Steal these smart parents' ideas for simple routines and rituals that add more smiles and good memories to your coming year. And get ridiculously easy health-boosting resolutions your crew will actually enjoy keeping. Try one, try them all--and get set for your greatest year yet.
Could the secret to family happiness be as simple as a comfy couch, the latest Pixar title, and a shared bowl of popcorn? Happily, yes! It turns out that even the most basic family activities, when done with a bit of intention and ritual, can boost contentment in lasting ways. According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, studies indicate that habits such as a weekly movie night or sharing "I'm grateful for..." thoughts at the dinner table have a significant impact on overall happiness.
Still, in the typical crazy-busy household, it can be difficult to stick with any routine, no matter how fun and easy. As a mom to four kids ages 9 months to 14 years, Lyubomirsky knows this all too well. But she believes it's worth the effort to keep trying. "It's all about fit," she says. "You need to find what works for you and your family."
With that in mind, we asked some of our favorite authors and bloggers to share the mood-boosting traditions that work best for them. The answers we got back--from giggling over old photos to sitting down for a weekly tea--just might inspire your family to pick up some happy habits of your own. Together with our ultra-doable healthy habits, they'll make for a fantastic 2014.
Happy Habit 1
Just Say Yes
Who does it:
Suzy Becker, author and illustrator of One Good Egg, Kids Make It Better, and other books; spouse, Lorene; Aurora, age 9.
What they do:
Yes Day came into being "when we got sick of hearing ourselves say no," Suzy explains. To counteract the negatives, she filled a cup with six "Have a nice day" slips of paper and a single "Have a Yes Day" one. If Aurora draws the latter at breakfast, her requests (Can I stay up late? Can I watch TV before breakfast?) get a yes. And so do Suzy and Lorene's: Will you walk the dog with me? Will you try a little bite of fish? Yes!
Why it's awesome:
It's not just that there aren't any nos on Yes Days, it's that there are fewer nos every day, since Aurora tends to save up all her asking. And Yes Days have turned out to be more about individual stretching and family togetherness than the anticipated screen and junk-food excesses. "I love the unspoken 'within reason' part," Suzy says. "For all the talk of ordering larges at Dairy Queen, we've actually topped out at smalls." Aurora keeps it reasonable, says Suzy, because she knows there will always be another Yes Day.