- making a conscious choice to pause before we say “yes” to more activity and to scale back as much as possible on extracurriculars so we can create more breathing room
- eating simply (yesterday’s lunch of baked potatoes and broccoli was perfect—and loaded with fiber and serotonin boosters!)
- consciously spending time in nature (we said no to numerous weekend activities so we could all participate in a small family camping trip to Krause Springs on Saturday)
- making it a point to create space to just be together as a family even if it’s doing chores side by side (this doesn’t mean it’s kumbaya all day: yesterday my son unleashed a tsunami on us after we asked him to clean the bathroom!)
- practicing “good is good enough”—and being mindful about giving our attention to things which matter most rather than things which matter least
- over-communicating with one another so we’re aware of what each person is navigating and can be more compassionate with one another
- making sure we’re all going to bed early and getting plenty of sleep to boost our immune systems and enhance our moods/energy levels
Given all that we’re navigating right now (collectively and individually), I thought you might enjoy hearing from other families around the U.S. on how they enhance harmony and emotional well-being in the everyday.
Below are some of the unedited responses we received from the more than 130 families that responded when I surveyed them for my new book this past summer. (Read more.)
I’d love to hear how you enhance harmony and emotional well-being in your everyday life here.
- getting out in nature together; having down time; deciding nothing needs to get done
- family dinners and allowing space for each one of us to say whatever is on our mind without judgement.
- togetherness. sometimes separateness. music. art. food. laughter. honesty. adventure.
- humor: as parents we like to emulate what the kids do and have fun with it; we familiarize ourselves with their world; activities, tv shows, songs and interact in play; this makes the kids happy
- spending time together just snuggling on the couch, eating dinner together, doing chores together
- we talk endlessly about big ideas and philosophy; unstructured time spent together … sometimes doing nothing, ahhhhhno computer or Internet connection in the home; family dinners and family fun/date nights; open communication; practicing presence with one anothergoing on camping trips together, going to family get-togethers, sharing all the work it takes to care for kids.
- I have to center myself each and every day or I throw everyone else off; spending time listening and meeting the most pressing needs helps too
- nightly family worship; weekly family meetings; going to church together and eating meals together
- doing less; being involved in less activities; making sure that mom and dad get time alone together and apart
- being physically close to each other, making eye contact, laughing!
- everyday rituals: routine expectations, and emphasis on being there for each other in important moments; weekend meals together; sharing our day at bedtime and dinner
- spending time together, eating a sit down dinner and discussing the day; we spend a lot of time in nature, learning about the world around us; we strive to maintain peace in our house which makes everyone happier!
- enjoyingshared meals or activities that are more quiet in nature – such as walks or spending time outside. Reading is also a big part of our lives and we share books with our children that represent our values/outlook.
- time spent outdoors, hiking, caring for our garden, reading going to museums and galleries, exploring our great city, making stuff, connecting with friends– these are all things we do to feel connected and at peace; we encourage our children to feel connected with others by giving time and support to those in need.
- family dinners, limited TV watching, daily catch-ups, hugs+kisses in the morn/eve and when we say ‘hi’ + ‘bye’, attending church + sharing brunch with congregation afterwards, daily check-ins, saying I love you
- working on community projects as a family (park clean up days, build park trails, working at food banks, etc); family game night at least once a week; eating dinner as a family and discussing our day; working on home projects as a family
- laughter, travel to the beach, activities that everyone enjoys (i.e., backyard cookouts and games); playing together
- not scheduling too many activities in one day, keeping our home free of clutter, going to Mass each week, spending time outside together
- being outdoors in nature; attending church and church related activities; having a (flexible but in place) daily schedule
- time spent outside – hiking, swimming, boating, backyard time swinging, blowing bubbles, flying kites
- rituals, sticking to them: family night, Saturday with Dad, story time, sacred time where I play with my daughter being fully present for 30-60 min.
- when we slow down: our family is comprised of 4 ADHD highly functioning (read type a) members who tend to move through the day without slowing down to really hear each other; we are conscious of this and making a much better effort to communicate more effectively and with better emotional control; family therapy has helped tremendously
- daily family sharing “highlights” and “lowlights”; doing something active on weekends – swimming, hiking, 5-10 minutes (not rushed) at bedtime to talk; being organized so I don’t have to say “hurry up!”
