Long past the grim-dark of midnight, in a loud and crowded bar somewhere in the red-brick old town of Edinburgh, I found myself talking with a friend who was well and truly down in her cups due to a recently ‘celebrated’ birthday.
As the conversation unfolded, she repeatedly invited me to commiserate with her on the general unfairness of aging and the perceived dearth of her bright glow youth; to which I replied that, in all honestly, as I have gotten older I have noticed myself becoming markedly happier.
Sitting up suddenly, alert, incredulous, (and swaying not a little) she blurted: ‘How is that even possible?’.
This post is my answer to that question.
The 25th of July is my given birthday. And on that date in 2015 I will be 37 years old.
Since my later childhood, with each year that has passes, I become happier. This is not intended to be a boast, nor is it hubris or hyperbole, it is merely the truth. This upward trend in the quality of my inner life has been consistent enough, and has continued for a long enough span of time that, at this point it cannot be ascribed to mere happenstance or luck. The truth of the matter is that, far from being accidental, I believe the lions share of this utterly welcome phenomenon is down to five things that I actively: do, focus on, and cultivate in my day-to-day.
Would you like to know what they are?
I have written before about what I consider to be the real value of meditation. This practice, along with the process of doing my work, may well be the greatest tool and gift I have received in my life.
Imagine each day were a journey you had to take by car. Every morning you must climb into the driver’s seat and set off on the road until you reach your destination. The problem is, every day the windshield and mirrors are thick grimed with dust and the handbrake has reset to the ‘on’ position. So you are faced with a choice. You can rush to get started and drive your drive, hardly able to see the road ahead with the brakes all-screaming in your ears or… you could take a little time before you set off each morning to clean the dust from your windshield and mirror, and release the handbrake.
Meditation has had a global effect on my life. It has made everything better.
#2 The Physical:
I work out most days for at least an hour, and have done so for a long time and, strange as it may seem, the physical gains (while a welcome side benefit), are not the primary driver behind this particular behaviour.
Long ago I noted that: on days that I work out, I am able to be a better person; both for myself and for the people around me. I am able to work harder for longer, to sustain focus, and create things of a much higher quality. I am able to be kinder, calmer, more compassionate, and more loving.
On days that I work out, I operate at a different frequency.
#3 Reading and Study:
I have written previously on this blog about some of the reasons why I think reading is so important. I have also posted about how many books I read each month. Something I haven’t said thus far is: the real reason that I read so widely is to find the books that I can read deeply. Books that hold information and knowledge that, when contemplated, can literally change the way a person looks at things, feels about things, the way that someone acts in the world.
These books have gifted me benefits too innumerable to recount.
#4 A Good Work:
I have shaped my whole life around this idea, and the road has not always been easy, but I would honestly pay the price a thousand times over, and a thousand times more to be where I am right now.
Why? Because doing a work that you love that adds value to the world is, in my humble opinion, what is meant by: living the Good Life.
#5 Good Relationships:
As ever, I have saved the most important for last.
I count myself lucky to be able to say, without reservation, that the greatest source of active joy in my life are the people that I love. My partner, my true friends, my chosen family, and my audience. The relationships I have been fortunate enough to: stumble upon, find, nurture, or build, have given me something which lives well outside the borders of usual descriptive language.
The nearest I can get to it is to say that: in my life, I have never felt a deep connection with a specific place or location; instead, it is these primary relationships that have rendered within me the greatest feelings of love, the deepest sense of community, and the truest experiences of the meaning of the word: ‘home‘.
They are, quite literally, my everything.
Thankyou for reading this.
[Note: Those are my five things – What are yours? What are some of the things that you do or focus on in your life that make you happier year on year? Please let me know in the comments section.]
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
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