The idea of living “the good life” has endured since the ancient times. Aristotle and Plato included moral and political ethics as a means to happiness, understanding that the a good life isn’t one built solely on individual values. A good life is one that is conducive to living well with others, while living comfortably and honestly with oneself.
Living Well With Others
Smile at those around you. It’s often been said that a smile is contagious, and research suggests that’s true. Studies suggest that friendly engagement with others boosts happiness levels, at least in part because people are more likely to treat a smiling person better than a non-smiling person.
- A smiling person is more likely to be regarded as viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere.
- Cheering yourself up by cheering others is a hallmark of how to have a good life
Help others. Studies have shown that helping others has a direct correlation to individual well-being. Taking time to care for others has been a staple of understanding “the good life” throughout time. Volunteering to help others has been connected to better quality of life, including increased happiness, self-esteem, health and even longevity.
- Taking time to listen to another person’s problems is a great way to help others. Many times, people who are struggling simply need to be able to share their situation with a friend. By taking the time to listen, you are helping whether you can solve their situation or not.
- The Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Putting your attention on another person, rather than yourself, is a common practice of living well with others.
Abandon the idea that life is fair. Most of us are taught this as children, but the idea that there are guaranteed outcomes for particular efforts or personal qualities is a sure-fire way to live in disappointment and resentment. Let it go.
- Taking responsibility for your own actions is an important discipline to develop. There may be many circumstances beyond your control, but focusing on these won’t help you develop the ability to make changes in your own life that may benefit you. Accept the things you can’t change; change what you can.
- Letting go of resentments towards others is an essential part of the good life. It has been well-said that a resentment is “like taking poison, expecting the other person to die.” Resentments erode the quality of your own life, damaging relationships with those around you.
- Others may not always agree with you. This doesn’t mean that you are wrong, or that the other person is wrong. It simply means that you have two different ideas on the same topic – and that’s okay.
Treat others with honesty, respect and kindness. This is not contingent upon how others treat you. Financial journalist Panos Mourdoukoutas said, “Harming others claims two victims—the receiver of the harm, and the victimizer, the one who does harm.”Taking revenge or “getting even” with another person opens an endless cycle of hurt and frustration that can easily be avoided simply by sticking to a few simple principles.
- Telling the truth, judiciously, is a habit of people who have good lives. Many times, people try to pretend they’re telling the truth about others when instead they’re engaging in gossip. The attention you receive when you share gossip may feel good, for a short time. However, in the long run, gossip erodes healthy relationships between you and those around you.
- Before you act, consider, “Is this something that I would want another person saying about me, or doing to me?” If not, reconsider your actions.
Value your friendships with others. The quality of a person’s friendship has a direct impact upon their well-being. Friends can increase a sense of your sense of belonging and purpose. People who have your best interest at heart, will also help prevent you from developing bad habits that work against your overall quality of life.
- Let friends and family know that you care about them by spending time with them, calling them regularly, and doing things together. Friendship doesn’t rely upon proximity, however. Even friends cultivated online have a positive effect on one’s quality of life.
- People with stronger social networks have stronger immune systems, get fewer colds, report less stress, and have overall higher quality of life for reasons that aren’t yet known.