"What is the good life? In my view, you can find it by following a startlingly simple path. The 'pleasant life' might be had by drinking champagne and driving a Porsche, but not the good life. Rather, the good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification. This is something you can learn to do in each of the main realms of your life: work, love, and raising children." - from the 2002 book, Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD
Happiness can be found in simplicity. For me, simplicity is a streamlined work life; an uncluttered, pleasant home; and maintaining a deep connection with the people I love. When those three things are in balance I am freer to create, to play, and to do good wherever and whenever I can. It's that simple.
How many acts of kindness do you carry out in a day? As you go about your busy life, you probably perform more random acts of kindness than you think. That's what I realized when I read Linda Cohen's 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life. In a chapter cleverly titled "Change the Toilet Paper," Linda discusses how the little things you do can make a big difference is someone else's day.
"Keep your eyes open and be aware of what your neighbors, friends, and strangers are going through. It's an opportunity to pay it forward in your daily life."
Throughout the book, Linda shares examples of the simplest acts of kindness that we can all do with minimal effort:
• Change a roll of toilet paper in the restroom. (Nobody likes to get stranded!)
• Tell a manager about an employee’s exemplary customer service. (You complain when things go wrong, don’t you?)
• Listen to people you meet with an open and giving heart. (Listening is a powerful gift.)
• Try spontaneous giving. (It’s really quite addictive.)
• The next time you’re at the gym, get someone a towel.
• Assist someone by carrying their groceries or packages.
• Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line.
• Scoop your poop! (No one wants to step in it!)
• Call upon an elderly neighbor.
• Thank someone who impacted your life.
• Accommodate someone else’s schedule.
• Befriend a parent on a plane. (It could make all the difference in the world.)
Simple, right? It's even likely that you perform these or similar kindnesses every day without even giving it a thought. It's even possible that by doing them, you inspire others to pay it forward.
When we welcomed 2011, I wondered if I'd be around to see 2012. As it turns out, I look and feel healthier than most people I know. Aside from my still faint eyebrows and eyelashes, and my boyish haircut, there is no clue that I survived triple-negative breast cancer and ten months of very aggressive treatment, or that I have multiple sclerosis. Life is funny that way.
Despite the difficulties of the year, I am truly grateful to have lived it — life is a roller coaster and I'm happy to take another turn on the ride in 2012.
May you find your version of simplicity and happiness.
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis. Making peace with multiple sclerosis, surviving triple-negative breast cancer, and continuing to pursue a career as a freelance writer ... well, let's just say she's fairly stubborn and doesn't lack a sense of humor. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, her writing covers a wide range of topics, including multiple sclerosis patient information, her Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer series, general health news, copywriting, and articles for sites all around the web.