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Published on October 3, 2017

Why the Happiest Family Is Never a Perfect Family

Why the Happiest Family Is Never a Perfect Family

With seemingly perfect family images plastered all over social media, people viewing these images online may begin to think that other families are perfect, while theirs is flawed. But there is no such thing as a perfect family.

People only portray the highlights and goodness of their family on the internet. Most don’t put their family ugliness and dysfunction on facebook for the world to see. But we all have that one friend who chooses to air their dirty laundry on social media on a fairly regular basis. This person is an exception to the rule.

People want others to only see the good things, because that is what they want to remember and highlight for the world to see. They aren’t out to deceive the world that they don’t have family issues, it is just that they don’t feel compelled to show the world the negatives in their lives. They are choosing to be selective in what they show the world.

Everyone needs to view social media with caution and the knowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect family. You may not know a family’s struggles, their flaws, or their personal issues, but they do exist in every family.

Dissatisfaction with one’s own family can develop when you compare yourself to the seemingly perfect images on social media; those images that are truly not showing the whole picture. There should be a disclaimer on social media that states “view with caution, as images can be deceptive with only the most perfect images shown”.

The family unit is a dynamic, ever changing, living organism. There are no perfect people on this planet, so families can never be perfect. However, there can be happiness in a family. There are several keys to making a family unit happy, functional, and loving. There are also some common mistakes to avoid, as these mistakes damage the structure, relationships, and harmony within the family. Below are some of the common mistakes to avoid and the keys for making a family loving and functional.

Little Things That Add up to Big Problems in a Family

Gossip

Gossip is talking about someone behind their back to another person. It is far too common in families and creates great dissension. If someone has a problem with a family member, they need to go to that family member directly for discussion of the problem. They should also talk to them in private. Bringing up an issue in front of other family members can be even more hurtful and it makes the person bringing up the issue seem insensitive.

Talking about fellow family members behind their back is hurtful, breaks down trust within the family, and is mean. Don’t be a meanie. Stop the gossip one person at a time beginning with yourself. If you have an issue with someone in the family, then approach them in private with compassion and an empathetic ear, wanting to truly help them. If the issue has nothing to do with your life or the function of the family, then perhaps you need to leave it alone.

The Blame Game

Problems exist in every family. The goal is to work through the problems, so you can enjoy life together. If people within a family are continually pointing fingers of blame regarding issues within the family, or even outside of the family, then there will not be peace. It is hard to like someone or get along with them if the person is negative toward you, putting you down, or telling you what is wrong with you.

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We all need to avoid the blame game. We all have flaws and idiosyncrasies. If you want others to accept your idiosyncrasies, then you need to accept their idiosyncrasies as well.

Unequal Treatment

Far too many families treat their children different from another. That may on the surface seem like a good statement, as we are all individuals needing individual treatment. When treatment from one child to another is unequal in that favoritism is exhibited, then things need to be changed. Parents should try to start the habit as early as possible, to treat their children equally, in regards to time, effort, gifts, etc. When treatments are not balanced equally, resentments develop between siblings. These resentments often carry into adulthood, as do the behaviors of unequal treatment.

Parents should think about their actions as conveying the message that one child is of more value over another when their treatments are skewed in favor of one child over another. No parent wants their child to feel unworthy or less than their other children, therefore equality in treatment is imperative.

Friends Before Family

In order for family to be defined as the most important support system in a person’s life, then family needs to come before friendships. This can be a hard reality for some, especially teenagers. However, parents need to set the tone for the policy that family comes first. If a teen is missing the nightly family dinners to hang out with their friends, they are missing out on crucial family time that will affect their development. The website “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” discussed how important family dinners are to children and the family unit. The following was stated in their article,[1]

A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem.

Families need to make family time, especially dinner together a priority. Friendships must come secondary to family in order for a family to be a healthy and happy unit.

Too Busy for Family Time

We all have busy lives. Time for family needs to be carved out, scheduled, and made a priority. There also needs to be enough down time within a family so that natural interactions can occur. With most families having multiple children, lots of activities for each child, parents with jobs, friends, church activities, and more, there doesn’t seem much time at the end of the day for actual family time. If it isn’t scheduled or prioritized it more than likely will not happen on its own.

Don’t allow your family to become so busy you fail to interact with one another on a meaningful level each day. There needs to be enough time and space within your lives to allow for meaningful interactions, as well as time scheduled for family activities such as a vacations together, board game nights, meals together, etc.

Lying, Cheating, Abuse and Addictions

These factors all damage a family. Depending on the depth of the sin, it can either scar a family for life or it can divide a family forever. There is no such thing as one of these sins not changing a family. If a spouse cheats, it can easily lead to divorce. If addiction disrupts family holidays and gatherings, the family is negatively affected. If physical abuse exists in a family then there will never be full trust or complete love and acceptance of that abuser because of their behavior.

