Sometimes just getting everything done in a day feels like success. But success shouldn’t be measured by tasks completed. How happy you are when you complete those tasks should be your driving force.
If you’re in a rut that has your family rushing from school to dance to soccer to bed with little time for connection, balance, or fun, it’s time for a change. The first step to increasing happiness is looking outside your usual patterns to see that there might be a better way.
This short quiz is designed to give you clarity on where to find the balance you and your family need to make room for more joy. Answer true or false to the statements in each section to find out which areas of your life could use a makeover.
- I notice nature every day and am awed by its beauty.
- I regularly laugh with my partner.
- My children know they are more important than my work.
- We eat dinner as a family at least three times a week.
- We rarely argue or yell.
- We are organized in our morning routine.
- Outside play and exercise are more prevalent than screen time.
If you answered more true than false in section one this indicates that you’re well on the path to a balanced family. To take it one step further—you might want to have open conversations with the family about things that affect everyone. Ask them what they would like to see on the menu, where they would like to vacation, and how they would like to spend free time.
If you’re 50/50 in this section you are off to a good start but there’s room for improvement. Take extra time to organize everyone’s schedules and make it a priority to spend more time together.
If you answered mostly false, pick one priority and work on it. If you don’t spend enough time together, you could plan family game nights or weekend hikes. If you need to work on organization, get out a calendar and plot out the weekly activities so everyone knows what to expect.
- My children exercise/participate in a sport daily.
- My partner works out regularly.
- I work out regularly.
- We cook meals at home more frequently than we eat out.
- We don’t buy pre-packaged meals.
- We have an intentionally nutritious diet.
- Diet soda is not part of our shopping list.
If you answered mostly true, you and your family are on target for physical health. Always check in and make sure no family member is on overload. Maintaining happiness requires balance.
If you were 50/50 in this section you may need to be a health detective. Many moms prioritize their children’s health while letting their own fall to the wayside. Others use screen time as a babysitter or pick up fast food as a way to cope with schedule overload. Maybe you all exercise regularly but your eating habits are poor. Pick one healthy new habit to adopt for the family such as cooking together on weekends or avoiding fast food.
If you answered mostly false in this section, your family’s health could probably use a makeover. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits are important to your overall well-being, which directly impacts your moods and your emotional resilience. Pick one new habit to focus on first and go from there. For additional information, read Deepak Chopra’s What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul.
Growth and Connection
- I regularly learn new things.
- If I need help, I have good friends I can rely on.
- Our careers provide training, growth, and stimulating work environments.
- Our children have time for unscheduled play.
- Our children are good at making choices.
- We never suppress emotions.
- I have a hobby, quest, or passion that I participate in regularly.
- We allow for mindful moments in our day.
- Winning isn’t as important as playing hard.
- We let the coaches do the coaching and just say “good game” to our sporty kids.
If you answered mostly true, you and your family are on the path to a well-balanced spiritual and social life.
If you are 50/50 in this section, look for patterns in your answers. Being more mindful of the different potential sources of conflict between work and family life, including time, demands, physical wellness and mindset, can help you to start to be more conscious of the patterns you tend to fall into. You may already be into meditation but maybe you haven’t spent time developing social connections. You may have great kids who follow rules and succeed in school but who have not learned how to make choices, regulate emotions, or use free time effectively. Once you identify the areas that can use improvement, make it a priority to work on them.
If you answered mostly false here, you might need a lifestyle adjustment. You can boost happiness by spending time on emotional regulation and social connection, and in mindful meditation. Pick one area to develop and focus on it for a couple of months, then add another.
Overall Results and Action
Look back over your quiz results and use your answers as a guide for next steps. If you could use improvement in all areas, start prioritizing happiness today. Here are three ways to get started:
- Balance your family schedules and make sure there is room for mindfulness every day.
- Spend time in nature—for example, hike on the weekends or go for an after-dinner walk in the woods as a family.
- Find ways to laugh together. You can schedule a family game night once a week or tell funny stories at the dinner table. Ask your family to talk about one thing that made them smile or laugh today.
If you are 50/50 across all three sections, tip the scales in the right direction with a gratitude practice. Have each person at the dinner table talk about his or her favorite moment from the day, and say one thing they are thankful for. In helping your kids, your spouse, and yourself to recognize the things you have in your lives that elicit thanks, you strengthen the neural pathways to gratitude. It becomes easier to recognize even more things you have in your lives to be grateful for. This practice also helps build connections in the family, and connecting with others is a key source of happiness. Part of that is feeling supported and supporting others.
If you answered mostly true in all three sections, you’re on track for family happiness. Great work. Be sure to check in with your family regularly to make sure the balance remains. And even if you do have all the qualities of a happy family, it takes work to keep it that way. Make sure the lines of communication stay open and that you always make time for each other.
The goal should be to maintain alignment between what you value, the actions you take, and how you spend your time. It can be a difference between how happy you feel and how satisfied you are with your life overall.
If you’d like to explore things further, check out University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness Questionnaire. It’s available online and everyone in the family can complete it. When you see what values family members share, you can increase your well-being for the entire family by participating in activities that support your core values.