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In the tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas, I am beginning a movement toward happiness for all called the 12 Days of Happy. For the 12 days following Christmas, we will celebrate how beautiful and amazing life is by suggesting ways to make life richer and more beautiful.

Day One: Sleep Well and Wake Happy

WebMD reports that 20% of Americans sleep less than 6 hours on average, which falls way below the recommended 7-8 hours for adults. Work, financial woes, stress, a virtual 24/7 society of social media and gaming prevents us from scheduling an appropriate amount of sleep. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, poor diets, worse workout habits all contribute to a lack of sleep. While we sense the obvious ill-effects of this–exhaustion, moodiness– we need to consider the other consequences: “poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems, and mood problems like anger and depression. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity” (WebMD).

Just like healthy eating, healthy sleeping is important, too, but so often set aside because we prioritize other things (an unfinished list, family care, work, house duties, etc). Starting today, focus on less alcohol and caffeine, especially close to bedtime (starting in the late afternoon). In the hour or two prior to bedtime, focus on quiet and calming activities that don’t involve eating, exercising, or even watching television. Fitness Magazine suggests an 8-Minute Yoga Workout before bed to relax us, and to deepen our sleep. If these suggestions still do not help deepen your sleep, consider if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy (“I can never sleep so therefore I won’t be able to sleep tonight”) or if there is a greater issue that should be addressed by a professional.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is also applicable to how we wake up, too. The Greatness Zone suggests going to bed (and/or waking up) grateful. What three to five things are you appreciative of? What good things do you anticipate throughout the day to happen? One of those things should be something you love to do: dancing, singing, cooking, running, calling your best friend, whatever suits your fancy. Interacting with close friends and family, those who share your same values and who respect you are vital in the process of being happy. Finding yourself frustrated throughout the day, take a moment to meditate and quiet the internal conflicts and external pressures, essentially a quick “restart” button. Find a few moments for yourself and follow the advice of Dr. Weil and Thich Nhat Hanh for simple meditations.

Of course, the most important element is doing that which makes you happy as far as career. This is not a minor adjustment, but consider if you are in the position to do so, change to a career or job that reflects your passion. If this isn’t possible, following the above suggestions may help you come to peace with your job or daily expectations. Having peace in your daily life might then make going to sleep each night easier and better, and thus begins a healthy and happy cycle.

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The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ancient writings refer to the idea of friendship; the Old Testament or the Epic of Gilgamesh or any number of pre-“Jesus” writings have reference to how we should treat each other, what friendship is, and defining family. It can be argued that “friendship” is an overused topic of writing, one that often results in “rainbows and sunshine.” Though enjoying a good chat with a friend can certainly be uplifting and thus an excellent topic of discussion, it is the more modern adult relationships that have taken a bizarre turn.

In recent years, social networking sites and texting, amongst other virtual communication tools, have recreated the idea of friendship. Despite the number of friends listed on your Facebook or the consistency of texting from others, the modern adult has less true connections with friends or other humans than ever before. One might wonder why it matters–so what if we have less in-person connections, we simply connect differently…right? Without one-on-one contact with other adults, without a bond with humans that share commonalities and know our secrets, we lose a bit of what makes us human. This leads us to loneliness, to depression, and to organizations like “Rent a Friend”. This company has been successful in the US as a “friend rental agency” and has recently expanded into the UK. (Blacker, Independent UK). Blacker commented in his article for the Independent UK that, “[o]ne agency exists to provide fake relatives for weddings and funerals.” While it seems beneficial that those without friends might find solace renting via these technological firms, (after all, we often pay for company when we invite friends over to dinner), it is simlutaneously interesting that the cause of our lack of bonding is technology itself. And while those who are terrified to socialize with other humans may benefit from these services, it must also be noted that “the easier it becomes to communicate through a screen, the more fraught with embarrassment and danger real life can seem.”

Thus we find our conundrum: do we cut off our addiction to virtual communication and create real friendships, or do we stay plugged in to a mode of connection that certainly has not met its day? As in previous posts, I aim to sever myself from my Facebook addiction, among other technological tethers. Not completely, mind you, but in that I want to have real conversations and have deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around me.

I have never been known to be shy, at least not as an adult. I enjoy meeting new people, those who can bring new experiences and new light into my life. Simultaneously, I bank on those friends who know me better than anyone else, those I’ve known for literally (and terrifyingly!) 30 years! The length of friendship does not determine the importance, though. My newest friends here in Park City and the surrounding zones bring me solace, comfort, and distraction. Not to say my friends in various parts of the world exist in a lesser capacity, but those I have known for years here and those I am getting to know now embrace the new life I am reaching for, challenging me to be a better teacher, a more active participant in my community, a stronger athlete in biking, climbing, and snowboarding. In essence, those I am getting to know here connect with my life vision and encourage my drive to better myself.

With merely the Internet or cell phone, my relationships here would not exist, or if they did would be superficial and ineffective. Never can I share my thanks to those in my life, for every one brings beauty and strength to me. My goal now isn’t to find friends, but instead to deepen the relationships I have. I aim to limit the amount of “non-face time” communication (i.e. texting or emailing) and spend more time vis a vis or live chatting on the phone. I want that strong, life-long connection that I can trust in others, and they can know that above all else, that I believe in them.

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