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.
An ancient saying, included in many marriage ceremonies, states that “Love is not arrogant and does not boast.” In a roundabout way, research now supports the truth of this statement. I say “roundabout” because the truth of the statement comes by way of awe. We experience awe when we experience something that expands our view or understanding of the world. For instance, we may feel awe in response to the vastness of nature, the beauty of a truly compassionate act, or the all-encompassing beauty of a majestic piece of music. Each of these experiences expands our view of the world around us and makes us feel…well, smaller. Feeling a sense of awe plays a role in our health, happiness, and social connection. It increases our humility. In fact, individuals who report experiencing awe more often in their daily lives were rated as more humble than those who did not report experiencing awe in their daily lives by friends and family. Those who experienced awe also acknowledged their strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and recognized the impact of outside forces (including other people) on their personal achievements. This sounds like the very definition of humility, doesn’t it? The sense of humility, in turn, increases a person’s desire to engage with and feel connected to others. Of course, a humble person also tends to have deeper, more secure relationships than an arrogant person. A humble person is more likely to take the other person’s best interest into consideration and is more easily trusted as a result. And…trust leads to better relationships.
And there you have it…awe leads to greater humility lead to better, more secure relationships. So, if you want a better family life, experience awe together. To get you started, here are 4 ways you can experience awe with your family. (Read more in Using the Power of Awe for Your Family.)
Go for a hike in the woods. Climb to the top of a mountain and look over the
valley below. Look up at the stars on a clear night. Stand on the ocean shore
and ponder the vastness of the sea. Go snorkeling and enjoy the colors. Watch
the sunrise or sunset. Nature often elicits awe. Enjoy it as a family.
Try something new and exciting. Novelty contributes to awe. Visit someplace you have never
been before. Try something new. Go to a symphony or musical. Visit the art
museum. Go to an area of the country or state that you have never visited
before. Novelty opens the door to awe.
We experience awe when we experience a sense of smallness and we often
experience that sense of smallness when we learn something that amazes us. Get curious
and learn. Learn about the complexity of the human body, how a bird flies, the
character of God, or the wisdom of ancient sayings. Each of these can expand
our sense of the world and put our own lives in a different perspective, a
perspective of humility.
Stand in awe of God. Worship as a family. Pray as a family. Experience the awe
of answered prayer. Gather with other people and sing as a family. Many people experience
awe in the religious setting of worship.
When you do experience awe, you will
experience greater humility. When you experience greater humility, you will
experience greater intimacy in your family. The ancient wisdom is true again,
“Love is not arrogant and does not boast”…and that is awe-inspiring!