Ten Ways to Stay Happy

Pope Francis: his 10 tips for happiness make a great deal of sense.

Pope Francis: his 10 tips for happiness make a great deal of sense.

Pope Francis appears to be a Pontiff in a hurry. At 77, he knows his term as Bishop of Rome is unlikely to feature among the list of lengthiest papacies, and since succeeding Pope Benedict, Francis has won the admiration of millions of believers and non-believers.

Much of this, in my view, is owned to his shunning much of the pomp and circumstance that comes with his office, opting instead to revel in the everyday, to savour the ordinary.

In a recent interview with Argentine magazine ‘Viva’, the Pontiff outlined 10 things we can all do to try and retain a sense of happiness and perspective in our lives.

And again, much of what the Pope has suggested is rooted in the ordinary, and doesn’t require rushing out to the book shop and clearing out the ’self-help’ shelf. So let’s run through each suggestion from Francis, with a few thoughts of my own thrown in for good measure.

1: “Live and let live.” If we opt to saddle ourselves with all the emotional baggage of life – relationship break-ups, losing a job, strained friendships, office tension, etc, then getting through a single day can be arduous. We must live. To do that we must learn to let go – what’s done is done and all that.

2: “Be giving of yourself to others.” It’s nice to be nice. Be good to others. Do that and the chances are you’ll be easier on yourself.

3: “Proceed calmly.” There’s a lot to be said for stepping away from the smartphone/ laptop/television, disengaging from the hectic nature of modern life and revelling in the ordinary – a 20-minute walk for example. Breathe in the air. Be glad of it.

4: “Be wary of consumer culture.” If you’re defined by what you wear or what you buy rather than how you live and relate to those who care for you most, then surely one needs to re-assess one’s priorities. Play with your kids; bring your elderly parents out for dinner. Spending time wisely greatly outweighs the instant gratification of acquisition.

5: “Treasure your Sunday.” Many of us have no option but to work on Sunday. But if you do have that one clear day each week to divest yourself of professional obligations, then make that day of rest one of the chief reasons you work so hard for the rest of the week. Enjoy it!

6: “Champion the young.“: Said Pope Francis: “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs.” Youth unemployment is one of the sad legacies of the Eurozone crisis. It ought to be the agenda setting issue for each of our newly elected MEPs. Paid employment, even on a part-time basis, would be a good starting point for Irish employers. Valued work ought to be paid work.

7: “Respect and take care of nature“: We can’t all board speedboats to stymie whale hunters, but what we can all do is ensure our own environment, be it at home or at work, isn’t too negatively affected by our to-ings and fro-ings. So put your rubbish in the bin, separate your waste and recycling and, if you’ve little ones around you, set a good example. Getting your kids to bin it is surely more worthwhile than teaching them how to swear, right?

8: “Stop being negative“: “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy,” said Pope Francis, and how right he is. When I hear radio talk-in programmes dominated by cribbers and moaners, and when I see the social media regularly annexed by the whinge brigade, I turn the dial and log off. A problem is best addressed by presenting a coherent solution, not a thick-headed, numbskulled, baseless attack on Facebook or Twitter. I’d much prefer to be part of the solution as opposed to a continuation of the problem. Being negative is something we all experience, but being negative all the time will take years off your life.

9: “Respect others’ beliefs“: Tolerance is not something humanity has yet fully mastered – for example, a Newstalk report on July 27th stated there are 49 wars ongoing around the globe at present. But it is possible to live peacefully alongside those you may not necessarily share religious or political beliefs with. Look across the border in Northern Ireland right now. The peace may not be perfect, but consider daily life in Northern Ireland now compared to how things were 20 to 30 years ago. Things can change for the better, and we should champion the peace won in Northern Ireland without ever taking such a peace for granted – it’s why we ought to have a specific government minister assigned to Belfast in my view.

10: “Work for peace“: Pope Francis’s final tip for greater fulfilment ties into his hope for a greater level of respect for differing creeds and beliefs. “Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive and dynamic,” he told ‘Viva’.

The functioning, stable democracy we have now is a far cry from the Civil War and those difficult, execution-dominated years that followed. There are tens of millions across the planet who would crave the relative calm of this Republic – and we should glean some happiness from that, surely. And that’s a happiness worth pursuing – and cherishing.

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