10 Tips to a Happier 2012
Written by
Jill Starishevsky
December 2011
Written by
Jill Starishevsky
December 2011

For the past twenty years, I have shared one of my favorite guides, Life’s Little Instruction Book, as part of my New Year’s Eve celebration.  The book is made up of tips and advice that help one lead a fuller, happier life.  Some of my favorites include, “resist the temptation to buy a boat” and “compliment three people a day.”  Traditionally, each person I am celebrating with adds a tip to the end of the book.  One year, my brother-in-law added, “conserve water, shower with a friend.”  Unfortunately, this year, I am out of town and left the book at home.  I know I will miss nostalgically flipping through on New Year’s Eve and reading the entries added by family and friends.  I decided to start a new list in hopes of others adding their favorites so I can reflect on them this New Year’s Eve.  Here are my 10 tips to a happier 2012:

1.      Enjoy the food you eat, worry less about getting fatter

2.      Make an effort to stop cursing, for words do really matter

3.      Volunteer once a month for a charity close to your heart

4.      Have dinner as a family, once a week is a really good start

5.      Speak of others as though they can hear the words that you say

6.      When having a conversation with a friend, put your cell phone away

7.      Decrease your usage of microwaves, it robs the vitamins from your food

8.      Wake up every morning with the hope of putting someone in a good mood

9.      Eliminate one hour a week of TV, internet or your favorite vice

10.    Don’t buy water in bottles; to save the earth it’s a small price

In case you are wondering why the tips are in prose, my alter ego is “jill - the poem lady” and I tend to think in rhyme.  Happy New Year and I look forward to reading your tips.

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  • Kimberly K. Comeau

    I'd like to add one:  Learn something new every day.  That "learn something" can be as small as learning someone's favorite color, or hearing a new childhood story from a stranger or spouse, or as useful as learning a new embroidery stitch or the most efficient way to sort mail.  Whatever you learn, it's amazing how enriching those bits of knowledge become.

  • Jill Starishevsky


    Finally found the time to read your post on Judging Others.  Written from the heart and I enjoyed it.  Thank you for sharing it.


  • Jessica Vealitzek

    Oops, Jill - I should have made clear I meant the #5 of your addendum--When in doubt, pee. Ha! I'm sure you were confused by my dog comment.

  • Jill Starishevsky


    Regarding number 5, it originated years ago when this woman I know first started to date the man who became her husband. She was a chatty lady and enjoyed the time she spent gossiping with girlfriends.  Her new boyfriend didn't like gossip.  He thought it was petty and hurtful.  She, wanting to become someone her boyfriend was proud of, embraced that mentality and decided to refrain from gossip.  But the question remained, how was she to know what entailed gossip.  She created a definition which would define the parameters of her new behavior.  She would only say things about others who were not present, if she would be able to say them in their presence.  Not a tough rule to live by, don't you think?


  • Joyce Showalter Rivera

    I just love this sort of thing!  I think number one and number five are my favorites.  This might seem weird but it might be fun to  choose a day to focus on each of our senses... maybe one a day, Monday through Friday.  Somewhere along the way, I quite using my sense of smell... crazy but I did.    Makes me wonder how muted all my other senses are.

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    I'd love to know how #5 originated. Does it refer to first dates? Does it only apply to dogs?

  • Jill Starishevsky

    I am home now and found the book.  Thought I would share some of the entries added over the years.

    1. Avoid theme restaurants.

    2. Never buy reusable ice.

    3. Do something adventurous at least once a week.

    4. Tell people they are doing a great job.

    5. When in doubt, pee.

  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Hi Jill,

    Great tips--all meant to make us more mindful. I love #6 and #8. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • Donna Lawrence Writing

    Thanks, Jill! And thank you all for your contributions to this! I'll add to this, be thankful every day. Even when things get really challenging, it helps me to focus my thoughts for a moment on what I am thankful for. Whether it is a list or just one thing I'm thankful for, it gives me a lightness and mindfulness.

  • Kate Deeks

    Eliminate hour of TV- love it. http://keepingplacewithkate.blogspot.com/

  • Melanie S. Hatter

    Love the rhyming! How about seek balance, and try to find peace before walking away from a loved one after an argument. Best wishes to all for 2012!

