Happiness is in relationships and attention is the currency of relationships

Happiness is in relationships and attention is the currency of relationships

Attention is the currency of relationships

by Justin Coulson Ph.D. 

Other people matter.

That is one of the central findings from the positive psychology movement over the past decade. If happiness is a goal in your life, the number one place you’ll find it is in your positive relationships with other people.

For most of us, the most central (and important) relationships in our lives are the relationships we share with our spouse and children, or, if we are unattached it might come from our relationships with our parents and siblings. So much of our happiness in life comes from getting our family relationships right. And so many of us need a nudge in the right direction to improve those relationships.

Here are four ways to make our family relationships better:

  1. We can tell the people we love how important they are to us. Saying “I love you”, or “thank you”, or writing a letter of gratitude strengthens relationships and builds happiness in families.

  2. We can show the people we love how much we love them by doing things for them. Taking the time to do a chore for someone, buy them a treat they love, or giving them something is how we show our love. Doing things for family members through kind services can build happiness in families.

  3. We can touch them to show that we acknowledge them. Hugs bond us. A touch on the arm or shoulder as we pass our child, or a caress at the back of the neck or on the bum as we pass our spouse show we are paying attention and not taking the other person for granted. (Just don’t confuse the issue and caress someone other than your spouse on the bum).

These ideas are important. They are helpful. They can make a positive difference.

But the single most effective, ubiquitous, scientifically proven way to strengthen a relationship is to spend time with someone and take the time to understand them by listening and asking questions about their lives. Whether it’s your spouse, your children, your boss, heck, even your mother-in-law, relationships flourish when we put time into them.

Just as dollars are the currency of our economy, attention is the currency of relationships.

If your relationships are not fulfilling, schedule a date with the person you are struggling with. Go out, turn off your phone, and simply be together and listen. Your children will love being in your space and feeling special. Your spouse may wonder what you’re up to. It may take more than one date. But if you put your attention into your relationships, they’ll become terrific sources of happiness and meaning for you.

Find out more about Justin Coulson and his work at www.happyfamilies.com.au