Essential Steps to a Happier Family Life
In this article I want to introduce you to a simple technique which will give you clarity about how your family’s day to day life could be happier and less stressful. I often use it with my family, either to deal with a specific problem that has cropped up, or when things feel generally stressful or difficult.
Clinical psychologists (like me) are trained in a number of therapeutic approaches. One approach often used is called brief solution focused therapy. Brief solution focused therapy can be massively helpful when we are looking for clear and positive solutions to our troubles. The basic premise is that when we make the first steps to a happier family life, we have to imagine how that life will look.
The Power of Positivity
Within brief solution focused therapy, there is one particular technique that can be so powerful, I have devoted this whole article to it! It is called “The Miracle Question”. The miracle question is a technique that invites you to describe, in detail, how family life will be different when the problem is no longer present.
The Miracle Question
The miracle question is actually more than one question! Take a first look at the miracle question, but do not rush to answer it…yet.
Imagine… You and your family go to bed as normal, and sleep peacefully. In the middle of the night, a miracle happens. The main problem that your family had has gone away. You don’t know that the problem has gone away, when you first wake up. There is a gradual realisation that life is better. What is the first thing you notice?…
What is the next thing you notice?…
Think about all your senses. What will you see, taste, feel? Go into as much detail as you can…
Who will be next in the family to notice the miracle? What will they notice first?
How To Do It
Take some time out of your day when you will not be disturbed. It will take you half an hour or so to really answer the miracle question.
Now think about what method you are going to use to answer the question. here are some examples:
- Make a written list.
- Draw or sketch your thoughts.
- Record your thoughts on your phone’s “voice memo” app.
Next, return to the miracle question above. Use your imagination to really explore your desired world. I want you to feel the answer to the miracle question – to experience it, not just to think about it. Use of art can really bring this technique alive, so do consider sketching your “desired world”, even if art is not normally your thing.
If you are using verbal or written language, pay careful attention to keeping it positive. You should think about what you do want, rather than what you don’t want. For example: “My husband will be respectful of my opinions”, rather than “my husband will stop putting me down”.
Once you have gained a glimpse of your desired future, you might distill your thoughts into a few main ideas or points.
Changes Will Start to Happen
This overwhelmingly positive approach takes your focus away from the problem and towards solutions. By pinpointing exactly what you are looking for, you automatically make steps to a happier family life. Your new, clearer vision of desired family life will be imprinted in your conscious and subconscious, and little changes will start to happen. You will begin to notice when events match your desired family life. For example, when Erin and Rowan co-operate to make breakfast together. You will also begin to nudge family life towards these positive events. For example, creating opportunities for Erin and Rowan to co-operate on a task. My philosophy is that small changes will make a big difference to your family life over time.
Simplicity At Its Best
Positivity is not the answer to everything. Sometimes, a problem needs more than the miracle question, and expert help is required. Also, bear in mind that for certain issues, the miracle question is not a good fit. For example, if a member of the family has a serious illness, the miracle question may not feel right, because the miracle would be for that person to be cured or to recover.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health (or your own), you should speak to your GP about accessing the support of a psychologist or other mental health professional.
Sometimes though, the simplest of ideas can create that all-important shift that is the first steps to a happier family life. I have seen this happen so many times over the years during my therapy sessions with children and families, that I wanted to share it more widely.
Review and Re-visit
How did it go? Review your answers regularly – perhaps once a week – and see if changes are beginning to manifest. You may even wish to keep a “Miracle Question Diary”.
Has anyone else in the family noticed differences? How about anyone outside the family?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the miracle question and that it is the first of your steps to a happier family life. For more expert advice and techniques, check out Brighter Futures, a guide to family emotional wellbeing written by me and five of my colleagues.
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