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Tips for a Happier Life

Instead of dour New Year’s resolutions, try implementing these tips to bring yourself—and others—sparks of joy

For some of us, the new year rings in resolutions: Drop 30 pounds by year’s end, hit the gym four evenings per week, or spend less money. All of these are noble and worthy causes, to be sure, but also a trifle grim, like the bread-and-water diet of a desert anchorite.

Many Americans are already down in the mouth; recent polls show that a majority are unhappy with the direction our country is headed. To counteract that dark mood, we should take deliberate aim at bringing a spark of joy to ourselves and to the world at large this year. To that end, we put our heads together and came up with some ideas for lighting a few wicks on the candelabra of 2023.

Bring a Smile to Others

Jeff: Make a deliberate effort to bring a smile or laughter to another person every day—a family member, a friend, or a stranger. This can involve something simple, such as acting goofy in front of a grumpy grandchild, or something more complicated, such as paying for the groceries for that frazzled mom and three kids behind you in line at the grocery store. By doing so, you’ll not only bring others a smile, but you’ll likely find yourself smiling, too.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Annie: There’s nothing like gratitude to beat the post-holiday blues, so why not make this the year to start a gratitude journal? A small notebook sits on my bedside table, waiting for me to write a line or two each night before bed about something from the day that I’m grateful for or was blessed by. Such a discipline redirects our attitudes at the end of a bad day and also serves as a fun reminder of the little joys that would easily be forgotten forever.

Pick It Up and Pitch It Out

Jeff: One sure-fire way to make myself feel better is to straighten my work area, a breakfast table that becomes a littered plateau of books, papers, coffee cups, pens, and other random paraphernalia in a single morning. Happiness is also a waste basket and a trash bag, the first for useless papers and print advertisements, the latter for heavy-duty decluttering destined for the thrift store. Junk the junk, and satisfaction follows.

Picture This

Annie: Many photos capture the best moments of our lives, so reviewing them—particularly 10 or more years later—can be an excellent moment of happiness recall, not to mention the laughter these pictures inspire with their clothing, hairstyles, and expressions! Finding photos of those who are still a regular part of your life and sharing them spreads the photo joy to others as well.

Get Outside … of Yourself

Jeff: Experts say that getting outside improves our mood. So does getting away from the self. Help a neighbor shovel snow from the driveway. Take a meal to a new mom. Volunteer at a school to tutor or read to kindergartners. Donate time to a worthy cause. When we focus on others, our own troubles take a backseat, at least for a while.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
(Biba Kayewich)

Build a Snowman

Annie: Don’t let the busyness of adulthood stop you from reliving the simple joys of childhood. If you live in northern climes, try building a snowman, as I did the other day—for the first time in roughly 20 years, I might add. Soon, the faces of sick family members were peering out the windows with smiles that matched mine as I worked. My neighbor then sent a text asking for a picture of the snowman, which she promptly shared on social media, spreading my little act of personal cheer far and wide.


Jeff: Going for a walk? Leave the phone at home. Running into the grocery store? Leave the phone in the car. Want to read for half an hour? Put the phone on silent. Turn off the electronic gadgets for a few hours weekly and detox from social media. Our devices are little stress boxes of dopamine dispatchers. Shut them down and enjoy some peace.

Lit Hits

Annie: There’s nothing like a good book to help you forget your woes and lift you to a higher plane of hope and inspiration. Need some humor mixed with hard work? Try “Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers” by Ralph Moody. Want encouragement to get through difficult times? Check out “Suffering Is Never for Nothing” by Elisabeth Elliot. Want profound perspective on our challenging times? Try “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers.

Crank Up the Music

Jeff: Need a fast fix for the blues? Get silly. I’ve danced with my 10-year-old granddaughter to disco—“I Love the Nightlife” full blast—and I can’t dance, much less disco, but we both laughed the entire time. If you’re alone, belt out some tunes. Hug someone you love. When it comes to happiness, the little things can be game-changers.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
(Biba Kayewich)

Send ‘Just Because’ Notes

Annie: As Jeff mentioned above, spreading cheer to others is one of the fastest ways to bring joy to yourself. What better way to do so than by dropping a friend a card or email on a random day other than their birthday or Christmas? Choose one friend each month and tell them why you appreciate their friendship or talents. Doing so will strengthen your friendships, further helping to ward off your personal gloom and loneliness.

Tots and Teens

Jeff: A lot of little ones pass through my favorite coffee shop, and just watching the toddlers can bring a smile. Engage with the grandkids, nephews, or nieces, and that dark cloud in your heart retreats. If you pass a school playground, take a few minutes and watch the commotion. Grab a friend and head off to the soccer field or a high school basketball game. Watching the parents, the teens, and the kids at these contests is half the fun.

Watch an Old Movie

Annie: Many of today’s movies fall into one of two categories—fluff or junk—and can be downright depressing. However, many old movies are uplifting and encouraging, relying on a good storyline rather than special effects to make a winner of a film. So when you’re in need of a little happiness, pull out an old movie. Some of my favorites include “Meet John Doe” (1941), “Cheaper By the Dozen” (1950), and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939).

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick lives and writes in Front Royal, Virginia. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.”

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is a cultural commentator hailing from America’s heartland who loves classic books, architecture, music, and values. Her writings can be found at Annie’s Attic on Substack.

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