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5 Ways To Be Happier Together

12 Apr 2019 | Cheryl Rickman

We are happier when we focus on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. In this extract from The Happiness Bible, Cheryl Rickman explores what we can do to widen and deepen our connection with each other.

Happier Together

Community Matters

Today, with social media becoming all-consuming, we are more connected than we have ever been, in a virtual sense; but in reality, studies have revealed that many people still feel alone. All the more reason to make an effort to increase real-world connections.

As well as forging strong bonds with those we are especially fond of, it's important to build "bridging connections" to unite different groups within a community. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the notion that we're all in this together, and that the common good is important for a good life. 

1. Build Social Capital

Consider ways in which you might bring people from different backgrounds together through a shared interest, to build what Harvard professor Robert Putnam calls the "social capital" of a community, facilitate trust and impact positively on the wellbeing of the whole community. For example, you could:

  • Eat together round a campfire, BBQ or candle-lit table. Fire and food create that "Hygge" feeling of cosy warmth and togetherness.
  • Plant a community vegetable garden.
  • Create a directory for your street, listing names and resources that can be borrowed.
  • Make a "street library" cupboard or fill an old phone-box with books, so that residents can donate and borrow books. Just make sure it's waterproof!

2. Consider how you make others feel

Notice the good in others. Focus on what's right with people, rather than what's wrong. Research by psychologist John Gottman shows that good relationships have a 'positivity ratio' of 5-to-1. This means that for every negative interaction, a stable and happy relationship has five (or more) positive interactions. With that in mind, practise focusing on what your partner, family members or friends have done right, rather than on what they've done wrong. Praise and encourage rather than criticise.

3. Show empathy

Consider other people's point of view before you respond. Try viewing everyone as a vulnerable child, to minimize blame. Remind yourself that we're all just muddling through, and we all make mistakes. It's easier to judge and criticize than it is to praise and empathize. Yet the latter is far more rewarding and has a wide-ranging social impact. For example, teaching empathy in schools reduces bullying.

4. Do more together as a family

Whether it's playing tennis, going for regular walks, popping to the park, finger-painting, kite-flying or playing Scrabble, create a routine that means you do at least one of those things together every week. It's all too easy to sit and watch telly together. But interaction generates laughter and shared positive experiences, which strengthens bonds. Teamwork and team-play, especially of the family kind, boost positive emotions and enhance relationships.

5. Spend time with no devices

Make one night per week "analogue night".  Put all your phones and electronic devices in a basket and enjoy a "no-phone zone" for at least a few hours. You can play outdoors or find something to do that doesn't involve a screen. And you can have extended talks round the dinner table or elsewhere, read a book together or make something. We are all leading increasingly busy lives. Although we shouldn't become over-dependent on others or allow them to dictate our mood, we need to invest sufficient time to build quality relationships with those in our support network.

Because positive connection is key to our happiness.

"Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one's entire life in happiness, the greatest so far is friendship" ~  Epicurus

Cheryl Rickman
  Happiness Bible 

About Cheryl Rickman

After both her parents' lives were cut short, Cheryl Rickman decided to devote her life to helping others make the most of their own precious lives, through the books she writes and the workshops she creates. She has written and ghostwritten 15 practical and inspirational guide books on flourishing in life and at work over the past 13 years. As well as writing empowering books to inspire, inform and help people fret less and flourish more, Cheryl is a qualified Positive Psychology Practitioner, an Ambassador of Wellbeing for the Network of Wellbeing and a contributor to Psychologies and Breathe magazines, among others. You can find out more at  www.CherylRickman.co.uk

About The Happiness Bible

The Happiness Bible (published by Gaia Books) works with the reader to explain how happiness works and evolves; where it comes from, and how it can be nurtured and maintained in order to flourish. The book introduces the principles of positive psychology, the science of happiness, and how it works to achieve happiness. It examines what happiness studies have revealed and how positive psychology exercises help to banish the "thieves of happiness". It also explores why acceptance of unhappiness is also important in our quest for joy and includes tips on being kinder, getting out in nature, nurturing supportive relationships, talking back to mind chatter, cultivating gratitude, finding and savouring the good, using strengths and creating meaning.



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