walk. But, it was beautiful and very relaxing. We smiled and laughed. We enjoyed the trees and the “cliff.” We even saw some fish and a few caterpillars. When we returned home, I felt more relaxed, happier, even a little energized. Apparently, I’m not the only one to have this experience. A growing number of physicians prescribe park visits and hikes to their patients. Studies show that taking a hike in the woods improves mood and self-esteem, decreases tension, clears the head, and decreases anger and depression. Researchers have also found that taking a “nature walk” decreases repetitive negative thoughts about ourselves. Living in areas with high amounts of “green areas” or “natural spaces” decreases the chance of experiencing depressive symptoms by 20% and suicide attempts by 28% when compared to those who live without “green areas” or “natural spaces.” (Read Take Two Hikes and Call Me in the Morning) In other words, a hike through “green areas” leads to a better mood, greater happiness, and a greater sense of calm. Sounds like three great goals for our families: 1) better mood, 2) greater happiness, and 3) a greater sense of calm. And, it’s not hard to work for those goals. Simply take the family to your local park and go for a walk! You’ll enjoy fresh air and good conversation. You’ll learn more about one another’s lives and grow more intimate. You’ll come back home in a better mood, happier, and calmer. That is my kind of family activity! (Learn more about hiking and happiness in Hike to a Family Fun Night.)
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.
Ever wake up feeling kind of blue and irritated? I have! When someone wakes up in a bad mood, the whole house feels the weight of that mood. Everyone becomes more cautious and quiet, less carefree. Smiles become scarce. The whole house seems heavier, tired,
even more depressed and burdened. When days like this occur in your home, I have a solution. Smile! It’s research supported and fun. So, “if you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day. You’ll see things in a different way” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). In fact, research suggests you will see things different. Seeing a 4 millisecond image of a smiling face gives us a “mini emotional high.” We also perceives the world in a more positive & interesting light after catching just a glance of a smiling face (How Smiling Changes Your Brain). Seeing a smiling face can even make bland drinks seem tastier (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Smiling helps us manage stress more effectively, too (see the LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile). When you smile even though waking up blue and irritated, your family learns “you’ll get by if you smile through your fears and sorrow…” (Michael Jackson/Charlie Chaplin in Smile)…no matter how hard the times might get.
Smiling is contagious too. Research suggests that a smile “migrates two degrees.” In other words, when you smile another person in your family will catch the smile and a second person beyond your family will catch the smile as well ( 6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). When you fill your home with smiles, even those who visit will leave smiling because “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…when your laughing the sun comes shining through” (Sing it with the Leftover Cuties).
So, build a happier family. “Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place” (Put a Smile on Your Face by Vitamin C). Go a step further and work to make your spouse and children smile. You can tell them, “All I want to do is make you smile if it takes just a little while” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). You’ll get more than a little while to make them smile too, because those who show partial smiles live 4.9 years longer than those who don’t’ smile and those who smile broadly live 7 years longer (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Go ahead, take the time and make your family smile. You’ll be giving your family the gift of life. “When U smile I smile” (U Smile by Justin Bieber)…and live longer. And “when you smile I can face the world…When you smile, I see a ray of light” (When I See You Smile by Bad English).
Enjoy the benefits of smiling in your family. “Make ’em laugh” (A classic from Singing in the Rain). Share a smile. After all, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” (You’re Never Fully Dressed in New York).
Happy the family in which all family members recognize their deep need to receive and give love and acceptance. They will experience the true joys of intimate family relationships.
Happy the family who openly shares emotions with one another, embracing one another in times of sorrow and pain, and celebrating one another in times of joy. They will know comfort, intimacy, and freedom to be themselves.
Happy the family filled with humility, willingly submitting their selfish desires to meet one another’s needs while encouraging one another in action and speech. They will know the contentment of an abundant inheritance.
Happy the family who has an appetite for doing kind deeds. They will feast on kindness and compassion.
Happy the family that practices mercy and forgiveness. They will receive mercy and know the freedom of forgiveness.
Happy the family that replaces selfish agendas with a true desire for each family member to grow into the best person they can become. They will see the beauty in one another and themselves.
Happy the family that learns to pursue peace and cooperates to maintain a peaceful home. They will know the safety and security of a strong family unity.
Happy the family that perseveres through struggles and hardships while remaining polite and respectful toward one another. They will know greater depths of love and joy.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to promote happiness in my family and teach my children how to live happy lives (Family Fun Night). Researchers from the University of Zurich just added another tool to my Family Happiness Training Toolbox (Generous People Live Happier Lives). In this study, fifty people were given 25 Swiss Francs each week for four weeks. Half of them pledged to spend it on others and half pledged to spend it on themselves. According to Functional MRI’s, simply pledging generosity activated areas of the participants brains’ associated with altruistic behavior and areas associated with happiness. In other words, simply pledging to use the money generously increased the pledging person’s happiness. Over the course of the four week experiment, those who pledged to spend the money on others made more generous choices. They also showed an increase in self-reported happiness. Interestingly, generosity did not have to be extraordinary or exorbitant to increase happiness. Just a “little more generous” produced greater happiness.
