There is no denying that we’re living longer lives, but are we living richer, more fulfilling lives? The average person in the U.S. is expected to live to age 80, and according to gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, children born in 2014 may live to be 150 years old. I think it’s safe to say we can all look forward to longer, more productive lives. As we reach this milestone birthday of 50, and plan for the many more to come, it’s good to take stock of our lives—and more importantly our attitude toward that life.
There’s no magic wand to wave away our troubles. The key to being happy lies within us. It’s a fact: you can’t change what life throws at you, but you can control how you deal with it. The way I see it, any day above ground is a gift, so why squander it?
1) Practice being kind
Start by being kind to yourself. Recognize that you will make mistakes because you’re human. Accept the mistakes, apologize to those you have wronged and move on. Life is a process, not a race. People with the most are not always the happiest. And remember, it’s kind to think of others but it’s no sin to think of your own needs.
2) Look for joy and practice being happy
Listen to music. Dance in your kitchen. Find joy in sunshine. Watch the stars with your children. Be silly. Throw snowballs. Kiss those you love. Revel in the sound of a child’s laughter. No one’s life is perfect. Find what is good in your life and embrace it.
3) Be positive
Think of the proverbial glass of water: is it half full or half empty? The decision is yours. Approach every minute of your life as an experience you may never have again. Work to eliminate what is negative in your life. You can choose to be happy or miserable just as easy as you choose which shirt to wear each day.
4) Take care of yourself
Keep doctor’s appointments. Cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Eat more veggies and less junk food. Ride a bike. Be content with the way you look. Accept the body parts you cannot change and work on those you can, and pray for wisdom to know the difference. Indulge yourself: take a bubble bath. Get a manicure. Spend time reading. Don’t feel guilty about giving yourself a break, and forgive yourself when you fall off the wagon. Staying healthy now will pay dividends later in life.
5) Eliminate the stress in your life
I know. It’s a lot easier said than done, but your blood pressure will thank you for it. Start by recognizing what causes you stress and start there. If your job is the problem, maybe a department change or a new job will work wonders. Volunteering your time is good, but doing too much can wind you up tight. Stop trying to keep up with the Jones. Learn to say no. And then there’s the family. Although relatives are often a key source of stress, you can’t quite erase them from your life. A good idea is to try a different approach with them.
Try something new. Make new friends. Take a class. Teach yourself to knit. Learn to make jelly. Start a blog. Get a second degree or go to graduate school. Plant a garden with your kids. Take ballroom dancing classes with your husband. Challenge yourself to run a marathon or a 5k. Refinish a piece of furniture. Travel someplace new and embrace a culture different from your own. Be brave and extend your reach a little every day.
7) Seek peace
Try yoga, meditate, or attend church. Find contentment in your life by taking in nature or sitting in a field of flowers. Take deep cleansing breaths and try to find ways to bring peace to those around you. Learn to forgive and cultivate relationships with people who are positive and lift your spirits.
Love your family and love yourself. Reach out to those who mean the most to you and embrace them. Offer help when they need it. Discipline your children and let them learn from their mistakes, but be prepared to catch them when they make the wrong decisions. Extend your arms out to friends in need. Seek love knowing it’s the scariest thing you can possibly do. And mourn those you lose—the people you love are worth a few tears.