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Minimizing and/or eliminating lying, cheating, abuse, and addiction in our own lives not only benefits oneself, but the family as a whole. The behaviors of the individual have a ripple affect on family members. Some of those ripples come as waves because the behavior is so severe and life altering.

What to Do to Make an Imperfect Family Happy

Every human being on this planet is flawed. There is no such thing as a perfect person. Not even close. Choose to focus on the good.

Use the 80/20 rule as your guide. Imagine that each person has 80% good qualities and then there is that 20% that you think the person could change or improve in themselves. Choose to focus on that 80%. It is a huge percentage. Chose to allow the 20% to just be. Don’t criticize, nag, or harp on the 20%. Doing so won’t change them, because it hasn’t changed their heart. True change in a person comes when their heart is changed. Focus on the good and you will see that change may happen to that 20% over time because you are able to influence their heart by focusing on their good attributes and being a cheerleader for all that is positive in that person.

Negativity kills. Positivity is the breeding ground for hope, joy, and love. Focus on the good to be the positive light in your loved ones life. Even if they are completely driving you up the wall. Someday they may not be here, so cherish the positive aspects of that person now.

Understanding that no family is perfect is only the first step, then you should practice doing the followings to build happiness in your family:

Be a Family Cheerleader

There is enough competition out in the world that the family should not be an environment of competition. It should be the place where each family member is refueled and energized by their fellow family members, so that they can go out and take on the world. The world today is tough! The family and home need to be a haven of support, comfort, and encouragement. If a person can’t get that in their home, where will they get it? There are far too many people growing up to become broken adults because they did not have the positive encouragement and family support that they so desperately needed and craved.

Parents can be quick to criticize. Criticism can be damaging to a child’s self esteem and self worth. Imagine how much more empowered that child would be if each criticism was instead exchanged for an encouraging word from their parents or other family members? Words can carry the weight of the world. They have the power to tear down or to build up. When words come from a fellow family member, the words become even more powerful as they are taken to heart.

Be a builder of life and love in your family by using encouraging words. Carry this through not only with your children, but with your adult siblings, parents, and extended family. You will see family members begin to flourish because of your supportive words. You will also see relationships mended, and people healed simply by the power of the spoken word.

Be a cheerleader for your loved ones, as you would want the same for yourself. Be the example, and perhaps others will follow suite as well. Even if they never do, know that you are doing the right thing and are a builder of hope, positive energy, and encouragement to those around you.

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Practice Traditions

Traditions are an important part of family unity because they are shared experiences that create a bond between family members. These shared experiences create shared memories. They are often passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions do not need to be elaborate in order to be meaningful, but they do need to be established and practices. The lack of traditions creates a void, where meaningful family memories should be present. The Family Reunion Website explained what happens when traditions are not established within a family,[2]

Ironically enough, family traditions are founded regardless of whether or not you try. If a family does not purposely establish a family culture full of positive and meaningful rituals and routines, the plain lack thereof becomes that family’s tradition.

Practicing traditions as a family is a way of creating stronger bonds within the family. It also helps family members have shared life experiences that they can carry on to their own families and children in the future. Traditions have a way of making family members feel close because of the memories they have built over the years.

Cherish Memories and Talk about Them

Memories are powerful. Does your family talk about the positive memories or the negative memories? Choosing which to remember and discuss has an affect on the family.

Choose to remember and embrace the positive memories and you will have greater family harmony. Having family memories and talking about them are a way for family members to bond and remain bonded, even when living thousands or miles away or not being able to visit as often as desired. Shared experiences have a way of shaping our affection toward others. Serenity Hacker had the following to say about the benefit of memories and relationships,[3]

Memories, especially joyful ones, fortify relationships and increase their endurance, especially through difficult times

Celebrate the past and the people shared in your memories by reminiscing about the past with family. You will find that joy can be contagious Spread some joy the next time you are with your family by talking about shared joyful memories from childhood or the past.

Encourage Positive Sibling Relationships

Parents need to teach their children to love one another. Sibling love and care does not always come naturally or easily for every family.

The parents are the ones who will set the tone and expectation for how children are to interact. For example, if a Mom has two children who always argue and pick on one another and she simply chalks it up to “kids being kids” and never makes an attempt to have the children interact positively, then these children will more than likely grow up being adversaries rather than friends or allies.

