Most of us want to live long and happy lives, but there's so much stuff that happens between our beginnings and our ends that we're not always sure how to make that happen. Below are six secrets to living a long and happy life. Unlike some secrets, these secrets are meant to be shared, not kept.
1. Be open to new things
Most of us tend to gravitate to what is familiar, sometimes even at the expense of improving our lives. Change, even good change, can be difficult. Sometimes we're even more afraid of the unknown than we are of something bad we already know about. What if we take on that new job and fail? What if we get close to someone and he breaks our heart? Have the courage to expand your horizons and try new things. Be a lifelong learner.
2. Don't sweat the small stuff
Sometimes we get caught up in small daily events that really don't matter. Someone offends us and we carry it around for days rather than just shrugging it off. We misplace our car keys, and our blood pressure rises as we race around the house in a panic because we might be late. Our children spill their milk in the middle of a family dinner. Six months from now, none of this stuff will even matter. Carmen Sandi, PhD, director of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland says: "Feeling chronically stressed increases the risk of heart disease and weakens the immune system. It can also compromise some types of memory and learning." Don't let life's little stressors ruin your day. Remain calm. Let the little stuff go.
3. Take good care of yourself
Eat healthy foods, take long walks and pay attention to how you're feeling. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is also important to your health and overall sense of well-being. Set appropriate boundaries and don't get caught up in others' personal dramas. While it's important to leave the world a better place than you found it, you have the right to your own personal space. Be open and honest with others. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
4. Plan and prioritize activities, but don't over-schedule
Planning daily and weekly activities can help keep us organized and productive. That does not mean, however, becoming a slave to a rigid schedule. If there's something you planned to get done and it didn't happen, move it forward to the next day or the next week. Don't over-schedule activities for yourselves or your children. Let your kids be kids. Take time every day to simply be present and enjoy each day. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate both the sunshine and the rain.
We've all said and done things we've regretted. None of us is perfect. When we make mistakes, which we all will, it's essential to correct our behavior, seek forgiveness where appropriate and then chart a new course. Don't get stuck in the past. There's nothing good you can do there. Put your past behavior and the past behaviors of those you love behind you. Learn from your experiences, and move on.
6. Stay connected to family and friends
Maintaining close and loving relationships with others is a basic need for all of us and is absolutely crucial to our happiness. UCLA psychology professor, Matthew Lieberman, writes: "A growing body of research shows that the need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter." We all have the need to feel safe and supported. Belonging to a meaningful community of others helps us not only understand who we are, but it gets us outside of ourselves and gives us a broader sense of purpose.
Living a long life, and being happy while doing it, is no small trick. Learning and applying the six secrets above does not guarantee that our lives will be perfect or without serious challenges. During particularly trying times, being happy simply means choosing to look beyond life's imperfections and making the most of every day.