The Happiest Age, And The Factor That Matters Most

happier-family-science-102514I receive a daily digest highlighting new research on happiness, and I’m not going to lie—sometimes, my eyes roll pretty far back in my head while I’m scanning through them. Having basic needs met makes you happier? You don’t say! Having more control over your own choices increases feelings of esteem? How unexpected! But every now and then a piece of research comes through that just stops me in my tracks while I ponder it.

This past week, the results of a survey in Britain concluded that people are happiest at age 58, presumably, it is concluded, because this is when our best work-life balance is achieved. I found this fascinating, and weirdly specific, but it makes sense—it’s young enough to not be old/sick and/or retired and bored, but old enough that probably the daily stressors of child-raising or even just caring about what other people think are either over and greatly diminished. I can dig it.

This, however, was not the piece of information from this study that I found the most interesting. Nope, the best part was this:

The biggest key to contentment was spending time with family, according to almost two-thirds (63%) of those who took part[.]

So all of those family-themed posts we’ve been bringing you this week? It’s not just for fun (although I hope you found it fun). It’s because family plays a huge role in our level of happiness, no matter what our age. And we’re not talking textbook-definition family, either—no need to have a specific structure mirrored in a Norman Rockwell painting, or anything; this is about spending time with the people you live with and love the best. That’s it.

Sure, family may sometimes drive us nuts, but they’re also the most important factor in making us happier. That’s a big deal.

Three Counter-Intuitive Ways To Be Happier As A Family

I may run a company that helps people be happier but believe me, it’s not like I have some super wisdom about happiness. Especially when it comes to family. Our family is small — it’s just my husband, myself and our 10 year-old kiddo — but with three people, three different personalities, crazy schedules, demanding jobs, and endless juggles, it’s not always easy to find our awesome place.

But we manage, and when I was thinking about writing this post I realized there are a few things we do that, if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have thought odd when it comes to helping us be happier. Those are usually the best little habits, the ones that surprise us, so I wanted to share them:

Skip meals

OK, of course I don’t mean that you should go hungry. But when life gets crazy, one thing we often do is skip having a sit-down meal. Instead, we grab some random food from the fridge and if it’s warm enough, we go outside and eat it on the deck; or when it’s too cold, we have a mini-picnic in the living room. This totally removes the pressure of cooking something, and chills all of us out a lot.

Ignore bedtime

When my daughter was younger I was obsessed with sticking to a routine. Everyone was happier when she went to bed on time and woke up refreshed and well, happy. There were many times whenicecream we were at family events or with friends and I would be militant about getting home for bedtime. Nothing wrong with that — and when your kids are really little that’s probably the best thing to do — but sometimes having extra hanging time together as a family turns out to be more important. So from time to time, especially when we’ve all been running around a lot and not had a lot of hang time together, we’ll stay up way past kiddo’s bedtime, either watching a movie together or just hanging out.

And sometimes we’ll go out and get ice cream when we have no business eating ice cream that late. Life is short!

Make a big mess

Hi, my name is Nataly and I am a total neat freak. I have a really hard time dealing with messes and yet what I’ve learned is that sometimes a happier family means a messier one. (Seriously people, this is a really big deal for me to say, so it really must work.) The other day we came back from a short trip and instead of unpacking — first instinct! — I suggested we go for a walk instead. We ended up not unpacking for two days and you know what? We had extra chill time together and the clothes went back where they were supposed to be eventually.

Then last week in the morning I realized we had a bunch of bananas that were going to rot if we didn’t do something — so with 20 minutes before we had to leave for school kiddo and I whipped together some banana bread dough. We made a serious mess in the kitchen doing this, and we had to leave it there until end of day, but we had so much fun with our last-minute baking project.

I’d love to know if there are any other surprising or counter-intuitive things you do that help you be happier as a family — share, please!

Happier Hearts: Happy Family, Happy Life

This week we’re all about connecting with your family in wonderful ways, so what better time to share some of the make-your-family-more-awesome-er resources we love? Exactly!

Do It By The Book
If you’re the sort who likes to grab a book and read up on new things, we have two to recommend; both Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families and Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families are worth the read if you can spare the time and are looking for some great ideas on how to make your family even more fabulous.
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Unplug, Reconnect, Love No Matter What
Prefer to watch a couple of videos? Over at HuffPo this short video about unplugging to reconnect with your family, and if you have more time, Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk about loving children who are different is difficult but moving.

Still Working On Family Dinners?
Hopefully you’re making great progress on this week’s challenge to eat together, but if you’re still struggling, I have a few more great online resources for you that made us happier.

Do you have a favorite resource that’s helped your family be happier? Please tell us about it!

New In The Happier App This Week!

