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Jewish Journal

10 Secrets to a Happy 2014

Rabbi Michael Gottlieb

December 19, 2013 | 1:26 pm

Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock.com

Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock.com

Every marker of time can teach a lesson and serve as a reminder of life’s fragile and transitory nature. The poignancy of that message can be particularly felt as we welcome in yet another new year.  So, ponder this: Think of the calendar and the rapid passing of days as a rallying call to live life more fully. Determine yourself to make each moment count.  As 2014 approaches, here are 10 recommendations that can help you do just that.

1) Be happier. 

Chances are you’ll live longer. Whether that’s true or not, most importantly you’ll enjoy the years you’ve been granted more fully.  The operative words are “be happier.”  You do it. Don’t wait for happiness to come your way—pursue it.  We humans are not resigned solely to our genetics. We have been given the gift of free will.  Take the necessary first step: choose to be happier in the coming year.

2) Forgive. wallybird/Shutterstock.com

Where possible, forgive those who have caused you hurt.  Don’t do it solely for the sake of the one who has wronged you. Do it also for yourself. For certain, it’s not always possible to forgive, let alone prudent under all circumstances.  But let’s face it; most mishaps in life are forgivable.  Both seeking and granting reconciliation is a lofty thing to do.

3) Take care of your health.  Shutterstock.com

Our bodies, contrary to popular culture, do not belong to us.  Metaphorically, they are given to us on loan.  Don’t worship health.  There’s a fine line between obsessing over health and living a healthy lifestyle, one that embraces the triumvirate of mind, body and soul.  For some, eating a donut is a federal offence.  Stop putting off your annual doctor’s visit.  Lose unnecessary weight and rid yourself of behaviors that prevent you from living  healthier.

4) Go tech free for one day, or a portion of a day, each week. pterwort/Shutterstock.com

The cell phone, computer and other exceptional technologies are for your benefit; that’s why they were engineered.  But don’t forget: you control them, not the other way around. For many, they’ve become an addiction, even an appendage to one’s person. Worse, they divert our eyes away from life in real time. Technology has created a wonderful platform for greater communication, the cell phone, text messages and e-mail in particular.  But it can also create a barrier between people.  For many, technology has become a tool of distraction, inhibiting conversations and substantive, human interaction.

5) Remove the clutter from your life.

mikeledray/Shutterstock.com

We speak nonstop about the “clutter” and pollution in our public environment; remove it from your private environment.  Clean out your car, clean out your home’s cabinets and garage. Let’s face it, how many of us have things we don’t use, or need?  Get rid of the clutter; give it away.  You’ll feel lighter and become more appreciative of what you do have. 

6) Read. E.S. Himchenko/Shutterstock.com 

Buy or borrow books.  For suggestions, read book reviews written by reviewers whom you identify with and respect.  Then go out and acquire the book. Fiction, non-fiction, history, philosophy, politics, science, theology, let your mind run free.  Go to a library—they do still exist.  Use Wikipedia to help you initially understand an idea or event, but don’t end up there.  Go beyond a superficial understanding.  Join a book group. Read, it’s good for your mind and your soul; it will also make you a more interesting person, the more well read you are.

7) Express gratitude.Duncan Andison/Shutterstock.com

Write it down and send it off, or verbalize it directly.  Either way, gratitude is appreciation articulated.  Appreciation conveys humility, as if to say:  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Saying thank you is up there with saying I love you. Regardless of one’s faith, expressing gratitude is a spiritual gesture. 

8) Drive with greater care.gyn9037/Shutterstock.com

All of us are important; all of us are busy and need to be at appointments on time.  Nearly 90 Americans die each day on our roads in car accidents. That’s well over 30,000 killed each year.  Slow down, stop texting, and be more courteous. Your blood is not redder than anyone else’s.  The laws of the road apply to all of us equally; no one is above them. 

9) Write an ethical will. NotarYES/Shutterstock.com

Your attorney can guide you on how to write up your estate’s will.  An ethical will goes beyond a legal one.  An ethical will focuses on the essence of what you stand for; it addresses how you hope to be remembered. It spells out the values and passions you hope to bequeath to others.  Don’t assume family and friends will fully understand what you stood for simply by having known you.

10) Author a family cookbook.Margrit Hirsch/Shutterstock.com

We longingly speak of a parent’s or relatives’ unduplicated delicious cooking or baking.  Write those recipes down while the ones who make the food are still alive.  Your family’s meals helped define you; they further help you relive tender memories.  Food goes beyond sustenance; it is an expression of love, concern and hospitality.


Any of these 10 recommendations, when acted upon individually or together will increase your joy and fulfillment in the New Year ahead.  The time is short and fleeting; the work is great and without bounds.  Happy 2014.

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