“All happy families are alike,” Tolstoy wrote. That may make for boring reading, but a happy family is the Holy Grail of domestic living: something everyone wants and most of us struggle to achieve.
We’ve all had our moments of domestic bliss: those periods where things just flow, and laughter bubbles up from the kids while you blissfully do your thing. The house is clean, the bills are paid, dinner is taken care of and somehow you have the energy left to just be with your family.
Good work when you can get it, but for a lot of parents those moments are fleeting. We spend too much time snapping at our kids – and each other. We rush from place to place, more focused on getting to the end of the day than enjoying the middle of it. Too few of our hours are spent relaxed and happy.
How can we turn that around? Here are some ideas:
1. Declutter your space: clutter makes no one happy. Getting rid of unused junk will make everyone breathe easier at home. It’ll cut down on your stress if you’re the primary housekeeper, and do away with nagging your spouse and kids to put their stuff away. Plus, having less clutter just makes the work easier when it does come time to clean up.
2. Declutter your time: do the same thing with your schedule. Do you really need to be signed up for pottery class, singing class, soccer, tennis, swimming, ballet and piano? Try to cut down on the amount of scheduled activities you and your kids are committed to, and you’ll find you have more time for spontaneous fun.
3. Turn off the TV: Like decluttering your space and time, turning off the TV is a quick, easy way to get more energy and joy into your day. You’ll instantly have more time for all the things you always wish you had time to do, like paying attention to each other.
4. Pay attention to your marriage: The relationship blog YourTango suggests logging all your marital activities for a week. What do you do just for you and your honey to connect? Happy couples have happier kids, they say.
5. Give your kids your time: Young kids will benefit from 20 minutes or so a day of “floor time”, where you just drop everything to get down on their level and let them lead you in play. Read to them if they like, or just attend a teddy bear tea party. Whatever they want you to do. With older kids, special outings to the corner cafe or solo walks together can go a long way toward building connections.
6. Take time for yourself: Making sure you get even a few minutes a day to do something on your own – whether it’s going for a run or writing in a journal – can help you keep calm through the rest of your whole busy day.
7. Minimize chores: No one likes to spend their time on chores. Whether it’s doing laundry or paying the bills, there’s probably something you’d rather be doing. So, hot tip: cut corners where you can. Automate your bill paying for recurring bills. Plan ahead for meals to make the prep simpler. If you can afford it, consider hiring cleaners to do the major cleaning jobs like washing floors.
8. Meditate: More and more research is showing that mindfulness practices like meditation lead to greater focus, happiness and overall mental health.
9. Learn to let go: One easy way to make yourself happier is to let go of small grievances. Easier said than done, I know, but if you can take care of the big things and give up worrying about the small ones, you’ll lead a less fretful and happier life.
10. Smile: Research shows that smiling even when you don’t want to can help you feel happier. Gretchen Rubin, author the happiness project, says that one of the best things she did for her year of happiness experiments was to act the way she wanted to feel.
What do you do to keep yourself and your family happy? Share your tips in the comments.