Another Habit for a Happy Family

Actions for Happiness compiled a list of 10 habits that increase individual happiness. When we encourage these ten habits in our family, we have happy individual family members. Happy family members contribute to a happy family. I don’t know about you, but I love to come home to a happy family! So, I like to explore how to make these habits an integral part of my family.

Roller skatesNurturing an environment filled with positive emotions is one habit that enhances family happiness. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But, we will never completely rid our family of negative emotions. We will always experience frustrations, times of discipline, doing things we don’t want to do, the disappointment of lost games and poor grades, children breaking up with their latest romance…you get the idea. Negative emotions lurk around every corner. So, how can we nurture positive emotions in our family in the midst of life’s struggles?

First, it is important to realize that we do not have to get rid of all the negative emotions in our lives. Negative emotions serve a positive role in our life. Fear protects us. Frustration and anger reveal priorities and then motivate us to invest energy in that priority. We do not want to rid ourselves of all negative emotions. Instead, research suggests that we want to strive to experience three times as many positive emotions and experiences as negative ones. This 3-to-1 ratio broadens our perspective. Having three times as many positive emotions allows us to experience more of the world around us (negative emotions narrow our experience of the world to that one thing triggering the negative emotion). With a broader perspective, we respond more flexibly and creatively to situations that arise. Positive emotions also increase our openness to other peoples’ ideas and experiences.

What does all this mean for our families? When we create a family environment in which positive emotions outnumber negative emotions by 3-to-1, we enhance trust in our family. Trust translates to greater intimacy and closeness. Sharing of ideas, chores, and “things” will increase in an environment filled with positive emotions. Cooperation will increase as well. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful family environment to live in? Don’t you want to create this positive environment in your home? I know I do. Here are a couple of ways to help create this environment.

  • Replace rigid expectations and goals with an openness to one another’s ideas and changing circumstances. Rigid expectations create fear and resentment. They narrow our focus and blind us to the need of the moment and the people involved. For instance, we easily miss the subtle cues of our child wanting to talk about something troubling them when we rigidly focus on an expected bedtime. Rather than listen, help them resolve whatever is troubling them, and grow closer in the process, our rigid expectations cause us to respond by yelling and accusing them of “never listening.” Give up the rigid expectations and remain open to the need of the moment. Remain flexible enough to make adjustments to an expectation or goal in response to a more important need or priority.
  • Replace jumping to conclusions with curiosity. Rather than assume another family member’s intentions, motives, thoughts, or feelings, ask about them. Let your curiosity lead you to discover hidden treasures in your family members. Ask them about their intentions. Explore their motivations without judgment. Empathize and help them understand their emotions. This curiosity will lead to a greater sense of security in your home. It will increase trust. In the midst of trust and security, it is easier to experience joy and awe. It is also easier to address and resolve disappointments, hurts, and angers in an environment filled with trust and security.

Practicing these two habits will increase the positive emotions in your home and add to your family’s overall sense of happiness. It may take some grace and practice on your part, but you are the best person to initiate filling your home with positive emotions. And, there is no better time than now. So have fun. Get happy.

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