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May 29, 2012 at 7:41 AMComments: 1 Faves: 1

4 Ways Traditions Make Us Happier, Healthier People

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Today, my family met with grandparents and extended family to visit the cemetery. With everyone helping, flowers were planted at the graves of ancestors, and stories were told at each grave, sharing memories.

For the most part, my kids have no recollection of these generations past, but their stories remain alive. We do this every year - it’s tradition and, in our lives, traditions on various levels enhance our sense of belonging and legacy.

This blog will discuss traditions in our lives and the important functions they serve.

memories, family traditions#1. Traditions Offer Stability

In our lives, we have a past, a present and a future. Part of who we are is knowing where we have come from and also where we are going. Thinking back, positive aspects in our lives are often algorithms of repeated events centered around some theme - in other words traditions.

If the present involves a significant paradigm shift such as a new job, a move, marriage or parenthood, traditions can get buried beneath the business of life, and it may require a conscious effort to keep traditions alive. 

#2. Traditions Produce a Sense of Belonging

Traditions help us maintain a happy outlook on life. In fact, lack of appreciation for tradition is one of the major ways I identify significant depression in a person! Depressed people tend to disconnect from others, and so, they may no longer anticipate or look forward to events or traditions. They just go through the motions of life.

#3. Traditions Keep Us Looking Forward

When it comes to traditions, it's the repeated, pleasant, shared event that is the common important factor. It really doesn’t matter what the event is but only that anticipation occurs - “It’s that time again!”  Having something desirable around the corner to which we belong and look forward to is a wonderful part of our human experience!

#4.  Traditions Let Us Leave Our Mark

According to the psychologist Erik Erikson, we pass through certain stages in our lives from birth to death.

  • Age 40 - Middle Adulthood: At around age 40, we cross into the “Middle Adulthood” stage that is characterized by the need to create or nurture things that will outlast us. While success in this stage leads to a sense of accomplishment and usefulness, failure results in a superficial involvement in the world around us.
  • Age 65 - Reflection on Life: Around age 65, we cross into the “Reflection on Life” stage where life events are recalled in order to gain a sense of fulfillment. Success here leads to a sense of wisdom and satisfaction while failure leads to bitterness and despair.

Tradition serves to build success in these mindsets of maturity.

As we enter into Middle Adulthood, we value traditions built and may even look to build traditions anew. Indeed, I have experienced this need in my life soon after I turned 40. I value and cherish the things in my life that I know will outlast me, such as traditions, stories and the other things I create. If you've reached that point in your life, you likely know what I mean. If you're still in your youth, know that this day is coming, so lay the stepping stones now by embracing tradition.

How to Build a Tradition

As families grow with committed relationships and/or children entering the picture, traditions may evolve. Let these come naturally and make them exciting and enjoyable!

  • Traditional Places: Some traditions involve a place or a destination. Such traditions build recurrent memories and emotions evoked with location.
  • Traditional Times: Some traditions surround a time such as a holiday. Creating recurrent events around these holidays yields tradition associated with the special time.

Traditions can be as simple or as complicated as need be. They may be participating in opening day of hunting season or berry picking season with family or friends. It may be catching a certain sporting event with a group of friends. It may be as simple as visiting Santa at the mall.

The Value of Traditions

Traditions are all around us. We have an innate drive to build them as a means to find fulfillment and belonging. They keep us anticipating and enjoying life. Traditions may change or evolve, but they can always be resurrected or begun anew as the seasons of our lives change.

Traditions are as unique as people themselves.

What traditions do YOU hold?

Photo Credits:

Citoyen du Monde, Arkansas ShutterBug, BECKYDOOR, suttonhoo, amslerPIX, deshanta

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1 Comment

  • I have a couple traditions that all seem to revolve around food. The first weekend of June is the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids, and I have been going to that for the last 20+ years. Also, in mid-july, I always make a trip down to Paw Paw and get blueberries from Leduc's. They are the most wonder blueberries I've ever had and I don't mind the drive for them. Those are the ones off the top of my head, but as I'm getting closer to that "middle adulthood", I will continue to make more I'm sure.

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