Want a Happy Family? Quit Trying to Find Happiness

We all want our families to experience happiness. Well, I know I want my family to experience happiness. I assume you do too. But happiness is elusive. In fact, it often seems that the more we focus on finding happiness the less happiness we find. The quest for happiness becomes self-defeating and leaves us disappointed. So, what can we do? We don’t want to live in sorrow. How can we promote happiness in our families? Paradoxically, the way to find happiness is to quit trying to find happiness. Happiness is a byproduct of other actions. So quit trying to find happiness and focus elsewhere…focus on places research has found that bring us happiness when we aren’t even trying. Let me share five places to look.

  • A study published in 2020 suggests that people who focus on positive ways to respond when things don’t go their way tend to feel happier over time. They allow themselves to feel bad at times, which allows them to experience a full range of emotions and learn how to respond to a full range of emotions. In other words, they learn how to manage positive emotions and negative emotions. If you want your family to experience more happiness, learn to respond in a positive, healthy manner when things don’t go your way and how to savor the emotion when things go well.
  • Another study noted that prioritizing behaviors and habits that lead to future well-being increases long-term happiness. Activities like exercise, working toward and achieving long-term goals, and learning, indirectly nurtured a sense of future happiness. Focus on developing good habits and routines around those activities that nurture future happiness.
  • A collection of studies suggested that engaging in activities to make someone else happy led to a greater sense of happiness than pursuing personal happiness did. In other words, happy families focus on making the other guy happy, whether the other guy is a family member or a person outside the family. Serve others. Do something nice for the other guy. It leads to a happy family.
  • This study involved over 15,000 people who reported their sense of happiness and their location multiple times a day. Results indicate that beautiful, “picturesque” areas produce feelings of happiness. People are happier in more scenic environments, and that includes man-made as well as natural scenic environments. A scenic mountain overlook or a tree-lined river walk in a downtown area will both elicit happiness. Make it a family tradition to visit and enjoy scenic spaces and enjoy the byproduct of happiness. (As an added bonus, you can experience the benefits of awe as well.)
  • Another study “checked in” with almost 2,800 people via their cellphones multiple times a day and found that people who have more “daily spiritual experiences” were happier. Spiritual experiences, those experiences that tap into transcendent feelings or feelings of connection to something greater than ourselves, reduced stress and promoted “human flourishing.”

There you have it. If you want your family to experience greater happiness, quit trying to be happy. Instead, focus on each of the tips above…and enjoy your happy family.

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