5 Easy Things Science Says You Should Do for Your Family

We'd all like to create healthier, stronger families and deeper, more meaningful relationships. Fortunately, science provides some simple things to strengthen your family bonds. (See also: 5 Easy Things Science Says You Should Do for Your Body Every Day)

1. Learn to Communicate With Each Other

Most parents want to speak with their children more and know more about their lives (particularly in the teen years), but when your child decides to speak with you, are you ready to listen? Simplifying their experiences and emotions, or comparing their experiences with your own, may just push your child away further. Instead, let them know that you are always there to listen and help when needed. Listening attentively and uncritically is the best thing you can do for your child or teen when they want to confide in you. Once they are done talking, calmly repeat what you heard them say to show them that you are listening and understand their feelings and actions. If they want your advice or input, they will ask for it.

Don't hold a grudge when dealing with loved ones. According to the Mayo Clinic, holding onto a grudge won't leave much room for happiness. Whether you've been holding onto negative feelings for the short or long-term, it only wastes time and increases stress for everyone involved. Holding onto resentment and negative feelings can even take a toll on your physical health, heart health, and sanity. Instead, talk things out and forgive, even if it's only for your own benefit. It may have all been a misunderstanding in the first place.

2. Spend Time Together

Simply spending more time together will help your family members feel closer and more connected to one another. In fact, family experts recommend sharing meals together as often as possible to benefit your kids' mental health (and your own in the process). Spending as little as five minutes together over food and good conversation can help improve your overall relationship and lighten up everyone's spirits.

3. Get Outdoors

Spending time together is the first step in bonding and creating a closer relationship. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors when the weather is nice can also have a direct effect on your happiness. Find activities you can do together, particularly outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, walking, star gazing, and visiting the beach. Not only will you benefit from being outdoors, but you will also get some exercise together. Exercising has a direct effect on your health, fitness, and happiness. And getting a sweat in with family members can also keep you all motivated and on track together.

4. Gift More

You know the old saying that it's better to give than to receive? Well, it's true. A 2008 study showed that when 46 participants were given money to spend, those who spent the money on other people showed a higher level of happiness, compared to those who spent the money on themselves. And at the end of the day, who doesn't like getting a gift from someone they love?

Gifts don't always have to cost money. Telling someone how much you love them can brighten their day and their outlook on life. Along with giving more to others, it's important to also show your gratitude for things and people you feel thankful for. This will make your family members feel more loved and appreciated, and you can also benefit from associated emotional and interpersonal benefits in the process.

5. Smile More

Creating a household of positivity is key in encouraging your children. By simply smiling more and thinking positively, you can encourage positive emotions, which have been shown to broaden thinking, improve attention spans, increase productivity, and improve family relationships. Smiling stimulates the brain's reward mechanisms even more than receiving money, chocolate, and other similar rewards. It has even been shown to alleviate physical and emotional pain, so practice genuinely smiling more everyday.

Everyone deals with stress, but your family should see the positive, supportive side of you. Positive psychology says that having and displaying positive emotions can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional well-being. Most importantly, smiling just shows your loved ones you care and encourages a household of positivity.

What are your favorite things to do to strengthen your family relationships? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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