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In case you missed it, last week I wrote the first part of a two-part post on the 14 Tips for a Happier Life and some of the personal practices that come along with it.
The first seven tips on my list focused primarily on what I consider to be the “big picture” items, attitudes, and practices that have to do with how we connect or deal with the wider world, or react to issues that may be beyond our control. If you didn’t have a chance to read that first post, it’s probably a good idea to do so now.
Tips for a Happier Life: Personal Practices
This week, I’m talking about the kind of “rubber-meets-the-road” habits and personal practices that have made my life happier.
As I said last week, I’m not pretending to have all the answers here and my 14 Tips for Happier Life and personal practice are far from an exhaustive list. Also, like everyone else, I sometimes fall short of my own best intentions and don’t always manage to follow all of my own advice all of the time.
However, over the years I’ve found that the more I follow these personal practices, the better equipped I am to enjoy and be happier with the life I’ve got, even in times of stress, uncertainty, and transition.
With that said, let’s take a look at Part Two of my 14 Tips for a Happier Life, starting off with tip number eight!
#8 Invest in friendships
If you’ve read any of my novels, including my most recent book, The Restoration of Celia Fairchild, you know that friendship is an important theme in my writing. That’s because friendship is an important theme in my life.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that is it’s way too hard to do alone! You need some companions for the journey, people you can count on when the chips are down and who can count on you in return.
Today, I’m writing this blog post from a quilt retreat in Washington state. I’ve gathered here with twelve girlfriends, most of whom I’ve known for years. We’ve been gathering to make quilts together almost annually for about a decade. And though we’re only able to get together in person about once a year, we’re frequently in touch.
We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, talents and failings, and we accept and support each other through smooth sailing and rocky roads. These women have made a huge difference in my life. And I hope they can say the same of me.
Friendships are an investment that require time, care, and a willingness to be vulnerable. But it’s an investment that absolutely pays off. I’ve found that friends make life better, richer, and much happier.
#9 Spend Time Alone
As much as I’m a huge fan of friendships and connecting with others in meaningful ways, I also think it’s important to spend time alone as a personal practice. Friendships can definitely enhance life, but it’s important to be content with your own company as well.
People need time to be quiet, to rest, to reflect, and to meditate of life’s larger questions.
As Francis Bacon said, “It is a sad fate for a man to die too well known to everybody else and still unknown to himself.”
#10 Ration Your News Consumption
If you’re looking for a way to add more stress, anxiety, and distrust of your fellow human beings into your life, plugging into the twenty-four-seven news cycle will definitely do the trick!
Most cable news channels, especially those that feature anchors who spend more time giving their opinion than reporting facts, seems designed to hook their audience by making us afraid of the world and each other. That’s why I’ve pretty much given up it.
Now, I’m not advocating that anyone should go through life uninformed. Keeping up on current events is an important part of being a good citizen. I’ve found that a few minutes spent reading a good, reputable newspaper, and tuning into a major network news program every evening keeps me on top of the news without injecting unnecessary anxiety into my life.
# 11 Be Creative
In the book of Genesis, one of the first things God does when interacting with humans is to give them a creative task, naming the animals.
You may or may not believe the details of that biblical story, but I think it emphasizes the truth creativity is simply part and parcel of our humanity, something we were uniquely equipped and created to do.
Personally, I’ve found that creativity adds a great deal of happiness to my life. Obviously, I make my living by writing but I also engage in many other creative pursuits – quilting, knitting, painting, and playing the piano to name a few.
I do some of those things better than others, the point is not to become proficient but to simply enjoy the process. Whether it be through traditional arts or crafts, or by planting a garden, decorating a room, or just setting a pretty table, doing something creative enhances our enjoyment of life.
#12 Get Outside
If you’re feeling down, spending time outside is one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective means of helping banish a bad mood.
Study after study has shown that spending as little as twenty minutes a day outdoors improves happiness, a sense of well-being, and physical health. If you’d like to read more, check out this article.
In fact, in many cases, studies have found that time spent outside can be as effective as medication in combating depression. So if you’re looking for an easy way to boost your happiness, put on your shoes and take a walk!
#13 Live Within Your Means
At some point in our lives and the through no fault of our own, many of us are going to encounter a financial setback that beyond our control. If that’s where you are right now, understand that I’m not scolding you or pointing fingers. I’ve been there myself, so believe me; I get it.
However, during those times when the financial road is less rocky, living within your means makes life better, happier, and much less stressful. And if you’re able to live a little below your means and save up a bit for those rainy days that are sure to come in life, so much the better!
#14 Appreciate What You’ve Got
No matter how hard you work or how much you’ve got, there are always going to be people who have more. That’s just part and parcel of living our consumer culture. But focusing on what you don’t have (and there will always be something) is a recipe for dissatisfaction.
Conversely, appreciating what you do have is a sure fire method for increasing life satisfaction and happiness. I’m not just talking about gratitude, though that’s a part of it, but in truly appreciating all life has to offer.
If you’d like to know a little more insight into appreciation, check out my post on The Art of Appreciation.
As I said before, my 14 Tips for a Happier Life is far from an exhaustive list. But these practices, habits, and attitudes have helped me survive and even thrive through life’s ups and downs. I hope they’ll do the same for you.