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Last Updated on May 9, 2018

Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

As we get older, we begin to understand that a fulfilling life is one in which we are unapologetically happy.

However, finding and maintaining that happiness can be evasive for some; even though the potential for happiness is all around us!

If you’ve always thought of the potential of mastering the art of happiness, but was never quite sure where to begin, we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we’ll break it down for you so achieving happiness isn’t just attainable, but actually quite simple!

Happiness Is Simple

If you want to live a happier lifestyle, here are 9 tips that will help you to get started on the road to happiness!

1. Acceptance is Key

It becomes easy to lose track of your happiness when you are consistently fighting against the current of your life.

All things, no matter whether they are good or bad, enter our lives for a reason; and, we choose how to respond to each situation.

Rather than pushing each of these situations away when they don’t appeal to you, attempt to embrace them and find solutions that help you come out a victor on the other side.

When you begin to go with the flow and work with what you’ve been given, you’ll find that you become much happier overall.

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2. Positivity is All Around You

Everything has a positive aspect. Everything!

Even the most painful or difficult situations have a silver lining to them. When we fail to recognize these positive aspects and only focus on the negative outcomes or qualities of a certain person or situation, it makes it easier for sadness and doubt to creep into our lives.

The next time that you are dealing with something painful or difficult, try to take a step back from the situation and assess it logically.

Is there something in this situation that could be perceived as positive?

If you search deep enough, you are certain to find some type of positivity. Never give up!

3. Fill Your Life With Love

A life filled with activities and relationships that do not fulfill you is a waste of your time and will not make you happy. As life goes on, we lose track of our hopes and dreams and begin to settle on what we think we should be doing rather than what we want to do.

Although this is a habit that is hard to break away from, settling can make us rather unhappy. The solution? Start taking a look at each area of your life and decide whether or not you feel fulfilled.

In the areas where you feel as though you are lacking, take some time to figure out what may make you feel happier. For example, imagine that your job is not quite what you thought it would be when you first started, and definitely not the job that you dreamt about when you were growing up.

While some people would stick with this job despite this major issue, consider the idea of making a job change. The reason you make this change is because you know that you will be happier doing what you want to do rather than what is expected! Although it will take some time, the end results will be worth it.

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4. Make Every Minute Count

The honest truth about life is that we only have so many minutes on this planet. Why waste them being unhappy?

You should be living your life to the fullest and getting everything you want, rather than spending your time doing things that don’t matter to you. If you have moments where you feel unfulfilled, or you are voluntarily spending time with people that make you less than happy, reduce these tendencies.

It can be hard to remember that there are so many hours in the day but it is a very motivational piece of information.

To remind yourself of this key piece of information, put a sticky note down in a place where you find yourself repeatedly throughout the day or set the reminder as your phone wallpaper.

This way, you will always remember that each minute counts and that you need to chase what you want in order to lead the happiest life possible. Prioritize your time as though it is precious–because it is.

5. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is one of the most important things to do to stay happy and maintain your overall mental health. What is self-care? To put it simply, self-care is the practice of engaging in activities that help you to mentally recharge.

For example, a self-care day may involve an hour of intense journaling, a trip to the spa where you get a full body treatment, and a couple of hours of your favorite movies. No matter what you do, self-care activities will always help you to center yourself and make you feel more relaxed.

There is no rule as to how often you need to practice self-care to stay happy and healthy. Just practice it whenever you feel that you need it! Of course, don’t neglect your obligations, but certainly don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a mental recharge every once in a while. In the end, these small acts of self care will make a big difference.

6. Seek Out Exciting Experiences

A stagnant lifestyle can become a boring and unsatisfying lifestyle rather quickly. Even the happiest of individuals can find themselves unsatisfied if they continue to live the same day repeatedly.

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You should always be seeking out new experiences to learn more about the world around you and to discover new passions and interesting (and inspiring!) people. The best thing about new experiences is that they often don’t have to be large or expensive to be satisfying.

Sit down with your phone or with a piece of pencil and a paper and jot down some of the things that you have always wanted to do. After you’ve finished your own personal list, do some exploring on the internet and come up with some ideas of activities that you’ve wanted to do or places that you’ve wanted to visit as well.

Once your list is full, make it your goal to tackle these items one by one. Eventually, you will have fulfilled these passions and you can begin to create a list of new ones! Before you know it, you’ll look back on what you’ve accomplished and feel incredibly fulfilled.

7. Set Goals and Dominate Them

There is nothing quite like setting a goal and successfully following through on it. In fact, this is one of the main confidence-building methods recommended for those who are trying to work through their depression.

Without goals, life can become very bland and you may lose focus on what truly matters to you. Goals are what give you purpose and motivation to live through each day doing what it is that will make you happy.

One great source for goal-making and following through on your goals is Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life. This source will teach you about the main categories of life goals that you should be setting for yourself, and how you can be strong on your follow through as well!

8. Express Endless Gratitude

Being grateful is truly a blessing. Through gratitude, we learn that there is always something beautiful going on in our lives. Even during the darkest of days, you can still be grateful for something as simple as getting eight hours of sleep or having a stranger saying hello to you on the street.

To start practicing gratitude, all you have to do is begin reciting the things you are grateful for daily. One popular method for showing gratitude is to grab a journal and to write down three things each day that you are grateful for.

After a while, you will begin to notice that your perspective towards life has shifted and you will begin looking for the positive rather than focusing on the negative!

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You’ll find it easier to focus on all the things that you are grateful for without trying, which will being a great sense of joy to your everyday life. This comes in handy especially during times of stress; in these times, remembering the things you are grateful for can be incredibly beneficial.

9. Volunteer Your Time 

As Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We all get a little too tangled up in our own lives and thoughts sometimes, that we can forget there is a whole world out there filled with situations and people who are just as complex as we are.

Volunteering helps shed some light on that reality and it gives you the opportunity to reach out, help others, and make a difference in the community or in the world. When you have the ability to make a major difference in someone’s day, happiness is sure to flock to you.

Helping others will also make you consider all the things in your own life to be grateful for, and again, this gratitude will take you quite far in your pursuit of happiness.

Happiness is All Around

While happiness may seem hard to obtain, the truth is that it is all around us and you just need to know where to look, what to do, and how to appreciate the pockets of happiness in life.

By following the guidance within these 9 suggestions above, you will be living the happy life that you have always wanted in no time.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Dylan Buckley

Freelance Writer Based in California

Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

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Last Updated on June 12, 2018

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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