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One of the greatest blessings and challenges of life is that no one knows what the future holds. Though this ignorance can make people nervous about taking risks or trying new things, it also means each day holds fresh promise and the opportunity to make the most of your life.
Try to live with no regrets and your life will almost certainly be a fulfilling one. Here are some habits to cultivate as you pursue a regret-free life.
Worry is the enemy of a happy life, and it's the No. 1 regret elderly people cite when talking about what they most regret about their lives, according to businessinsider.com. Karl Pillemer, founder and director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, interviewed people he described as the "wisest Americans" and found that almost universally, when they look back on their lives, people over 65 wished they had worried less.
One of Pillemer's respondents, 102-year-old Eleanor Madison, pointed out, "Well, I think that if you worry, and you worry a lot, you have to stop and think to yourself, 'This too will pass.' You just can't go on worrying all the time because it destroys you and life, really."
Everyone can use a little more fresh air, and exercise does the body and soul good. Get off the couch, get outdoors and connect with nature whenever you can. You'll become healthier when you do, which in turn will allow for a higher capacity for happiness. It's difficult to live regret-free when your body is weighed down by an unhealthy lifestyle.
When we leave this life, all we can take with us is our memories and experiences. So be sure to weigh that into the balance when you choose what you do with your time and money. There is no perfect formula for this that will fit everyone, but part of it involves discovering what you're passionate about and pursuing it with all the vigor you can muster.
There's an oft-repeated quote that has come to be known as the serenity prayer. It goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Could the answer to living without regret mean sometimes doing nothing but accepting life the way it is? Sister Clare, a 99-year-old nun who also spoke with Pillemer, put it this way, "Often, before I say anything, I think, 'If I did that, then what?' And let it be. Oh, so many times I felt grateful that I did nothing. That lesson has helped me an awful lot."
Yes, we're all busy and need to make a living, but as Dolly Parton famously said, "Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." Whether it's calling up a sibling, dropping by to visit an aunt, or coming home early from work to spend more time with your kids, saying "yes" to family time can only improve your happiness and general enjoyment of life.
Did you know spontaneity can actually improve your health? That's according to René Proyer, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, who told the Boston Globe, "People who exhibit high levels of playfulness - those who are predisposed to being spontaneous, outgoing, creative, fun-loving and lighthearted - appear to be better at coping with stress, more likely to report leading active lifestyles and more likely to succeed academically." So the next time you're offered the chance to step outside your comfort zone, go for it.
When you look back on your life one day, it's unlikely you'll say to yourself, "I wish I'd spent more time surfing social media and texting." Yet it's so easy to get caught up in the technological world. We're surrounded by it, after all. You have to be intentional when you spend time with friends and family. Put down the phone and close the computer for a while. You'll be surprised by how freeing it feels.
If it helps you quantify the idea, you can aim for at least one kind act per day, but don't limit yourself too much with numbers. Service can just happen, whether it's assisting a lady with her busy children, loading groceries into the car, or dropping a dollar into the hand of a homeless man. You'll brighten your day as well as that of the person you serve. After all, we're all given so much, isn't it fitting that we give a little back? When you think of others, you'll live regret-free knowing that you spent your time wisely.
Click here to find a cause you are passionate about-something you can give back to. During the month of March, The Community Foundation of Utah is sponsoring the Love Utah, Give Utah event. Love Utah Give Utah brings together nonprofits, donors, volunteers and local businesses to raise millions of dollars to support our community. You can even come in person on March 31st to meet the nonprofits and participate in the event at Love Central at Publik Coffee Roasters, 975 West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, from 8 am to 12 pm.