Family life can be stressful. Babies and toddlers take up so much time and energy. School-age kids have homework projects, after-school activities, and peer drama. Teenagers face real danger nearly every day. Even an empty nest is emotional. Nevertheless, happiness is within your grasp if you consciously follow these ten family habits.
1. Practice gratitude
When you find something to be grateful for, you can force negative thinking away. The act of saying, “I am grateful for this,” and deliberately focusing on that gratefulness absolutely keeps you in the present. Past hurts and future worries must take a back seat while you are practicing gratitude.
2. Affirm your choices
In the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker says, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Most people are familiar with the portion of this poem where the speaker looks at his life and affirms his choice.
However, did you know that throughout the poem, the speaker’s choice is not clear. Two nearly equal options lay before him, and he worries about making a choice. In the end, he recounts the choice with a satisfied “sigh.” This is healthy behavior. Revisiting the past changes nothing. Like the poem suggests, affirm and celebrate your choices.
3. Date each other
Everyone needs one-on-one time. Mom and dad need a date night, and each kid needs time alone with mom and time alone with dad. One-on-one time gives even introverted individuals the opportunity to express themselves. Nothing says, “You are treasured,” like special one-on-one time. In busy families, time is at least as valuable as money, so spend some on each other.
4. Eat together
Eating together is connected to all kinds of medical benefits, such as lower rates of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. In addition, eating together forces busy families to practice the art of communication, and communication is central to strong family dynamics. Even young children can enter conversations if parents ask the right questions, such as “If you could be an animal, what kind would you be?”
5. Relive happy memories
At the end of each day, celebrate happiness. If you had a good day, remind yourself and your family about the good parts of the day. If the day was difficult, think of good memories and revisit those.
When you reminisce, scientists say that your brain actually re-experiences pleasurable sensations. Remembering good times doesn’t make you sad, it helps you cultivate happiness.
6. Stay rested
Have you ever noticed how cranky kids are after a sleepover? While sleepover crankiness can’t be avoided, everyday crankiness can be. Bedtime is not just for toddlers. Mom, dad, older kids, and even teens need a regular bedtime. Toddlers need about 14 hours of sleep each day.
Older kids need between 9 and 12 hours. Teens need at least nine hours, and adults need at least eight. So avoid the crankiness and get some sleep.
7. Create family rituals
Across cultures, rituals give humans a sense of security. Your first family ritual may be a bedtime routine that helps kids calm down, but do not stop there. Create a ritual for the first day of school and the first day of summer vacation.
Have pancakes every Saturday morning. Light candles for family meals. Create rituals during the holidays. When your family is bonded by rituals, everyone – even mom and dad – feels more secure.
8. Enjoy anticipation
If every day were your birthday, presents would have no meaning. Conversely, after a dismal winter, spring is an incredible blessing. Therefore, create anticipation of good times by not giving your kids everything they want right away. When gifts and special events are spread apart, we feel more happiness when we receive or experience them.
9. Manage the schedule
Many families are overscheduled. Kids juggle baseball with piano and ballet with swimming. It is not unusual for families to have an after-school activity four or five days a week – activities around which kids must fit homework and chores.
If you feel like you are living in your car, it is time to slow down. Participating in fewer activities will give you more time to grow close as a family.
10. Create closeness
True happiness comes from relationships, not from things. Therefore, actively work on developing your family bonds. Have regular game nights. Vacation without technology. Take a hike together.
Attend religious services together. Most of all, make sure each member of the family knows that he or she is valued and appreciated.
Happy families are not accidents. Happy families are made of people who practice specific habits, most of which involve spending quality time together. If you are feeling distant from those you love the most, implement these 10 habits. You will be amazed at the results.