If we interviewed 100 people who are unusually happy, I think the most prominent common denominator would be unusually good relationships.
Despite the widespread promotion of materialism and vanity in our popular culture, wealth and beauty are simply not enough to produce happiness. In fact, they’re not even necessary. What’s more, bad relationships — at work, in the family or at home — are a surefire source of anguish and heartache.
For most of us, the relationships that most strongly influence our level of happiness are family relationships. And the most powerful of all are at the inner core of family, especially parent-child relationships.
No matter your age, your relationship with your parents will always have a unique capacity to generate comfort or pain. Many children have ambivalent feelings about their parents. Yet most crave their approval, respect and love. Parents have a similar need.
If you’re a parent, resolve to make more consistent and conscientious efforts to make your children feel appreciated. If you want to make their lives and yours happier, be careful to not demean or diminish their achievements and to avoid expressions of disappointment. Tell your child that you are proud to have him or her as a son or daughter.
And if you still can, give your parents pleasure by showing them that you love them, not only for what they did for you as a child, but for who they are now. Talk to them frequently and talk of meaningful things. Ask their advice and don’t roll your eyes in disdain when you disagree with it. One of the best ways to express your love is through respect.