Ben’s Recipe for a Happy Life

The pier at Tobacco Caye

Life is Short

1 generous handful of laughter. Laugh every day. If you find yourself not laughing frequently, something is wrong. Offer to walk your neighbor’s puppy dog, and let him lick you all over your face and stick his cold nose in your ear. That’ll get you giggling!

1 reserved teaspoon of religion. Spirituality is important for our emotional health. Whether or not you believe in the same things your family or neighbors do, ask yourself the challenging questions, “Why are we here?” “What’s my purpose in life?” You don’t have to go to a church to enrich your life with spirituality.

1 balanced teaspoon of rationality. While I think you should have a spiritual side,  you must temper your religion with an awareness of the world. The world is very small and very dangerous these days, and our political decisions should be made not based on religion, but on who we think will best protect and serve our country and our world from a global perspective.  And resist the urge to think that your own religious beliefs are the only ones based in truth.  Regardless of what you believe, many other people in the world devoutly follow religions that are much older than yours.

16 gallons of re-prioritization. In America, it seems like “success” means a high-profile job, a well-padded bank account, a nice car, a great wardrobe. I’ve got news for you…none of these things will make you happy. Stop working so much and spend more time alone, more time with your family and friends. It’s okay if you make less money. You don’t need a new car and you can live without that new purse. (More on that later…) Your job is not your life. The people you love are your life.

1 heaping Tablespoon of temperament. Be nice to people. When something unfair happens to you, instead of yelling, try being extremely friendly. You’ll find that people are far more willing to work with you if you have a smile on your face, rather than veins standing out on your forehead. Life isn’t fair, and there are plenty of times when you’ll feel like you’ve been cheated. Instead of blowing up, calm down, relax, take a deep breath, and be patient. You’ll feel so much better afterwards, regardless of the outcome.

1 cup of anti-materialism. Stop buying new clothes. Don’t ever spend more than $50 on a pair of jeans. You only need one, maybe two purses, and there’s never an excuse to have more than 6 pairs of shoes in your closet. You might think I’m crazy, but I’m telling you the truth. We spent far too much money on clothes. And on cars. A car is to get you from place to place. Period. If you want to throw money at something, spend it on your home, where you live and spend time with people you love. Better yet, spend it on travel. Real travel. That’s also called “continuing education.” The more things you own, the more you become owned by them. The more memories you have, the richer your life will be, and memories aren’t made from cars and purses.

2 cups of generosity. If you have money to spend on material things, give some of it away instead. As much as you can. You may think you’ll regret it, that you’ll miss it. You won’t. Spend your money on people you love, and on people who need help. It’s amazing how great it makes you feel.

2 gallons of awareness. We are multiplying at an incredible rate, and the planet will be seriously affected by the impact of so many human lives. We can’t operate the same way we have for the past century. We need new energy sources. We need to recycle every possible thing we can. Do you really need a bag at the grocery store when you buy two things? Do you really need a 6-cylinder car, or more than one car per family? “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” -Henry David Thoreau

1 very deep breath. We’ve forgotten how to breathe deeply. At least once every hour, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, breathe in through your nose as deeply as you can, and breathe out through your mouth as slowly as you can. Once every hour. Leave yourself a sticky note on your desk to remind you. At the end of the day, you’ll be shocked by how much better you feel.

10,000 words, preferably long ones. Turn off that television and read. Reading keeps your mind working in ways that TV never could. It enriches your vocabulary instead of limiting it. It lets your imagination run wild, instead of thinking for you. It teaches you that humor is far more complex and funny than what you see on the flat screen.  It makes you smarter.

2 pounds of PDA. Well, maybe not a Public Display of Affection, but definitely a Display…and a regular one.  Our culture is so paranoid of touch that we’ve become starved for it, as adults.  Don’t be afraid.  Hold your friends.  Kiss your parents.  Hug people you’ve just met instead of shaking their hand.  It may surprise them at first, but they’ll remember how good it felt.

Prepare this recipe outdoors. If you’re stuck in the urban jungle, an important part of your life is missing. Get out under some trees. Better yet, climb one. Even if it’s only in a park. Take a nap in a hammock. Get your hands dirty. And at least once a month, stop everything to watch the sunset. That’s an order.

8 responses to “Ben’s Recipe for a Happy Life