  • Jill Starishevsky


    I am interested to hear why you think it is important to read a children's book every night, regardless of whether you have children.  I think it is a sweet idea and never heard anyone suggest it before.


  • Read something you never thought you'd read.

    Write something you never thought you'd write, or always wanted to write. Write every day. 

    Finish the above. 

    Say thank you to those we don't have to say thank you to -- cashiers, waitresses, bus drivers, the post office worker, the cleaning lady, say thank you for they make our lives easier, and their lives are often not.

    Say thank you for the life we have.

    Truly yours, from the author of LIE.


  • Regina Y. Swint

    Nice tips, Punita and Karen! 

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Take a walk each night and count the stars, or clouds.

    Walk a neighbor's dog once a week.

    Read at least 1 children's book a month, whether or not you have a child in your house.

  • CJ Johnson

    I like the potential power in your #6! I am aspiring to be positive in all moments possible versus seeing the negative, as well as being more convicted in my decisions and not feeling "odd or sad" when my loved ones do not agree with my actions. Happy New Year!

  • Regina Y. Swint

    Hey, RYCJ!

    Thanks.  And that's pretty cool about how smiling works.  I remember hearing that smiling is like yawning.  It's contagious.  How cool is that?

  • Kath Hubbard

    Great List Jill -!  My New Year's Resolution is to de-clutter my home (and by doing that, my mind ;)) - to that end I plan to take two bags of stuff out of my house every day.  One bag to charity, the second of things that have to be thrown away. 

  • Stacy Clark

    Great stuff, Jill.

  • RYCJ Revising

    Oh man! Now Regina that was a post-ful that warmed my eyes to read. You are so right about that helping to bring a smile to someone's day. Shorter story I must add; I used to walk around wondering why people weren't smiling, and not quite like you, but close, I started smiling first...and whaala!

    Thanks for that one. Loved it!

  • Regina Y. Swint

    I especially like 5 and 8 because I have been working on myself for the past several years, getting to know and (hopefully) like the person that I am. 

    Concerning number 5, I have never liked the thought of people gossiping about me, mostly because the gossip is almost always untrue/inaccurate, and also because it's hurtful to find that people you think you know/can trust think so little of you to do so.  That said, I decided a while ago that I would never say anything about someone that I'm not willing to say TO that person.  I think it's the mature way to be and live, and it keeps the drama at bay.  I'm happy to say that I live a drama-free life, except when it comes to my love life a whole other thread discussion.  :)  I think as we mature, we just appreciate being treated in the most humane ways possible, directly, honestly, and candidly without unkindness.

    As for number 8, I picked up on the fact that compliments tend to make people smile, no matter who they are, or what their mood may be at the time.  Long story, but when I worked at the Pentagon, I found that many people were always stone-faced and unfriendly-looking when you passed them in the corridors, or in their offices, with little-to-no eye contact.  I decided to try the experiment of just paying a random compliment, like, "Excuse me, Ma'am.  That color looks so pretty on you," or "My goodness, Sir, I couldn't help noticing that you have such a nice hand-writing," or something small like that.  And bam!  They smiled. My thought is that it probably brightened their days just enough that they would treat someone else with a little more kindness, and it might have passed on from there.

    I also learned to thank people profusely over the phone and/or email traffic, especially when I'd get a resistant vibe from their initial exchanges.  It often softened their disposition and made them more helpful.  Then I started doing it on trains and buses, and wherever I happened to be, especially with people who looked unhappy.  So, I made it one of my goals to compliment at least one person a day.  It also works wonders for children.  I love complimenting little girls on their dresses or hair bows and little boys on their shoes or "cool t-shirts" or whatever.  At church or dress-up functions, I let them know how pretty or handsome they are.  We never know what someone, especially a child, is going through, so I always take opportunities to make them smile.

    Well, those are my thoughts.  :)

  • RYCJ Revising

    Jill, and Mary, I agree. I 'sort of' wrote up a blog post on how I make this work for me. I titled it Judging Others.


  • Jill Starishevsky

    Nancy, any advice on how people can find their passion?  I also think people should teach children to follow their instincts.

  • Nancy Mueller

    Find and follow your passion every day. 

  • Jill Starishevsky

    It would be great if everyone could be kinder to one another.  Check out these resolutions for children.  http://tinyurl.com/7e7b3a4