How to Make Your Family Happier

Looking for family joy? Try these six realistic, everyday tips from 'positive psychologist' Tal Beh-Shahar.

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Let’s face it: There’s lots for families to get bummed about, from cramped schedules to tight finances to illnesses – and a million challenges along the way. And psychology experts have long focused on addressing negative fallout like depression and anxiety. But did you know that there’s also been a growing focus on “positive psychology?”

“It’s the scientific study of what makes life worth living,” explains University of Michigan psychologist Chris Peterson. “Psychologists know that there’s more to life than not having problems. You want to be happy, fulfilled – you want to be a contributing member (of society).”

Seeking some quick starters that are manageable for any parent? In Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Tal Ben-Shahar offers plenty. The book is based on a course he taught while on-staff at Harvard. Like all “positive psychology” pros, he cautions that every approach must be tailored to fit the person – and that “becoming happier is a life-long pursuit.” Here are his top six tips.

1. Permit yourself to be human. Conquering emotions like fear, sadness and anxiety means accepting that they’re normal.

2. “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning.” Are you doing things that mean something to you – and that you enjoy? That’s the goal. If you can’t, create “happiness boosters,” or little fun moments, during the week.

3. Happiness is more a “state of mind” than “state of bank account.” It’s like the proverbial half-full or half-empty glass. Which are you focusing on?

4. Scale it down and keep it simple. Parents especially feel compelled to pack the activities into already-crammed calendars. But “quantity influences quality.”

5. “Remember the mind-body connection.” Yes: This means regular exercise, healthy eating and sleep, all of which have a resounding impact on happiness.

6. Be grateful, out loud. While taking things for granted is natural, “learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life – from people to food, from nature to a smile.”

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