My wife and I started a habit a few years ago called “three happys.” We don’t go to church so we didn’t have the built in evening prayer as a moment of reflection. I felt having something like that to ground our evening family interactions would be nice though. Three happys gives us that.
Shortly after packing up our loft and moving out to a nice house with good schools in preparation for anticipated daughter, I listened to the book How to Have a Good Day. One of the final chapters, Topping Up the Tank talks about the habit of recounting three good things that happened throughout the day. Studies have shown that this “gratitude exercise” (the term psychologists use) helps lift the moods of those who do it. How better to end your day and start your evening with the family than something that will lift your mood?
Practicing three happys
Each night when we sit down for dinner, one of us starts by asking the other “what’s your first happy?” It’s become a bit of a competition to see who can ask the other first with the only – loosely followed – rule being that we have to be – roughly – at the table and having started dinner. The happy moment or event can be about anything. Here are a few examples from the last few days:
- Going to the Austin Bouldering Project as a family was fun
- Sleeping in
- Getting thru a tough and intimidating workout
- Having a great conversation at lunch with a coworker
Notice anything about these? They’re a little mundane. That’s by design. That’s not to say things like “getting a promotion at work” or “winning the race” or “that Ada is happy and healthy two years and counting” don’t also make the list. Those happen, but the goal isn’t to have big, monumental happiness every day. It’s to take a moment to reflect on the good things that have happened that day that make us happy.
We’ve done this a few times with guests – mostly family. One thing I’ve learned with some trial and error is that it requires setting some guidelines. Folks want to shoot for the moon and come up with the monumental. That’s not bad and sometimes that’s the way your life is going. It does put a lot of pressure on everyone though, so setting the bar low from the start can help ease everyone into it.
We started this before our daughter was born so we would have a dinner time routine to reflect on our days and share with everyone in the family what made our day good. We hoped to live as an example to our daughter that you can always find things to be happy about. I think we’ve made our point.
This last week, Ada started asking “what’s your first happy, daddy?” and “what’s your first happy, mommy?” any time we sit down at our table. She’s too young to take part and realize what’s going on, but she knows that sitting at the table with her family involves happiness.
So, what’s your first happy?