Why not use the knowledge to promote happiness in your family? Just bring up the idea of doing something nice for someone when you meet with your family. Maybe you can bring it up while eating dinner or while driving home from an activity. The suggestion could be as simple as:
- Wouldn’t it be nice to give some cookies to your teacher next week?
- I hear Mr. Smith isn’t feeling well. How about we cut his grass this weekend?
- I have an extra $10 this week. If you could do something nice for someone with $10, what would you do and who would you do it for?
- Let’s write the church pianist a thank you note for playing this week. Which card do you think she’d like best…or would you rather we make the card?
You get the idea. Be creative. You could come up with the idea or ask your family to come up with an idea. After you have the idea, enlist your family’s help in getting it done. Then get out there and do it…. You will have done a nice thing and that will increase your family happiness.
One last caveat…. You might find your children really like this kind of activity. They may start coming up with all kinds of ideas to share generosity. When they do, seize the moment. Jump on board. Work with them to make it happen. When you do, do you know what you’re doing? You’re teaching your children how to create happiness in their lives…and that is a lesson worth teaching!
Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.
- Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
- Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
- Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
- Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
- Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
- Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
- Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
- Give your spouse a back rub.
- Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
- Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
- Do one of your spouse’s chores.
- Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
- Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
- Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
- Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
- Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
- Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
- Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
- Smile at your spouse.
- Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
- Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
- Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
- Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
- Share a favorite memory of your time together.
- Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
- Hold the door open for your spouse.
- Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
- Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
- Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
- Hold hands.
- And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.
Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day. And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.
Remember the Vulcan blessing, “Live long and prosper.” To really live long and prosper a person needs health relationships. In fact, you might have heard of the impact of one particular relationship on health. Marriage increases health and well-being. Well, that statement is only partially true. Let me be more specific. Only healthy marriages result in better health and well-being. For instance, research reveals:
- Happily married couples report fewer depressive symptoms.
- Happily married men with heart disease are expected to live an average of almost 4 years longer than unmarried men with healthy hearts.
- Living in a happy marriage is comparable to being 10 years younger.
- A stable, happy marriage is the best protector against illness and premature death.
- Overall, happily married adults live longer, experience greater health, and report being happier than their unmarried or divorced counterparts.
On the other hand, unhealthy marriages are detrimental to our health.
- Those in unhappy, conflict-ridden marriages take longer to heal from all types of wounds.
- Couples who “demonstrate sarcasm, putdowns, nastiness, and dismissals” during conflict experience weakened immune systems.
- Heart patients who describe their marriages negatively are 1.8X’s more likely to die within 4 years than those who rate their marriages more positively.
- Unmarried people spend two times more time as patients in hospitals than their married peers do.
Healthy marriages not only protect individuals in the relationship but they reflect Christ’s relationships to the Church, a relationship the world desperately needs to witness. If you want to live long and prosper, a good place to start is with your marriage. Invest in your marriage. Attend a marriage enrichment class. Read a book on marriage. Apply healthy marriage practices to your daily life. And, “life long and prosper!”
Popular culture encourages us to be kind to ourselves, give ourselves a pat on the back and reward ourselves for a job well done. While this advice may hold some merit, it will not make us happy. Quite the opposite, research reveals that being kind to others makes us happy. As the author of one study points out, “Substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others” ( Read One of the Best Ways to Boost Your Mood Revealed by Psychologists for more). When we perform acts of kindness to others, we feel greater joy, contentment, and love. We also nurture positive social relationships. So, if you REALLY want HAPPY kids, teach them to be kind to others!
- Model kindness in your relationship to them and to others, in both word and deed.
- Perform kind deeds as a family. Bake cookies for a friend. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Help mow the grass for an elderly neighbor. Be creative in your kindness.
- Provide opportunities for your children to do kind deeds for others. For example, encourage them to hold the door open for others, carry someone’s tray in the cafeteria, offer a word of encouragement, bring a sibling a drink, or any other act of kindness that arises in everyday life.
Practicing these three tips will help create an environment of kindness in your home and promote more kindness in your family. That’s good because kind kids are happy kids.
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:
- Attached more importance to long-term happiness than to momentary happiness,
- Remembered past happiness for longer periods of time, and
- 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”:
- Attached more importance to the eternal than the temporal,
- Remembered past blessings and kept them in mind each day, and
- 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.