Self-improvement Articles

I have nothing against self-improvement articles. They’re like selling Amway. Maybe some people can do it, but not me. I long ago said to myself, “Self, you’re just wasting your time!” But maybe you, the reader, are not. Let’s see how happy you can become by observing the following advice.

A recent article in Time Magazine is titled New Ways to become happier – and healthier. And here’s what you need to remember about self-improvement articles. If it’s a “New Way,” it’s tied to a study conducted by someone who doesn’t have enough to do. If it’s a “Tried and True” approach, it’s advice handed down by the grandmother of someone who doesn’t have enough to do. But getting back to the article.

New Way #1, Explore life without social media. Who would have thought it?  Markham Heid says, “Recent studies have linked frequent Facebook use to poorer physical and mental health, plus diminished life satisfaction. Another study found that the more time people spent on social media per day, the more likely they were to have symptoms of anxiety.

“What to do? Trimming your social habit to just one platform may lighten your load. And taking even a short break has been shown to improve your mood.” Good advice. I wonder, though, where does one stick one’s nose if he/she doesn’t have it in a hand-held device? Probably in other people’s business which doesn’t improve other people’s mood.

New Way #2, Order delivery and send your laundry out. This one is profound. I had an acquaintance whose wife got mad at him, threw his laundry out the upstairs window into the alley behind the apartment house, divorced him, and he’s been ordering delivery for supper ever since. And is he happy!

Still, you can’t give New Way happiness advice unless you base it on a study. Amanda McMillan says, “The research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people who spend money on saving time – like hiring a gardener instead of tending to the yard themselves, or paying extra for grocery delivery instead of spending time at the store – reported greater life satisfaction.”

Of course, this sort of happiness is very fleeting for those of us who needed that money to pay for rent or buy groceries or repair the car.

New Way #3, Embrace your offbeat emotions. As opposed to whom, your deadbeat relatives? “Happiness isn’t the only feeling that can help you stay healthy. How excited, amused, proud, strong and cheerful you feel seem to matter too.” And then Amanda advises us to take note the next time we feel one of these ways, including enthusiastic, interested, or inspired. I’m not much on this New Way. If you have to jot down when you feel this way or that, it sort of defeats the whole purpose of having feelings. It’s more like advice the doctor gives. “Record each time you have a heart attack, put it in a log, and bring it with you when you come back next month.”

New Way #4, Let go of grudges. Alexandra Sifferin says, “Forgiving yourself and others can protect against stress and the toll it takes on mental health, according to a recent study.” Again, good advice. In fact, Jesus taught his followers, depending on which version of the English bible you use, “forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us/those who sin against us.” Jesus said this some 2 millenia ago. Leave it to a recent study to take credit for it.

These are great or are they? I hope you’re getting giddy just thinking about trying them out.

New Way #5, Take a perfectly imperfect vacation. Hey, remember National Lampoon’s Vacation? Going to Walleyworld certainly worked for the Griswolds. Using them as a not-so-recent study, I’d say go for it.

New Way #6, Visit your local tiny green space. What on earth does this mean? According to Abigail Adams, “Getting outside is a reliable way to feel better. Nature can offer stress relief, a more active lifestyle, and a salve for mental illness. But this effect isn’t limited to forests or beaches that may be miles away. Growing research suggests that any kind of green space – backyard , neighborhood parks, dog walks – can make you happier.” Of course, if you’re taking a walk in a dog walk, watch where you step. Your good mood could easily go south.  

New Way #7, Keep your friends as close as your family.  Amanda MacMillan reports that “Friends become more important to health and happiness as people age, according to research across nearly 100 countries. In fact, having supportive friendships in old age was found to be a better predictor of well-being than having strong family connections.”

Wow! We’ve always heard that unlike family, we can choose our friends. Now they’ve proven the benefit of doing so. But I see difficulties with this New Way. Some of the older people I know are depressed because their friends have all died off. What then? And maybe not always, but I’ve seen family take good care of many seniors. And I’ve seen only two instances in which a person pays a friend’s tab at the nursing home. If I was going to try out this New Way, I’d hedge my bet by observing New Way #4 and play nice with both friends and family members.

New Way #8, Deploy random acts of kindness. This New Way is why I have given up on self-improvement advice. If we want to be happy and healthy, what better way than to deploy INTENTIONAL acts of kindness, day in and day out? If we were all of us kind all the time, there would be little need for advice on how to be happy and healthy.


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