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1. Be present
Some people call it mindfulness. Others call it paying attention. Either way, living in the present is the surest way to gain perspective and be happy. There's no past, no future. Just what's happening right now.
Of course, if you're in a polar bear cage or you've just fallen off a boat, you should probably think about the future and do something about that right now. Right now! Run! Swim! Something!
2. Take a few days off from drinking every week
The eggheads at the No Fun and Zero Laughs Institute recommend you take two days off. Take three. You'll lose weight, save money and wake up more refreshed.
3. Leave your smartphone in your pocket at dinner
You just fired off an amazing tweet making fun of a celebrity's weight problem and your Facebook rant about the yo-yo's in Canberra is getting more 'likes' by the second. But as fascinating as that stuff is, none of it is more important than whoever is sitting with you at dinner. And if your phone is more important, you need to make better decisions about who you have dinner with.
4. Get your email inbox to zero
You've got approximately 600 million emails in your inbox and 35,000 of them are unread. Guess what? You're not going to read them. And the 7324 emails you've got flagged because they're important and you MUST get to them? You won't. And no one expects you to. And if they do, they'll have to get over it. If they're more than a week or two old, they're just not that important - or you would have gotten to them by now.
5. Don't be such a tightarse
If you're going to use something every day or even very frequently, let that cash go. Anything you wear, drive, sleep on, carry in your pocket or apply to your body is worth the extra.
6. Realise you're in control of your emotions
It's happened again. Another Saturday date night with the wife ruined because your waiter had the temerity to bring your steak medium instead of medium rare and you called him a "bottom-feeding mouth breather". And you insist it wasn't your fault. HE made YOU angry. Wrong. Your outburst started with one of your own thoughts. An irrational one that you allowed to prompt an extreme emotion - anger. And then you rode that wave to Rage Town and right out of the restaurant.
Try this: Catch the irrational thought before it triggers an extreme emotion. Recognise the thought for what it is. Prevent the emotional response. It's not easy, but it can work for anxiety and depression, too.
7. Stop reading self-help books and lists
Just kidding. Read this list. It will save your life.
8. Contemplate your own death
Like living in the present, imagining your own death is a fantastic eye-opener. Whether sudden and grisly or dragged out and anticlimactic, being aware of your imminent return to dust will either (a) allow you to take a deep breath and enjoy the life you're living or (b) light a fire in you because there's no time to waste. Either way, your purpose, as well as who and what you love, should become incredibly clear.
9. Accept that life is full of hassles
Sometimes it's those irritating little things that can ruin your day or week and eventually your year - cyclists, loud elevator chat, the perpetually confounding popularity of dancing competitions on TV ... accept them as an unavoidable part of life and they'll wash over you with less consequence.
10. Stop thinking of life as a game to be won
You're jealous of that barely-conscious colleague who got promoted ahead of you. Your best friend from uni married rich and now you hate him. You're filthy over the fact the latest thing Justin Bieber "got away with".
Well, as discussed, they're all going to die. And so are you. Who's the winner then? Nobody, that's who.
Nick Bhasin is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter here.
- © Fairfax NZ News