A SPECIAL TIME TO REMEMBER THAT FAMILY IS THE FOUNDATION FOR HAPPINESS AND RELATIONSHIPS
For the past few months, most of us have been stuck at home due to the Corona pandemic. Some of us are homebound with family, and some are away from their near and dear ones. No matter which of these situations you find yourself in during these trying times, you- like me- may have contemplated your family life and regarded it in a new light.
Had it not been for the pandemic, my sister and I would have been away from home this year. My parents, to their relief, avoided an empty nest during lockdown. These past few years, I had been insanely busy with my graduation studies. Between frequent exams and compulsory extracurricular activities, I had little time to spare for my family. While I was still living at home and my family and I shared a roof, we interacted little due to our clashing schedules. Life got busy and we got caught up in the tide of our personal concerns.
So now, post my graduation and at stuck home, I am pleasantly surprised by the realisation that I have missed my family. With little else to do at home, we’ve been talking and interacting the way we used to when us kids were younger.
This change in my family life had me wondering- how much of an impact does our family actually make on our lives? Would things have been different for me personally if I had not been homebound during lockdown?
Turns out, it would likely have made a huge difference.
We have studied all our lives that man is a social animal. In the first few years of our life, our family bonds are some of the strongest connections we have. Over time, those connections expand and grow, but our family unit still remains the primary connect we have to the rest of the society. A healthy and happy family life has a range of influences on our health and well-being. Here are some of the ways through which our family brings us health and happiness:
Stress is an inevitable part of modern day life no matter how old we are. It is no secret that stress can have long term negative effect on our physical and mental health. However, a healthy family life can help us maintain a low level of stress.
It can act as a buffer against the troubles in our everyday life. Coming home to our family at the end of a long, tiring day can help us recover and rejuvenate. We are able to open up to our family about what is stressing us out- your upcoming exams, a job interview, a work presentation- and seek guidance about how to deal with them.
Talking to our family about our day itself can feel cathartic because it not only gives us a chance to vent, but also gives us the feeling that someone is listening to us and understands us. The knowledge that our family has our back alone can help temper the impact of our worries and lead to the feeling of happiness.
Our family is a safe-space where we can unwind. Often, we ourselves are unaware of how wound up or stressed out we are but our family may recognise this and help us relax, physically and mentally.
During every exam period, while I spent all my waking hours mugging up answers and rushing through my notes, my mother was the one who’d come into my room from time to time and remind me to eat something or to bring me a glass of water. Every night before the exam, my father would tell me to put my books away and call it a day. These little gestures of theirs were aimed at helping me calm down and keep me from being overwhelmed.
Simple things like talking to your family or taking a walk with your parents can help you relax, and further, fills you with a sense of fulfilment and happiness. Playing games and watching movies can be another way to de-stress while also improving family bonds. Simply being in the positive presence of your family can improve your mental health and lead to happiness.
Our view of ourselves is often pretty distorted- we sometimes see ourselves as better than we are, and on other times, we underestimate ourselves. Our family, however, tends to see us as we truly are, and may be aware of parts of us even we haven’t noticed.
Our family can hold up a mirror to us, and help us see our true self in an honest light. At times that we overestimate ourselves, our family can help ground us and show us how we can improve or see ourselves more objectively. We are more willing to accept feedback from family than from those we aren’t as close to us because we realise that our family wishes to see us grow and flourish and their criticism comes from a place of caring.
At other times, when we put ourselves down and think we aren’t capable of something, our family is there for us, helping us see our true worth. They can help build our self-concept in a healthy and realistic way. Our family can help us set realistic and attainable goals for ourselves that we are more likely to succeed at it as a result, improve our level of happiness. We only have to try to think of all those times that our family’s guidance and persuasion has taken us ahead in life. I know I can think of innumerable such occasions.
Think of family life as a bunker. Our family is a safe space where we can hide away from an outside world with all its horrors and chaos. It becomes our refuge from the adversities of life. Our family can protect us from- or at least lessen the blow of the hardships of life.
