Whether you’re Catholic, another religion, atheist or agnostic, you’ve got to agree with one thing — Pope Francis is one smart guy. Over the last week, he shared what he thinks are 10 ways to increase joy in life, and they’re pretty awesome:
1. “Live and let live”
This saying usually has a very “you live your life and I’ll live mine” kind of attitude to it. This could be interpreted as not caring about others or how they choose to live, but I don’t think that’s what Pope Francis meant. I think he meant that we should each try to live our lives by sticking to our values, without wasting time on what others may think of us.
2. “Be giving of yourself to others”
We live in a world where it’s so easy to be self-focused. Even when we’re out with others or walking on the street, it’s so easy to retreat into ourselves with our phones and devices. But it’s tried and tested: the more we are open and generous with others, the happier we are. This can be anything from smiling when you don’t feel like it and cleaning up after dinner, to going out of your way to help someone in need or volunteering at a local charity.
3. “Proceed calmly” in life
Further described as “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life,” this is an interesting one. This doesn’t mean that introverts are better, or that you should necessarily increase your silent time. I think it’s more about realising that while our emotions are good, it’s better for us to control them than for them to control us — life doesn’t have to always be a drama. No one likes to be around someone who’s constantly giving into gloominess, plus how good does it feel when you overcome a bad mood and end up having a great time?
4. “A healthy sense of leisure”
People don’t get the word “leisure” anymore. It either means doing absolutely nothing, like lying on a beach and eating ice-cream for two weeks straight, or it means more time to retreat into oneself with our iPhones, iPads, playstations, laptops, or in front of the TV. But as my school principal used to say — holidays are about a more relaxed pace and a change of activity, not a total lack of activity. Leisure time is a good time to discover classic pleasures like art and literature, to spend more time with others (for example, with your kids), and to get away from the anxiety of consumerism. And day to day, this could be lived with little things like eating dinner as a family with no TV on in the background, or spending a public holiday picnicking rather than shopping.
5. Sundays should be holidays
This doesn’t have to be a Christian-only thing. We can all agree that Sunday is for family — a good opportunity to take things a little slower and spend some quality time with our family and friends. Because really, at the end of our lives, we’re going to regret the time we didn’t spend with them, not the fact that we didn’t work more.
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people
Okay, so this one won’t play a big role in our day-to-day lives. But Pope Francis makes a great point: good jobs for young people not only teach them life lessons (like the value of hard work); they also prevent them from getting into bad habits. And we could apply it in our families, by encouraging kids to help out around the house and to get a part-time job when they are old enough.
7. Respect and take care of nature
Pope Francis says that 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?'” To be honest, this is one I tend to forget about. But he’s right — by protecting the environment, we are doing a service for future generations to come.
8. Stop being negative
Obvious perhaps, but so easy to forget. Pope Francis said this particularly in relation with talking badly about others. Why? Because all too often, when we talk others down, it’s out of jealousy or in an attempt to deal with our own insecurities. I guess the key here is to not wallow in negative thoughts — but rather to flick them from our heads as quickly as they appear. And to be more grateful for what we do have: as my dad’s own poem goes, “I was in the blues, because I had no shoes, but then on the street, I saw a man with no feet.”
9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs
It’s all well and good to firmly know what you believe, but there’s nothing more unattractive than getting on your high-horse about it and treating people of different beliefs with condescension. And on the other side, there’s nothing more attractive than a person who is happy while living what they believe, and who can do so naturally without forcing it upon others.
10. Work for peace
Pope Francis put this well: “We are living in a time of many wars…the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive.” How to apply this to our daily lives? Everything starts at home — those who learned to maintain the peace and avoid conflict in their families are the ones who’d make more effort able to do this on a bigger level — whether it be in the workplace, in a position of leadership and so on.