The Happy Life

This past Christmas, my wife gave me things I desperately needed: socks and self-help books.

One book that intrigued me was The Happy Life by Charles W. Eliot. It was published in 1905! My 5-year-old son said, “Dad, that book smells old.”

happy life book cover
Cover of The Happy Life.
Photo by M. Fleming

I was curious to see if any of Eliot’s principles applied in 2019, more than a century after he wrote the book.

Incidentally, most, if not all, of Eliot’s insights still apply today.

Here’s one of my favourite passages:

In trying to enumerate the positive satisfactions which an average man may reasonably expect to enjoy in this world, I of course take no account of those too common objects of human pursuit,—wealth, power, and fame; first, because they do not as a rule contribute to happiness; and secondly, because they are unattainable by mankind in general.

And another:

The most satisfactory thing in all this earthly life is to be able to serve our fellow beings,—first those who are bound to us by love, then the wider circle of fellow-townsmen, fellow-countrymen, or fellow-men.

Wealth, power, and fame do not bring happiness. Loving others does. True in 1905 and still true today.

Three Strategies for Coping with Anxiety

Before I met my soulmate, I must have scared off many potential partners with the number of self-help books on my bookshelf.

As I’m helping students deal with test anxiety as the semester winds down, I decided to grab a book off my shelf for some guidance.

Book by Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano.
Cover of the book Coping with Anxiety. Photo by M. Fleming

In Coping with Anxiety: 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety, Fear, & Worry, the authors surprisingly write about coping with anxiety and unexpectedly offer ten simple ways to relieve anxiety, fear, and worry.

I’d like to highlight three simple strategies outlined in the book.

First, I should note that I’m not trying to simplify the complex nature of anxiety, and I’m certainly not trying to minimize or discount the suffering of those who experience extreme anxiety or have anxiety-related disorders.

Here are the three strategies:

Meditate and relax. I recently purchased some guided meditations and relaxation music from iTunes, and I was amazed at how beneficial it was to my well-being.

Challenge your thinking. Recognize your anxiety-producing thoughts and challenge them. For example, the authors of Coping with Anxiety provide a strategy for challenging catastrophic thinking: identify it, question it, and replace it with a more realistic thought.

Simplify your life. Experts say that a great strategy to decrease stress is to simplify your life. I agree. Less clutter, less stress. I would add fish. More fish, less stress. I miss my pet fish.