by Jack Dennis
Dodie and I are currently in Scottsdale, AZ enjoying the birth of our grandson, Carter Lee McMeans, born on May 15, 2021. Coincidently our granddaughter, Melody Dennis was born in Texas 13 months to the day before Carter. We are so happy.
My, have we been blessed since our marriage in December 2019. When I asked her for a first date in high school to go see Rod Stewart in concert, her parents said no. At 16, she was too young to date they said. Well, it took 45 years, 6 months and 11 days before we had that first date. Guess who we saw? That’s right. Rod Stewart. Now, it seems so sudden, we are grandparents together.
“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy
- Find the miracles in life. I absolutely believe in miracles, and believe that they are all around us, every day. Our children and grandchildren are all miracles. The kindnesses of strangers are miracles. The life growing all around us is a miracle. Find those miracles in your life, and enjoy the majesty of them.
- Develop compassion. Compassion is developing a sense of shared suffering with others … and taking steps to alleviate the suffering of others. I think too often we forget about the suffering of others while focusing on our own suffering, and if we learned to share the suffering of others, our suffering would seem insignificant as a result. Compassion is an extremely valuable skill to learn, and you get better with practice.
- Be grateful. Learning to be grateful for what’s in our lives, for the people who have enriched our lives, goes a long way toward happiness. It helps us to appreciate what we have and what we have received, and the people who have helped us. I met 91-year-old Ralph Watkins who passed away in October 28, 2020 as he was approaching 95. We had breakfast almost daily and I remain grateful for his friendship. The current book I am writing is tentatively titled: “Whataburger With Ralph” based on our conversations and life learnings.
- Become a lifelong learner. I find an inordinate amount of pleasure in reading, in learning about new things, in enriching my knowledge as I get older. I think spending time reading some of the classics, as well as passionately pursuing new interests, is energy well invested. Try to do a little of it every day, and see if it doesn’t make you happier. We avoid television and especially news media. That is a strong key to living a happier life. Get away from the propaganda and social engineering.
- Simplify your life. This is really about identifying the things you love and then eliminating everything else as much as possible. By simplifying your life in this way, you create time for your happiness, and you reduce the stress and chaos in your life. In my experience, living a very simple life is also a pleasure in itself.
- Slow down. Similar to simplifying, slowing down is just a matter of reminding yourself that there’s no need to rush through life. Schedule less things on your calendar, and more space between things. Learn to eat slower, drive slower, walk slower (unless you’re doing it for exercise). Going slowly helps to reduce stress, and improve the pleasure of doing things, and keeps you in the present moment.
- Exercise. It can be hard to start an exercise program but once you get going, it relieves stress and can really give you a good feeling. I feel joyful every time I go out for a walk, tend to our garden, or bike ride!
- Meditate. You don’t need to join a club or get a mat or learn any lotus positions, but the simplest form of meditation can really help you to be present and to get out of the worrying part of your head. You can do it right now: close your eyes and simply try to focus on your breathing as long as possible. Pay attention to the breath as it comes into your body, and then as it goes out. When you feel your mind start to wander, don’t fret, but just simply acknowledge the other thoughts, and then return to your breathing. Do this a little each day and you’ll get better at it.
- Learn to accept. One of the challenges for people like me — people who want to improve themselves and change the world — is learning to accept things as they are. Sometimes it’s better to learn to accept, and to love, the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to try to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal. I’m not saying you should accept cruelty and injustice, but learn to love things when they are less than “perfect”.
- Spend time in nature. Go outside and take a walk each day, or take the time to watch a sunset or sunrise. Or find a body of water — the ocean, a lake, a river, a pond — and spend time taking a look at it, contemplating it. If you’re lucky enough to live near some woods, or a mountain, or a canyon, go hiking. Time in nature is time invested in your happiness. Today, we are in Scottsdale. Tomorrow, Sedona.