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Happiness: Purging Self-Help Advice


My peonies bring me great joy.

In my file cabinet is a folder marked, ‘Happiness.’ Before you think that I keep happiness in a drawer, let me explain. I was miserable from age 12 to 35.  I pursued happiness like a person in the desert would look for water. Happiness was an obsession.  I read books about it, and collected pages of articles and advice columns.

Now I am deeply content. I never found happiness. Instead, I cultivated a set of principles, and happiness grew in me. The more I practiced, the deeper my contentment became. It’s still deepening.

These principles are not new or magic. Some examples of what I do include:

  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Letting fear pass through me rather than taking up residence.
  • Choosing simplicity over busyness.
  • Surrendering to contentment rather than pursuing it.
  • Cultivating healthy relationships.
  • Serving others, being kind.
  • Laughing a lot, especially at myself and death.
  • Sleeping enough, eating healthy delicious food, engaging in daily physical activity.
  • Meditating daily and feeding my spiritual needs.
  • Letting go, especially of control, perfectionism, achievement, and being right.
  • Looking for beauty and love in every situation.
  • Greeting life with enthusiasm.
  • Doing what I love, being with people I love; loving what I do and loving who I am with.

I didn’t get here instantly. It took lots of practice, and began with just one principle. Then I added another.  I can’t recall what I did first, but I can tell you that trying to change more than one thing didn’t work for me.

If you aren’t sure where to begin or feel you need to do more research, there are lots of resources. Perhaps read what Martin Seligman, Ph.D. has to say. Commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also a recognized authority on interventions that prevent depression, and build strengths and well-being.

There are many books, web sites and apps on happiness. I’ll leave you to discover what you need. Or you can turn off all electronic devices, put on your favorite music, and write a list of 5 things you are grateful for. Do this every day. I keep a journal beside my bed and I’ve filled up several journals. It takes all of a minute, and the satisfaction it brings is tremendous.

P.S. I tossed the ‘happiness’ folder.  I also dumped all the how-to folders, except the ones on cooking, knitting and gardening.

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