How to Shift Your Family Mindset Toward Happiness
Current events have illustrated something important to all of us: There are people who naturally have a more optimistic attitude than others, and this influences how they respond to significant events. Those with happier mindsets are able to keep calm, make decisions more easily, and take action with confidence [source].
How we see and respond to challenges in life matters for the happiness and health of our families. When we are happier, we are better able to field events out of our control and still feel - well - happy! A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that optimism actually increases people's lifespans, and that people live longer if they are optimistic.
There's still great news if you are a more pessimistic person or your child is: brain patterns can change. Attitudes can be shifted with a little effort and time.
Here are 5 ways you can shift your family mindset toward happiness:
- Find humor. Humor can be found in almost any situation. Remembering this will help you and your family develop a more consistently happy mindset. Through the coronavirus crisis, we have seen funny memes continuously circulating the internet, helping people cope with everything from minor irritations to fear and even grief. According to a study published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the ability to find some humor in the midst of serious life events lessens the negative physical and mental effects on the body.
- Adopt a positive mindset around stress. If you're human, congratulations. You're going to feel stress at some point in life. Whether it's your endless to-do list, long lines to get into the grocery store (that's a new one!), or irritating video calls, you can choose how you respond to stressors. For your children, it may be an overwhelming list of school learning opportunities for the day, not being able to go to a playground, or technology not working. If adopting a positive mindset doesn't come naturally to you or your child, start by focusing on the positive around these stressors instead of what's negative about them. For example, if you're experiencing an internet outage at home, think of it as unexpected connection time to do a puzzle or play a family game. As grown-ups, our instinct is to want to control everything around us, but we can set an example for our kids of facing challenges head-on and seeing the good in them, rather than making each one the end of the world.
- Develop a gratitude practice. Optimistic people don't feel the need to play the 'comparison game'. Instead, they practice gratitude. Social comparison is especially hard on tweens and teens and they can find it difficult to avoid. If you or your children find yourself in this frame of mind, take a break from social media (or quit it all together). You can also remind yourself or your kids to stop and think about what you see on social media. Focus on the blessings in your life. Your high school senior might not have a scholarship to an Ivy League school, but she wants contribute to the world as a teacher. Your family's home isn't custom-built and perfectly styled, but the scuffs on the banister are a reminder of the thrilling laughter of children sliding down the stairs on cardboard boxes.
- Let it go. Kids often blame themselves when things go wrong, and they can fall into dwelling on little setbacks instead of moving on. If you find your child stuck on poorly completed schoolwork, a difficult situation, or a fight with a sibling or a friend (or you!), encourage them to change their mindset. Help them name the negative feelings and thoughts. Help them clear room in their mind for a more optimistic frame of mind.
If these responses don't come naturally to you or your child, chin up! Find a family member, friend, or counselor who can help you develop a happier family mindset.