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Happiness Tip: Cultivate Your Support Network

As I write this, I’m stranded by the side of the road in a car that won’t start, with two hungry and irritable children.

It is well past dinnertime, on a school night, and it will be another 10 minutes before help arrives.

Thank goodness help is about to arrive! My mother, who lives 35 minutes away during rush hour, jumped in the car the moment she got my distress call. She will take the kids to dinner nearby while I continue to the wait for the tow truck. And my father, who wouldn’t miss dinner with his granddaughters given the unexpected opportunity (though we ate with him last night) will wait for the tow truck with me and then drive me to the restaurant.

I say this all of the time, but if we’ve learned anything in the last 100 years about the science of happiness, it is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and the depth of our connections to other people. Never is that more true than when things go awry, it seems to me now.

Things go wrong. Life is full of difficulty. Cars break down, and we need help. Although part of me would really like to not have to call my parents for help so frequently — dependence doesn’t always feel good in our independence oriented culture — I know that I’m so, so lucky to have such a strong support network.

I also know that it is not entirely chance that my support network is strong: it is something that I work to nurture. For my happiness, and the happiness of my children.

Take Action: Today, do something to nurture the people in your support network. What can you do to strengthen your ties to the people around you? Invite someone to dinner (or drop off a needed meal), jump start your neighbor’s car, call someone who needs a shoulder to cry on.

Join the Discussion: What will you do to strengthen your connections with others? Leave a comment below to inspire others.