Average Jane's Guide to Happiness (Abridged)

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I'm generally pleased with how my life is working out to date, so I don't feel so presumptuous about sharing some of the reasons for that. I'm going to frame it as advice, but you'll know which pieces to take to heart and which to ignore for your own situation.

  1. Partner with a friend. My husband and I will soon be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary, in large part because we really like each other, have similar interests and goals, and enjoy each other's company. That said, we still have many separate interests and neither of us takes offense when the other has something planned without them.
  2. Have lots of other friends, too. Of course, there are levels of friends—all the way from "co-worker you sometimes go to lunch with" to "bestie who knows all your secrets." Not everyone you meet is going to graduate up the ranks and that's okay. My best friends are my sister and my husband, but I have hundreds of other friends that I'm interested in and spend time with in many different contexts.
  3. Get some exercise. I like walking. It's about the maximum aerobic level my asthmatic bronchial tubes can take and it energizes me. I also enjoy yoga, not only for the strength and flexibility it brings but for the way it calms my mind. Figure out what exercises you enjoy (or can at least tolerate) and make them a part of your routine.
  4. Prioritize sleep. There's nothing like lack of sleep to ruin your whole day. I am a big fan of naps and I will not hesitate to go to bed for the night as early as 8:00 p.m. if I need to. All my friends know that I'll almost never stay at an event on a weeknight past my preferred bedtime of 10:00 p.m.
  5. Support causes that speak to you, but don't over-commit. I am active with two volunteer organizations and on the board of a professional organization. Right now I have one recurring weekly volunteer commitment, I am on a couple of committees that require sporadic volunteer work, and I help maintain social media presence for all three groups. Oh, and they all have periodic meetings. That's about the maximum amount of time I can give without getting overwhelmed. With any group, there will always be more work than volunteers, but remember that you're just one person. Delegate, recruit or just say no when you have to.
  6. Nurture a living thing. For you it might be children. Or heck, maybe plants. For me, it's always been cats and now a dog. (And plants, although I'm a better pet keeper than a plant keeper.) I think it's good for the psyche to be responsible for someone other than yourself.
  7. Spend time outside. It's really easy to get disconnected from nature when you're sitting in a building surrounded by asphalt and concrete all day. Whenever you get the chance, seek out the opportunity to be surrounded by trees instead. I particularly enjoy the walking trail at Unity Village, which is where my sister hosts "Yoga in the Woods" events from time to time. Even your own back yard can be rejuvenating (moreso when you're not just out there doing yard work).
  8. Learn to eat wisely. I'm not saying you can't occasionally have meals with no redeeming value, but for the most part try to stick with foods that are nourishing, tasty and won't make you feel awful for the next few hours. If you're going to eat sweets, hold out for something really good, not just a cheap piece of candy or a dessert without much flavor. If you can't resist potato chips, don't have them in your house. If a food has been demonstrated to give you heartburn, make your gall bladder flare up, etc., eliminate it from your diet and don't look back.
  9. Take charge of your own health. As you get older, you'll probably start experiencing various and sundry health problems. Get informed about each one and make sure you get the treatments you need. Your doctor isn't going to be anywhere near as invested in your health as you are, so you have to take the lead. Of course, if you're in the U.S. your insurance status will determine how much you can really do. Don't get me started.
  10. Maintain perspective. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but it's mostly about appreciating what you have. If you haven't seen the documentary "Happy," I highly recommend it.

So that's my two cents on the subject of having a happy life. What important advice did I forget to include?

Cross-posted from Average Jane

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