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If a family wants to have relationships over the course of a lifetime, then the making of those relationships begins in childhood. Parents have a huge affect on their children’s relationships as they can help to shape and mold friendships, comraderies, love, and affection between their children or they can leave it up to the children and hope for the best. Unfortunately, most kids tend to be focused on themselves, so the love and care for others doesn’t come easily. It needs to be taught and molded.

Here is a useful article with tips on how parents can help their children create loving relationships with one another to last a lifetime: 12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

Compassion, Understanding, Empathy, and Flexibility

Attitude is everything. How family members treat one another will set the tone for the family. If you want a loving family, then treat one another with compassion and understanding. If someone is going through a difficult time, be there to help your family member. If family can’t or won’t help family, then who will?

Be the family that supports their family members by loving them unconditionally. This means, putting yourself in the shoes of fellow family members so you can understand their plight. Be the listening ear and understanding heart when a family member is struggling or in need of support.

Family members need one another. It is very hurtful to have family members who turn their back on the suffering of fellow family members. Families who demonstrate compassion, understanding, and flexibility to one another have healthier and happier relationships.

Work on Issues by Properly Communicating

Issues are rarely resolved through yelling, screaming, or arguing. Family problems and issues are resolved when people choose to listen with an open heart and mind to the other party and then the issue is discussed using compassion.

Choosing to ignore a problem within a family allows the problem to fester. The sooner an issue is dealt with and discussed, the more likely it can be resolved. The longer a problem festers, the deeper the wounds within a family grow. Here is a helpful article on how to discuss tough topics with family members: How to Negotiate With Your Family Without Hurting the Relationship at All

Invest Time

Last but not least, invest time. If you don’t take the time now to invest into the lives of your children, they will be grown before you know it and you will miss out on the closeness that could have been. If you didn’t have a close relationship with the child when they were growing up, it becomes more difficult to create a closeness later in life.

Invest time and energy into your children while they are growing up, so that you create a bond that can last a lifetime. In doing so. This bond can help you and them weather the storms of life that they will surely encounter.

A Happy Family Does Not Need to Be Perfect

Don’t think that anyone has a perfect or even better family than you, because every family has problems and issues. Don’t let the perfect images on social media fool you. They are all flawed families. They all have problems. They all struggle to get along.

Focus on your own family and making the relationships work and you will be happier in the long run. Cherish your family. They are yours, so embrace them and make the relationships happier and more fruitful by following the tips discussed above.

Reference

[1]Barking Up The Wrong Tree: How to Have a Happy Family
[2]Family Reunion Success: Family Traditions
[3]Serenity Hacker: 7 Ways to Strengthen Relationships by Creating Lasting Memories

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

Doctor of Psychology

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Last Updated on September 12, 2018

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is. You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

1. Do what brings you meaning

We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do. Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

What you can do right now:

In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

  • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
  • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
  • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down. For example, I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

Recommended reading:

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

“Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[1] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

What you can do right now:

Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

  • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
  • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
  • Choose your meals in advance.
  • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
  • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
  • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
    • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
    • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
    • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[2]

All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

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    Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

    Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

    Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

    • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
    • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
    • Being turned down
    • Asking someone out
    • Waiting for the doctor to call back
    • Getting laid off
    • Laying off people

    Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

    What you can do right now:

    Practice vulnerability.

    Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

    Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[3]

    Recommended reading:

    I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

    4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

    Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

    Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[4] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

    While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

    “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

    By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

    What you can do right now:

    Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:

    • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
    • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
    • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
    • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

    Recommended reading:

    Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

    5. Help yourself by helping others

    The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

    “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

    Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

    Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel great and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[5]

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    “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

    What you can do right now:

    Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

    Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

    6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

    Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new. Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

      Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

      Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[6]

      What you can do right now:

      • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
      • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[7]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[8]

      7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

      I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

      While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[9]

      “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

      What you can do right now:

      Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

      • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
      • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
      • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

      8. Meditate regularly

      Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

      Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

      These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

      What you can do right now:

      Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

      “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

      9. Change your attitude to gratitude

      This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

      The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[10]

      Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

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      When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[11] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

      What you can do right now:

      • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
      • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
      • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

      10. Create better habits

      One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

      The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

        For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

        If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

        What you can do right now:

        Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

        Recommended reading:

        The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

        11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

        There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

        You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

        You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

        Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[12]

        “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

        Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

        What you can do right now:

        Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

        Speaking to a friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

        Recommended reading:

        Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

        12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

        Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

        “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

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        “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

        “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

        Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self. The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

        Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

        Here’s the video:

        People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

        What you can do right now:

        Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

        • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
        • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
        • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
        • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
        • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

        13. Give yourself time to be sad

        Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

        It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[13]

        Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

        “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

        What you can do right now:

        Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are. This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

        The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

        The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

        Recommended reading:

        Happiness marks the spot

          Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

          As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

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