There is no secret to living to be old and happy, and having a good time getting there. It only requires a few obvious things, and the first and most obvious one is that you must survive to old age. If you don’t survive you don’t even have the opportunity to live happily. And, the close corollary to surviving is surviving in good physical condition. If you happen to be fifteen to twenty-five years old your greatest risk is from cars and guns. The situations where those interact with your life can be identified at a great distance, and treated with appropriate caution and forethought. If you choose the route of simply paying close attention to the ongoing dangerous situations you will have only a couple of seconds warning before being injured or dead. It’s your choice.
One obvious but not well-known thing is how to relate to alcohol, and I’ve made a slogan as a guide: “Drink for pleasure, not for pain.” The reason is that if you go to a party and have a few drinks for the pleasure of it, you will quit drinking the moment it isn’t pleasurable. However, if you go to a downer bar, and drink to drown your sorrows, it won’t cure anything, and if done consistently will lead to a gutter life and an early grave. And, to repeat the opening sentiment, to enjoy yourself you must be alive. This general approach might work for other drugs too, because suppressing problems doesn’t bring about a happy life, only a temporarily less painful one. I sometimes smoked a pack of cigarettes a day in my 20’s, but finally realized I was addicted and succeeded in quitting. Inhaling toxic smoke eventually killed some of my friends. I visited one very sick friend an hour before she died, and she could barely breathe, but she was still smoking. Another heavy smoking friend walked like a feeble eighty year old at age fifty. It’s your choice.
Those are obvious physical things to control, but the tricky ones are the personal habits created by Adverse Childhood Experiences. Those who have had difficult childhoods will be locked into repeating the problems of their guardians. When in conversations with friends I’ve been having some success with the intentional retelling of my childhood successful problem-solving situations. Personally, I had almost a zero ACE test score, so my problems aren’t acute, but my friends with whom I have been doing this experiment had tougher childhoods, although after several cycles of the experiment they seem to be creating better images of their guardians and of themselves. When we emphasize the positive qualities of our childhood experiences and trivialize the negative ones it becomes easier to live a cheerier present life. By cultivating healthier habits we can create a happier immediate life style, and in doing that we are likely to automatically live longer, happier lives.
We can choose to live a longer and happier life, or a shorter unhappier one.