Research has shown that over the past decade that happy people are more productive, faster learners and definitely more creative. Cultivating optimism within the blended family, especially when there are outstanding, unresolved issues, can be hard. There is hope!! I have been reading a book by author Sonja Lyubomirsky entitled “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin Press) and also came across an article about her in my favorite magazine, Family Circle.
In her book and in the article, Ms. Lyubomirsky discusses the fact that many people assume that there is a feel-good gene in our equation and that you either “have it” or “you don’t.” She says that is actually half-true. About 50% of a person’s tendency toward bliss is genetic and the other 50% is totally up for grabs. Roughly, 40% is influenced by attitude and behaviors and the remaining 10% by circumstances. In these statistics is where I see hope for the blended family. If 50% is totally up for grabs, and you have more than one willing participant, then there is hope.
The following are some tips from Ms. Lyubomirsky to help cultivate happiness which everyone can apply in their households. Remember, you cannot expect someone else (ex spouses, new spouses, step-children, etc.) to apply these same behaviors, but you can apply them yourself and begin to reap the benefits of same:
1. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Even on days when there aren’t as many as you’d like. Jot a list and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are more great things about your life than you thought.
2. LOOK AGAIN. Most situations have a bright side, somehow. As in, it stinks that your 9-year-old needed stitches– but weren’t the ER doctors and nurses awesome?
3. DON’T STEW. Good rarely comes of dwelling on problems.
4. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS. Strong bonds benefit everyone.
5. GET LOST. In a book, a movie, a DIY project. Getting so involved that you lose track of time gives your brain a chance to recharge.
6. PURSUE A LONG-NEGLECTED GOAL. With PASSION!
7. COPE CALMLY. Manage stress in healthy ways, like by walking or talking to friends.
8. FORGIVE. Work on letting go of anger and resentment toward those who have hurt you.
9. EMBRACE THE SPIRITUAL. Get more involved in your place of worship or just in your personal relationship with your creator.
10. HONOR YOUR BODY. Exercise, meditate and LAUGH OFTEN.
Every person, whether in a blended family or just on a personal basis can benefit from the above suggestions. I know I will be working on a few myself. There are plenty more in Ms. Lyubomirsky’s book.
As Ms. Lyubomirsky says, the bottom line is how we choose to view the world is key. Close to half of our happiness quotient lies in the way we think and the way we act. Modeling these actions in our everyday lives and in our blended family lives is essential for us parents. I will say it again, children live what they learn and they will take the lessons that we teach them and apply them to their own adult lives.
In the real world, most blended families have a hard time building themselves back up after loss such as divorce, separation, etc. Taking the extra time to try to work together to obtain happiness after such loss can be obtained if that goal is understood and has like-minded people working together to achieve the same. If not all parties are on the same page, it can be extra hard but in my opinion, is still well worth the try.
Peace and blessings,