Wednesday, September 30, 2015

10 Secrets to Happiness, According to Someone Much Wiser Than Me

I was not raised Catholic (though Tom and I met as members of the Newman Singers, a traveling contemporary choir based out of the University of Iowa's Catholic Student Newman Center, and later married in the Catholic Church as well), but throughout the last two years I have begun to pay closer attention to the Pope. I don't necessarily agree with everything Pope Francis says, but I believe in what he stands for and emulates: inclusion, acceptance, simplicity, humility, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Like many others, last week I watched coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States. I jotted down notes on his messages as well as a few favorite quotes, and though I don't believe he said it last week, this quote made its way into one feed or another and prompted me to pause and then delve a little deeper.

"Have the courage to be truly happy."

After spending a more than a year on the #100HappyDays challenge (which turned into 365+ happy days), I appreciate any words of wisdom that encourage me slow down and appreciate the moment, the environment, and my place within them.

And when those words of wisdom come from the Pope? Well, that just makes them even more powerful.

Back in a July interview with the Argentine weekly "Viva", Pope Francis revealed his 10 secrets for happiness.

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

“He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river; and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool” of water, the pope said. He said he likes this latter image of a pool of water — to have “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”

4. “A healthy sense of leisure.” The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.

“Consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress, causing people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” Their time is “swallowed up” so people can’t share it with anyone.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

“It’s not enough to give them food. Dignity is given to you when you can bring food home” from one’s own labor.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have. I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down.' Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you’. No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.”

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars, and the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

I post the Pope's secrets to happiness not in support of one religion over another or lack thereof, but because so many of them spoke to me on a human level. In the future, when I need a reminder of how I can make my life even happier, I'll return to here, to this post and Pope Francis' secrets.

The full text from Pope Francis' interview can be found on both and but have edited them down slightly for length. 

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