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Friday, March 22, 2013

Want to Be Happier? Stop Doing These Ten Things Right Now.

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1.            Stop watching too much television.

There is so much junk on television and so much advertising to wait through and thereby waste precious time. Friends tell me they veg out in front of the TV as a way of decompressing after a stressful day at work.  Granted, I’m pretty much committed to my favorite shows and won’t budge on watching them. However, when tired, vulnerable, overwhelmed and stressed, the best thing to do is not watch television.  Going for a walk, a slow, gentle, leisurely walk, no matter what time of day or evening, no matter what the weather (put a rain coat on for heaven’s sake) beats TV every time in terms of relaxing, decompressing and revitalizing a tired soul.

2.            Stop having no quiet time in your day for reflection

The reasons are endless why people tell me they can’t carve out time to be quiet.  If you don’t want to be still, you’re going to come up with concrete, defendable reasons why it is impossible and I don’t care to try to convince you.  I don’t know your life and your schedule well enough to take on the task of figuring out how you might possibly be able to sit still for 15 minutes.  So stop it.  Just stop depriving yourself of one the most nourishing practices I know of.  Sit.  Just sit. 15 minutes a day. First thing in the morning, if possible.  You’ll be glad you did.

3.            Stop depending on your own counsel alone

Another way of saying the same thing is: stop not listening to others.  Stop having no way for wisdom to find its way into your mind.  Stop being self-dependent and let yourself benefit from the wise (and even the not so wise) counsel of those around you, experts in their fields, role models and the people who love you.  Instead, make a habit of asking people what they think about your ideas.  You don’t have to accept their advice and opinions, but you will find your world expanding and your sense of community growing and you’ll definitely be doing something that can contribute to a feeling of happiness: connecting.

4.            Stop criticizing yourself when you make errors

If you’re in the habit of talking to yourself in self-defeating, cruel ways, because you think that in the sanctity of your own mind what you say is private, I challenge you to stop it!  Imagine for a week that what you say to yourself is being instantly transcribed and broadcast on a banner floating above your head for everyone to see.  Would you be willing to display the content of yourself talk to the world?  If you are one of the people who can unhesitatingly say “Yes,” good for you!  For everyone else, take the challenge to be a little more gently with yourself, a little more friendly, a little more kind and to treat yourself in a way that is forgiving and gracious.

5.            Stop trying to make other people be different

Unfulfilled expectations are a major source of disappointment and unhappiness, even anger.  A lot of that unhappiness is avoidable by adjusting the kinds of expectations you have for other people.  I’m not saying people shouldn’t keep agreements or that people shouldn’t behave in ethical ways.  They should!  But you see, the problem is, they don’t.  That is the way of things, people are people.  Holding them a little lightly doesn’t mean you don’t have standards for yourself, and it sure doesn’t mean you have to become a doormat or subject to repeated broken agreements, but it can mean that you have a gentler, even happier walk through life, when you expect people to be people and approach them with a generosity of spirit and understanding.

6.            Stop hiding behind "that's just the way I am"

Some people tell the truth without regard to how it will be received.  “I’m just speaking my truth,” they’ll announce and in that statement the walk away from taking any responsibility for the emotional wake they leave behind them.  Some people do the same with their personality or preferences, “That’s just the way I am,” and in that statement they assert that their choices are beyond their control.  In the moment of saying it they may experience a kind of thrill they tell themselves is freedom, but in the end, the impact it makes on the people around us begins to take toll on relationships.  And when relationships are diminished, happiness flees.

7.            Stop putting other people down

Oh I know, it’s difficult being so astute and being able to see other people’s faults so clearly.  But you’re not alone!  We all see other people’s faults in sharp focus.  It’s amazing that we can do that and yet many of us have difficulty seeing the exact same errors in ourselves.  Hilarious actually.  Whether you’re right or wrong about people, just try not putting them down for a week.  Begin first by refraining to use put-down language, and then move up to a higher skill level of refraining to use put-down thinking about other people.   Your mind is going to go crazy with the problem of what to do with all that stink it likes to get into – but I’m running out of words here and I’ll going to leave that up to you to solve.

8.            Stop wishing for a better past

As if we can do anything to change our past!  We can’t.  Or can we?  Someone shared this notion with me that we do indeed change our past when we accept our present.  I had to think about that.  It has helped me tremendously to let things be and be here in the moment.  I discovered that I was investing a lot of mental and emotional resource in maintaining the past by re-thinking it, all the while wishing it would have played out better.  What a rush of happiness I let into my life when I landed a little more solidly in the present moment with just as much weight, height, wealth and wisdom that I have right now.  To relish it and move on to something more.   

9.            Stop holding on too tightly

One day a friend jokingly called me a Klingon.  He was using the fictional warrior race from Star Trek because the name of these villains sounds likes something I was definitely guilty of.  I would cling on and on and on to anything and anyone.  Although we laughed about the corny cleverness of the phrase, I never forgot the title and started to observe the happiness-diminishing effect of holding on to people, opinions, objects and outcomes too tightly.  I started to let go, or more accurately, I started to let be, and in that opening up, happiness had a way to come in to a place in my life that was just too crowded before: my mind.

10.          Stop complaining

Complaining has a powerful energy, it’s not bright and joyful, it’s sticky and off-putting.  I know, there are definitely times when a person should speak up for themselves, and there are times when injustices must be addressed and when agreements haven’t been met, that should be handled.  All the same, I challenge you to experiment with the idea that there is always a more beautiful way for you to say what you need to say, and ask what you need to ask.

Want to be happier?  Make up your own list of things you can stop doing right now.  I did!  This is my list.  I don’t expect it to be the same for everyone, although I may come across as if I do, I wrote this for myself.  I challenge you to create your own list and to take a stand for your own happiness.

And when you're done with the list of don'ts, how about a list of ten Do These Ten Things! I plan to!

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill 

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun 


  1. But, Rev Edward, it IS just the way I am!!?? Oh, wait . . . maybe that's number one on MY list?

    1. Hi Sandy, I know this comment was a year ago, but I am curious to know if you made your own list! :) Much love, Edward

  2. just turned off the tv about 15 minutes ago and found this!! thank you! thank you!

    1. Hope that TV is still being turned off! Here's our video contentHealing Power of Humor a great substitute for TV!

  3. LOVE this list, Rev. Edward. It inspired me to compile one for us senior citizens.


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