Our family supports us through thick and thin. Even when the whole world is against us, if we are protected by a healthy family life, we can survive the wrath of the whole world. The feeling of being accepted by our family can have immense health benefits. Our family provides us with support, be it emotional, practical or even financial.
In times of crisis, the one solace we can have is that our family has our back. We know we can rely on them. This knowledge can be a ray of hope even in dark situation. Our family life can help improve our physical as well as psychological health. It helps reduce depressive symptoms and lowers stress levels. A healthy family makes way for a happy family.
Family members have a mutually supportive relationship. For example, it is generally agreed that parents take care of their children when they are young, and children take care of their parents as they grow old. There is an unspoken promise of commitment to each other. When in need, it is family that comes forward to aid and guide us through our troubles. Our family becomes the force that encourages us to do better, to be better.
Humans are inherently social beings- we crave acceptance and affection from the people around us. The family, then, becomes our primary source of love and appreciation. Can we remember the last time we achieved something that made us feel accomplished? Perhaps we scored very well on an exam, or maybe our presentation went well. Our family is likely to have been on our list of people to share this good news with.
Our family looks out for us. They are concerned about our health and wellness and work to help us enhance our state of being. Furthermore, people with strong family systems are better able to break their bad habits with the constant support and encouragement of their family compared to people without such support.
Little signs of affection can have a strong impact on us. We may know the sheer joy and satisfaction a hug from our mother or a compliment from our sibling can bring. A healthy family life endows us with a positive self-image. Our family life gives us a sense of belonging that helps us build a healthy self-image.
Our family relations and connections influence our future relationships with other people. Family bonds set the precedent for all future connections and impacts whether those connections are likely to be healthy or not and how people may interact within their future family units.
Children watch and learn how their family functions- how the members behave, interact and communicate- and this moulds their understanding of social relationships. Essentially, they practice and propagate what they learned from their family. Research shows that people who have good family lives are less likely to experience loneliness, are physically and mentally healthy, and tend to live longer lives. These people experience undiluted happiness by simply being part of a family. They have a more optimistic perspective of life.
Children growing up with a healthy and happy family life develop compassion, are respectful and have the capacity to establish healthy relationships with others.
Our family, in a way, is a monument of our life. It becomes a record of our life history, with each family member being our life’s historian. Our family has most likely lived through the same events and same adversities as us. The knowledge that our family shares our life experiences helps us feel a sense of belonging and makes us feel better understood.
It strengthens the bonds between us. We’ve seen each other through good times and bad. We’ve witnessed our family’s ups and downs. Our family gives us companions with whom to reminisce our life, and recall our shared history. These memories bring us closer and give us a sense of satisfaction. It improves our well-being and allows us to experience happiness.
A healthy family life can help us build resilience. Resilience refers to the ability to cope with the misfortunes in our life. Most of us experience some tragedies or adversities at some point in our life, be it death of a loved one, accident, disease, etc. These incidents tend to be difficult to cope with and may take a toll on us. While some people may experience such negative incidents as intolerable, people with strong family support systems are better able to cope with them.
Healthy families support each other through the worst and are there for each other. A healthy family life allows the members to maintain an optimistic outlook on life and turn towards the future with hope. Incidentally, working through tough times helps strengthens the bond within families.
Oftentimes, we don’t realise how huge an impact our family has on who we are. Our family touches every aspect of our life and moulds us into the people we are. This year has taught me how fortunate I have been to be a part of this family that showers me with love and affection and always looks out for me.
If you, too, are at home living with your family, try to look at them from this new outlook. Notice the little things, the unspoken words and the caring actions you may have previously glossed over. Whether your father gives you a pat on the back, or your mother tells you off for spending too much time on your phone, or your sibling teases you, there may be a message of love in disguise under it all. When you are able to tease apart the hidden meaning of their gestures and words, you may be able to discern the true sentiment of love that they hold for you. You may find that your family is truly your beacon of happiness in ways you’d never known.
How has your family brought you happiness?