There’s a newer version of the Happier App coming your way. Hooray! We’ve made just a couple of small changes, and we hope it’ll be easier for you to find the next best course for you (which, in turn, leads to you being happier)!

happier-update-course-categories-102214When you login to Happier on iOS, we’ll help guide you to a course that’s right for you. Simply choose an area that you’d like to focus on (your screen will look like the image here), and from there, we’ll recommend a course that meets your needs. If you’re already taking a course, you won’t see any major changes.

We’ve made a couple of other small tweaks you might notice, too:

  • When there’s a new feature, we’ll tell you a bit more about it right in the app. (We think that cuts down on those unpleasant, “Whoa! Where did that come from??” moments!)
  • The Daily Challenge is back! It will now always be visible in your Friends feed in Community.

Please let us know what you think! We’re always working to make Happier a better experience, and we hope you find these changes helpful. Email us at team@happier.com with your feedback. We’ll continue to update the blog with new changes that are coming your way — so check back!

Awesome Humans: The Families That Halloween Together

happier-hearts-smores-102214Today we doff our hat to all of those families who make Halloween a family affair (in the spirit of our theme this week). Whether you recognize Halloween as an event/holiday/annoyance or barely register it on your radar, who can resist a family dressed up together? Not us, that’s for sure.

One of my absolute favorites—both for ease of DIY and utter adorableness—is this family of s’mores.

Cardboard graham crackers and chocolate bar, plus a couple of pillows for the little marshmallow (who is so cute I want to eat him right up). Such a fabulous idea.

Get a walkthrough from mom Mackenzie on her blog, Cheerios and Lattes.

happier-hearts-snacks-102214Although their costumes weren’t handmade, this family’s trio of tasty concession snacks makes me smile every time I look at this picture.

happier-hearts-spiderandweb-102214           happier-hearts-rootbeer-102214Martha Stewart, of all people, offers this clever mom-and-baby spider web and spider costume for your make-it-yourself pleasure.

If you need more ideas, both Huffington Post and BuzzFeed have you covered. (The family pictured above with their baby root beer float is on HuffPo and I love them.)

All of these costumed families have one thing in common: They look like they’re having a heck of a good time together!

Fave Family Moments

This week we’re talking a lot about family and how strong familial connections make us, well, happier! If you missed it, definitely check out our family dinner challenge. Tiny little everyday moments with your family can be great ones when you take a moment to pause and notice them.

Here are a just a few of our favorite family moments this week.

Happy moments with family

Where there are moms, can food be far behind? We think not and that’s one of the (many) reasons why we love them! :)

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The best interior design tips come from those that know us best.

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Double duty: family dinner time plus a heart-pumping walk. This has happiness boost written all over it.

IMG_4804Helping others is proven to make us happier, too, and this is just beyond. [Insert tears here.]

Got some family moments to share? Post them in the Happier app! (Did you know we’re on iOS, Android and the web?) That’s right — no excuses, we want to see ‘em.

Here’s to lots of happy family moments ahead!

Mindful Break: What The Heck Is Sacred?!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 1.47.38 PMCan you be bought for a price?

Seriously.

If someone offered you $10,000,000 to expose all your life’s secrets on reality TV… would you do it?

Carolyn Myss calls it The Prostitute Archetype, meaning one who is willing to compromise their integrity for financial stability.

Whether it’s a value that defines you, or an object that represents your Truth…

… in order to be spiritually whole, we need to have something that is totally off-limits, something that is super sacred.

In today’s world, there is very little that cannot be bought.

For instance, take the sad story of the Hopi Indians.

A contested auction of sacred Hopi Indian masks went forward last year in Paris and generated more than $1 million.

One featured item, a headdress known as the Crow Mother, drew intense interest.

Bidding soared to $210,000, drawing applause from the crowd.

Except for one protestor who stood up and shouted: “Don’t purchase that. It is a sacred being.”

Reading that BROKE MY HEART.

The Hopi Indians believe these masks are divine beings which were stolen from tribal lands in Arizona.

The Hopi Indians had made quite a stir leading up to this auction…

… but the auctioneer in Paris rejected their protest saying that the “objects were no longer sacred and had become important works of art.”

Can you imagine?

That’s like someone saying, “She’s no longer your wife, she’s too pretty and everyone deserves a chance at her!”

The devastated Hopi Indians said of their lost masks, “They are truly sacred to us. We feed and care for them. And to see people walking out with them in bags, like some object, I feel really helpless and hurt.”

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C’mon! If we don’t stand up for that which is sacred, our souls will literally die and we will become soulless Freakazoids!

Think of what in your life is SACRED, untouchable, off limits!

For me, it is my career. There are many times where it would seem easier to do something with more stability, with benefits, more security.

But some part of me has to keep going, through thick and thick, on this journey for a more meaningful life.

There are days when we all want to give in, sell out, take the easy road.

And those are the days when we need rituals, sacred texts, Hopi masks to “anchor us in our Truth!”