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Want to be Happier? Connect with Your Family

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Farmer'sMarket--7-10-10As we gathered to celebrate our family reunion this weekend, I noticed the interactions as the family arrived. We had food prepared, t-shirts, amenity bags and games. Everyone was looking forward to our bus tour and banquet. But the thing that drew everyone the most was the wall sized family tree chart that my son, Herbert, created.

Our family could trace ourselves back to two brothers who were born in Texas in the late 1800’s. It was our ability to pinpoint our origins and see the connecting points that deepened our bond.

Weeks before the reunion I called various family to see if they would attend. The common response from those who had no plans to attend was, “I don’t know any of those folks.”

“That’s the purpose of the reunion,” I pointed out.

Family flew and drove in from four states and yet some who lived within a short distance of the celebration didn’t see the value in attending. They clearly shortchanged themselves.

Researchers have discovered that people who describe themselves as happy have strong relationships with family and friends.

We connect with our loved ones not because they are perfect or share all of our interests. Every family has positive and negative dynamics that have contributed to the way we have become. Shake any family tree and skeletons, hurt feelings, jealousy and unresolved issues will fall out. And yet, connecting with family is still important.

While a family reunion isn’t the time to resolve old issues or erase hurt feelings, avoiding family will only serve to keep these painful issues buried inside you where they are destined to keep inflicting pain.

When we connect with our family it can give us insights that help us to better understand ourselves. Recognizing the difficult times our ancestors endured and how those experiences shaped their lives and their parenting can be helpful in giving us understanding, compassion, strength, resilience and coping skills.

I enjoyed hearing about my mother from her cousins who remembered her as a girl and shared stories of the times they spent together.

I also enjoyed watching my grandchildren run their fingers across the family tree chart and pinpoint where they came in, as well as well meet many relatives for the first time.

Even families who have only a few members or adults who only know their adopted families, connecting with each other is very important to rekindle old bonds, be reminded that you have an anchor and be able to establish ties that have been broken by distance and time.

Family reunions are also a great leveling time when family of all different income and achievement levels gain perspective on the love, hope and perseverance that we all share.

Family connections are not limited to blood relationships. There is strength in discovering your heritage in whatever form it exists.

To increase your happiness, connect with your family where you can transmit your experiences and values, as well as absorb and pass on pride from generation to generation.

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