“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” Frederick Keonig
When my two grown daughters were young, 1 and 3 years old, I had a very serious talk with God. I said I “wanted” my children to have a relationship with Him, strong academic opportunities, an appreciation of art and sports, and well… everything! He spoke back into my heart and said, “Lori, if you model and teach them to have a good attitude, it won’t matter what college they attend or if they have piano lessons; they’ll be equipped to handle most things in life!”
Thus began “The Happiest Things” in our home. We would go around the dinner table and share our happiest things of the day. You’d be amazed at what is shared that would never come up if you asked, “How was your day?” At first the answers were simple – I saw a birdie, we picked up rocks, I played blocks and dolls. But over the years, the answers took on more depth and diversity; accomplishments at school or work, new relationships, and many other topics took over the family dinnertime. This quick way to connect led us deeper into conversations about applying for college, the joys and hardships of friendships, and the triumphs and trials of the adolescent years.
We continued this through high school and beyond, often emailing, then texting our joys of the day. It has become a tradition that both daughters enjoyed while growing up and still do today! Well, mostly enjoyed. There were times my daughters gave me that “look” (rolling of the eyes was not allowed in our home!) But, since participation wasn’t optional, they learned that even on those days when things have gone wrong or you don’t feel happy, you could always name at least one thing that made you smile!
So, how can you encourage your family to look for the good in life and choose happiness? Here are a few ideas:
- Have your own mealtime ritual of sharing things you are grateful for or the “happiest things.” Families do it many different ways. We have friends who discussed their highs and lows. The important thing is to share and connect!
- Keep a family gratitude journal. You can place it on the kitchen table or near the family calendar. Family members can share what they are grateful for at their convenience. Gather your family together once a month and read through the entries!
- Ask you children to share their “happiest things” as you tuck them into bed. Be sure you also share – our kids need to hear us express gratitude and acknowledge the happiness in our lives!
I now live alone, but still name the “happiest things” in my journal. You could also share with your small group or co-workers. Look for the happiness in your life- it’s all around you!