- as busy as we are, at dinner we have the sweetest ritual in which we hold hands and silently look into each other’s eyes. I love looking at my husband and daughter gazing at each other as much as I love looking into their eyes: it’s this beautiful synergistic experience that intensifies our family cycle of love. I am always amazed at how quickly and deeply we all receive from these long gazes. No matter what our day has been like, we find just what we need in those tender moments: relief, joy, forgiveness, a deep sense of being known and held. There is something quite profound about looking into each other’s eyes and being together in that place beyond words. The habit of that ritual is especially healing on stressful, rough days. Many a night, my eyes tear-up as I reconnect to my heart and the deeper current of Life as I look into the eyes of my precious family and as I let them see into me as well. After we look “in” each other, we feast our eyes on our food, then close our eyes and go in even deeper to the silence. Someone gives a gentle squeeze after a while, and we begin to dine, renewed and present to our selves and each other
- nature, communication, meditation, exercise, joy, laughter, love, yummy/healthy meals, travel
- long roadtrips w/ uninterrupted windshield drive time; we have had more silly moments inside a car that we can count. The long hours together become sweeter each time we hit the road. Also,regular family meals. When we have the crazy weeks of client dinners and don’t have a family meal for at least two nights in a row, we can tell something is off or it’s just more difficult for all of us. We need the family time to ground each of us. Lastly, taking in a new experience — one that is new for all of us. We all enjoy discovering together and watching each of us make our own connections and insights is always a good way to learn and grow together.
- rest. couples counseling. routine and rituals (Saturday Movie Night, etc)
- my family feels connected when we enjoy a slow dinner together each evening. During that time we share with each other something we are grateful for that day. It helps us remember all of our blessings that day. I have noticed that the girls stop throughout the day to notice the goodness around them – they may say “Oh, I’m going to share this tonight at our ‘grateful time.’ ” It has also helped me and my husband not to talk about work worries at the dinner table. My daughters feel connected and peaceful when I give them personal blessings each day – I wrap them in an “angel blanket” each night before bed and I give them a “blessing” before they go to school each day.
- meditation. Even if the kids don’t want to meditate at that moment, they can hang out around me and get something out of it, too. Insisting on lots of downtime at home, planning nothing – so what comes out of it is wrestling, group playing with the cat, laughing at comic books, creative pursuits, all impromptu.
- aregular routine, healthy food, regular times for mom and dad separately and together to decompress and fill themselves up and verbalizing our appreciation for one another.
- open communication, one on one time and family time involving activities we all enjoy; time without electronics
- quiet dinners, walks in the park or neighborhood, sharing stories and reflecting on the day and taking time to greet/hug one another in the morning and when we see each other after work, giving each other compliments/praise on a regular basis
- fewer things on the calendar, spending time in nature, laughing, eating meals together, really listening to one another and enjoying time together as a family with other special family and friends.
- sharing in a project, eating meals together, doing “home church”by listening to an inspirational message or sermon together and then discussing it, sitting in nature to meditate, sitting under the full moon, going for walks or hikes in nature, camping, watching movies at home together
- connection: eating together, doing activities together; regular sleep and mealtimes; not over-scheduling; relatively clean, usually quiet, and orderly environment– when possible.
- together time both w/ immediate and/or with extended family. A certain amount of alone time- pursuing passions. Going to church sometimes.
- when there is nothing on the agenda; i.e. appointments, engagements, homework, any kind of to-do list – which isn’t that often.
- having fun together (bowling, bike ride), slowing down the bedtime routine so there’s plenty of time to talk, piling in my bed and reading (each one his or her own book but at the same time). Less on the calendar.
- time in prayer with my family, and don’t sweat the small stuff (ie. pick your battles); talking at dinner and at bed time, camping, being together in nature
- spending time together without tv or electronics. Allowing our relationships to include the full emotional range, so we are open with each other about positive and negative emotions we experience together. This fosters a sense of resilience and trust in the strength of our relationships.
- being away from day to day distractions — technology, jobs, school, friends. Creating more quiet in our lives.
- forus it’s not just meals together (usually we eat out because I don’t cook that much) but also the space to be together, yet doing our own thing. We are all free spirits, yet very supportive of each others independence.
- unplugging, doing more physically active things together like swimming, working on the garden, etc.
- staying on a schedule. Having family dinner. Rituals like weekly Friday night movie night or weekend hikes on the greenbelt.
- eating meals together, family night (watching a family movie with coke floats on Fridays), attending church, family prayers/bedtime prayers; spending together doing an activity that we love such as skiing or cooking.
- whether it’s when we are all dancing silly or holding hands praying before a meal, I cherish the united we stand mentality.
- doingthe little things of the day together without rushing (eat, read, walk, work, cuddle, speak, sing, play, goof)
- spending time in nature together, mom and dad taking time to themselves to run, ride bike, unscheduled time at home
- less on our schedule, sitting down for a home cooked meal, especially when the children helped prepare it, walks in the evening
- having a routine or rhythmthat everyone can count on; doing activities that we all enjoy and can participate in, like dancing or yoga.
- being part of and connected to a greater community, appreciating my family as part of that
- spending quality, non-rushed time together that isn’t ‘too planned’: things like pizza night, sitting out on the porch for coffee/wine while the kids play
- when weare each able to have individual time doing things we enjoy, we are then able to better enjoy time with the ones we love
- mom’s feelings of connection, harmony and peace. When mom feels it, others seem to as well.
- we believe God helps guide us each day and helps to keep us connected with each other.
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Photo: My husband and 9 year-old son on a leisurely stroll on a farm in rural New Mexico. This
area was near Chaco Canyon, one of the gems from our summer vacation.