There are reasons most of us choose to form our lives around a family — it provides companionship, a support system, safety, and much more. Still, at times it’s difficult to feel these benefits when we’re dealing with work and school demands, money issues, trying to meet the needs of multiple people, and the myriad of other stressors that pop up in our lives. Is there a way to dial down the frenzied state many of us find ourselves in and simply enjoy living in the moment with those we love most? Of course there is! Like anything worth having, getting to that place and staying there takes conscious work and dedication, but the long-lasting rewards are definitely worth it. Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1. Nurture Yourself – It’s always important to do things for others and occasionally sacrifice your own wants for the needs of a family member’s. That being said, don’t drain all your mental and physical resources until you have nothing left for yourself. Doing so will quickly wear you down and possibly make you resent those you’re helping.
Instead, give yourself some personal time every day to decompress and to do something you enjoy. Make sure you get enough sleep, take sick days when you need them (don’t be a martyr), and don’t be afraid to tell people “no.”
2. Don’t take time for granted – If you’re a parent, then you know how quickly time passes once you have children. Don’t let these fleeting years pass by while you’re preoccupied with work or worries. Similarly, try to avoid constantly nitpicking or nagging your loved ones, or else, before you know it, time will have gone by and all anyone will remember is the negative.
Make the most of these years by choosing your “battles” carefully, recognizing the importance of the time, and trying to make the most out of every day.
3. Stop comparing – One of the major things that prevents people from “living in the now” is constantly comparing themselves to others or a fantasy ideal. Making comparisons is an inherently futile endeavor because everyone is at different stages in life and everyone has different struggles and strengths. Fixating on how your home or family life stacks up to someone else’s will only make you unsatisfied and unappreciative of what you have.
4. Focus on the positives – Instead of trying to keep up with the “Joneses,” concentrate on the good things in life and the happiness your family provides. It can help to write these things down and reread them when you need reminding.
5. Separate work and family life – It’s easy to let work monopolize your existence when you’re struggling to make money and pay bills. Still, financial or career success is only one component of a well-rounded life. To be truly fulfilled, you need a balance in all things — including work and family. If possible, set aside adequate work and family time and keep them separate. Besides being good for your relationships, taking a break from your job (or vice versa, the burdens of home) is great for your mental health.
6. Organize and simplify – Often our chaotic family lives are from our own design — we plan too many activities, have too much stuff, and lack organizational systems. Time with our loved ones is much more gratifying when we’re not constantly rushing out the door or sitting in a messy, cluttered environment.
With that in mind, cut out unnecessary extra-curricular activities or obligations and streamline your schedules as much as possible. Also, minimize your belongings and avoid buying things you don’t truly need. Finally, create daily routines and design an organizational system so everything in your home has a “place.”
7. Divide household responsibilities – Organizing, simplifying, and keeping things clean isn’t just one person’s duty. Divide the work up in an equitable manner so everyone contributes to the betterment of the home. Not only does this ease the burden on all, but it makes everyone feel like they’re an important part of the home and family’s success.
8. Get healthy – No matter what area of your life you’re looking to improve, getting healthy and having regular exercise can have a huge positive influence, because feeling good about yourself is the first step towards happiness. Not to mention, endorphins released through exercise can boost your mood, which makes you more optimistic and patient towards others.
Another great idea is to do exercise as a family, as it allows you to spend time together while emphasizing the importance of good health.
9. Be realistic – Even if you’re not comparing yourself to others, you may have unrealistic ideas about what home and family entails. Try to keep in mind that things are almost never perfect — and that’s okay. For instance, it’s impractical to plan a three-course dinner every night or to always present a flawlessly clean home when someone unexpectedly stops by. It’s fine to let things slide every now and then, especially when it means you can have more quality time with your children or spouse.
10. Make family time a priority – Above all, make spending time with your family a top priority. Being together is the best way to grow closer and make lifelong memories. Granted, this is difficult when everyone has differing schedules, but at the very least, plan to spend quality time with each other at least once a week. Challenge yourselves to put down the phones and gadgets and truly be together.