Raise A Happy Family With 5 Tips From The Author Of ‘The Happiness Equation’

Appreciating the little things FTW.

by Chase Scheinbaum
Originally Published: 
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Filthy poet laureate Louis CK famously said, “Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy.” You can relate. Raising irrational, demanding human beings is, of course, amazing. Being happy all the time? That’s more difficult. Neil Pasricha, author of The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything + Have Everything may be able to help. The former Walmart executive was having a good run in life until his wife divorced him and his best friend committed suicide in rapid succession. That was the impetus to start his blog 1000 Awesome Things, a clearinghouse for everything awesome in life (#999 potato chip crumbs in the bottom of the bag. #883 ugly actors). In Pasricha’s new book, he examines what makes people happy, so you can help your kid appreciate the small wonders — like #342, finding good reading material in someone else’s bathroom.

Recognize When You’re Not Feeling Your Best

Webster’s defines parenting as the struggle between being present with your kid and being too tired to care. But, when you are the latter (that would be “too tired to care”), you need to be able to recognize and articulate that.

Pasricha uses a 3-part process: First he tells himself that’s what’s going on (“Hey self, you’re a bit of a dick today”). Then he passes that message on to his wife, so she knows what’s up (“Honey, I’m being a bit of a dick today”). Then he remembers that the feeling will eventually pass, and he’ll return to feeling good and being the awesome parent he is.

Know What’s In Your Fun Bucket

Fun fact: There are 156 hours in a week. Roughly a third of that will be spent sleeping (unless you have a baby, then zero will be spent sleeping). A third will be spent working and commuting. And, the remaining third? “That’s your fun bucket. Your anything-you-want bucket,” says Pasricha. In case you’re wondering, if you’re lucky, you have something like 3-to-4,000 of these buckets to fill in a lifetime, and the basic goal is simple: “You should be able to look back and remember what you spent this on.”

Use 3 20-Minute Habits To Make You Feel Better

Pasricha has a few 20-minute habits that make him feel better. Think of it like a fitness challenge, but instead of losing love handles, you’ll gain a bit more love. “I use these to get me out of a less-than-good mood,” says Pasricha.

  • Walk For 20 Minutes: Research shows that taking 20-minute walks in nature works better for lifting the mood than taking antidepressants. (Or even taking antidepressants while you’re walking.)
  • Replay Your Day For 20 Minutes: Write down a positive memory from the day. “It works because your brain has no GPS in it,” by which Pasricha means that no matter how hectic things are around you, a good memory can transport you right back to that place. And if you share the journal with your spouse, science has found it can benefit your marriage. Hey science, can a guy get some privacy, please?
  • Write Out 5 Gratitudes: While you have that pen and paper, go ahead and write down 5 things for which you’re grateful. Or, with your partner, play “Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud.” Unlike F–k, Marry, Kill, it’s a game that can help your home life. Make a list if 2 good things that happened that day, one bad one, and something you’re looking forward to — like writing more lists.

Flickr / Pixael

Put First And Last Things First

Setting screen time limits to help your kids and your sleep is well-worn territory, but what about doing it because you don’t have enough family time? “The first and last thing you have each day is time with your kids,” says Pasricha, who has a no screens policy during the first and last hour of each day.

The idea is that when we wake up, our thoughts are scattered. Not reaching for the phone or computer immediately lets you reflect on your dreams (oooh, Freudian!) or think about what tasks are important to you that day (more dreaming) before all those thoughts are gruesomely murdered by your boss via Slack notifications. Pasricha also has his wife hide his phone from him — a fantastic idea if you know yourself well enough to know you can’t be trusted.

Flickr / Kevin Shorter

Mix And Match Your Family Life

Like you, Pasricha has only so many ways to spend his time. Six, to be exact: Alone; with his wife; with one son; with the other son; with both sons; with his wife and both sons. “Every week, the goal is to spend time I can remember in every permutation,” he says. Better make a flowchart so you don’t become the odd man out.

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