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Read the two articles linked below. One is a summary,the other is an in depth discussion of the following eight categories that the author (Roger Walsh) calls TLC’s (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes).

I grew up in a culture that undervalued happiness. It wasn’t the highest virtue by any stretch, it paled comparison to “joy”, and was almost seen as unnecessary, sometimes even seen in a negative light.

“God doesn’t want you to be happy, he wants you to be joyful.”

…many preachers

“Happiness is related to happenings (circumstance) but joy is a more fundamental, lasting expression.”

…many preachers

When I became a parent, I was overwhelmed with the desire that my children were happy. I found it to be the strongest, most regular feeling I wished for them. It was then that I started to challenge my opposition to happiness, and began to elevate it to a higher status and to believe that God wants us to be happy, not just joyful.

It is hard to describe a person as joyful if they don’t express some measure of happiness. Happiness is the outward expression of a joyful heart. I find it funny now that I feel I need to defend happiness!

One of my favorite pictures of Kelly and me – both obviously happy.

If you want to be happy here is an in depth and academically grounded approach (again, read the article below by Roger Walsh). Get ready to be happy.

Eight Categories that Lead to Lifestyle Health

  1. Exercise
  2. Diet/Nutrition
  3. Time in Nature
  4. Contribution & Service
  5. Relationships
  6. Recreation
  7. Relaxation and Stress Management
  8. Religious & Spiritual Involvement

These eight categories have been shown to reduce stress and bring more mental health and stability to people’s lives. They are all within your own control and you essentially need no new outlay of money or time or appointments with professionals to take advantage of them.  So here is a simple process to be healthier, more productive, less stressed, and happier in the next year.

First, evaluate.  As you look at these areas you will automatically see that you are probably not spending near enough time in the areas that will truly contribute to your happiness. 

Second, take each category and pick one new thing that you will do in this area.  For instance, in the category of exercise add one physical activity to your schedule. Don’t shoot for the sky right off the bat, pick a manageable, achievable step.

Third, see if you can’t combine some of the areas.  For instance, physical and relational is an easy match.  “I am going to take a walk twice a week with my husband, wife, friend.” You could even incorporate a third into this:  “ I am going to take a walk with my husband twice a week in nature.”

Fourth, share your goals with a friend, partner, life coach.

Last, stick with it and regularly review, build, adjust, and keep at it.

For further reading

Walsh, R. (2011, January 17). Lifestyle and Mental Health. American Psychologist.

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