10 Habits for a Happy Family

I remember singing this chorus as a kid:

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap).


If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap).


If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it.


If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap).”

African American Family Parents and ChildrenMy friends and I had a great time clapping, stomping, and spinning into happiness while singing this song. As I’ve grown older, though, it takes a little more to make me happy. Even more important, I want my whole family to experience happiness now, not just me. To my surprise, my clapping, stomping, and singing does not necessarily increase my family’s happiness (go figure). Fortunately, happiness is something we can nurture, something we can increase by establishing a variety of daily habits. Research has identified 10 habits that contribute to happiness. If we teach these habits to our children and practice them ourselves, we can nurture happiness in our family. Let me list the 10 happiness habits for you (and you can read more about them on Psyblog. Notice that the first letter of each habit spells out GREAT DREAM.

  • Giving: doing things for others.
  • Relating: connecting with other people.
  • Exercising: taking care of our bodies.
  • Appreciating: noticing the people and the world around us.
  • Trying out: learning new things.
  • Direction: having goals we can look forward to.
  • Resilience: finding ways to bounce back.
  • Emotions: taking a positive approach to life.
  • Acceptance: being comfortable with who we are.
  • Meaning: being a part of something bigger.

These habits help increase happiness for individuals…and for our families. Not surprisingly, people are better at some of these habits than others. A recent survey of 5,000 people (you can take the survey for yourself at Do Something Different) revealed that acceptance, although the habit most strongly linked to life satisfaction, is the habit practiced least often. Almost half of the 5,000 people surveyed rated themselves as 5 or less on a scale of 1-10 in the area of acceptance. In other words, a full 46% rated themselves below the halfway point in terms of self-acceptance. Acceptance is a happiness habit which every family can likely improve. How can you increase acceptance in your family? I’m glad you asked. (Well, technically I raised the question…but I hope you’re at least a tad bit curious.)

  1. Model acceptance of yourself. Accept yourself shortcomings and all. Be kind to yourself. Make sure your language and actions reveal that you see your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Recognize what you do well and be willing to humbly verbalize your strengths.
  2. Model acceptance of others in your family. Show kindness to your spouse and children. Let your language and your response to them reveal that you believe their mistakes are opportunities to learn as well. Trust them to do significant tasks in the home, even as they are learning how to do them well.
  3. Recognize their strengths. Verbally acknowledging their skills.
  4. Enjoy your spouse’s and children’s strengths and interests. Even if their interests do not initially “turn you on,” learn about them. Listen to them talk about their interest. Read up on their interests. Help create opportunities for them to learn and grow in their areas of strength. Support them in pursuing their interests.
  5. Spend time with your family, both times of quietness and times of activity. Times of activity allow you to have fun together, to accomplish goals together, and to work together. This builds acceptance. Times of peace and quiet allow us to grow comfortable with one another’s silence, to accept one another even when we are not pursuing the same goals.

I’m sure there are other ways to nurture acceptance in our families. Share with us ways in which you promote acceptance within your family? Also, stay tuned over the next several blogs as we continue to explore practical ways to promote the other keys of happiness in our families.

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