Will nine habits make you happier?

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 28, 2012

Each year about this time, I get antsy. A new year looms, just days away, and the urge to start with a clean slate creates a cleaning instinct that would rival any soon-to-deliver pregnant woman’s nesting efforts.

Every room of our house should be cleaned. Immediately. Clutter should be gone, before the new year begins. It’s a ritualistic purging that when missed like in the waning days of 2011, sets the new year off with a misstep.

Of course, 2012 has been a doozy of year, by all accounts, and not just because it started (and sadly ended) with clutter in the garage.

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From politics to our pocketbooks, tragedies to terrors, we’ll carry the battle scars of 2012 into the new year.

Maybe that’s why this list intrigued me. I stumbled upon it while reading a yahoo.com newsfeed. Simply titled “9 Habits That Will Make You Happier” it speaks of practical, and simple, advice that can help everyone develop a brighter perspective:

1. Start each day with expectation.

If there’s any big truth about life, it’s that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: “something wonderful is going to happen today.” Guess what? You’re probably right.

2. Take time to plan and prioritize.

The most common source of stress is the perception that you’ve got too much work to do. Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

That’s not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.

4. Deflect partisan conversations.

Arguments about politics and religion never have a “right” answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can’t control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: “Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt.”

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can’t read minds, you don’t really know the “why” behind the “what” that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people’s weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

6. Eat high quality food slowly.

Sometimes we can’t avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.

7. Let go of your results.

The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you’ve taken action, there’s usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.

8. Turn off “background” TV.

Many households leave their TVs on as “background noise” while they’re doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you’ll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?

9. End each day with gratitude.

Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.

Of course, to be truly happy every day I might add a tenth item: Get the clutter out of the garage.


Stacy G. Graning is publisher of The Messenger. You can reach her via email at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com.