Miss Dix’s Dictates for a Happy Life

Like today’s advice columnists "Dear Abby" and "Ann Landers," Dorothy Dix often received requests to reprint some of her columns. During World War II, one of the most requested columns was her ten rules for happiness. They are:

First. Make up your mind to be happy. Happiness is largely a matter of self-hypnotism. You can think yourself happy or you can think yourself miserable. It is up to you...learn to find pleasure in simple things. If you can’t go to the opera, you can turn on the radio. Nail on your face the smile that won’t come off, and after a bit you will find that it comes naturally.

Second. Make the best of your lot. Of course, you’re not everything you want and things are not just right. Nobody is that lucky. Even the most fortunate have a lot of crumpled rose leaves under their forty mattresses of ease. There isn’t a single human being who hasn’t plenty to cry over, and the trick is to make the laughs outweigh the tears.

Third. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t think that everything that happens to you is of world-shaking importance and that somehow you should have been protected from the misfortunes that befall other people. When death robs you of one you love, or you lose your job, don’t demand to know of high heaven why this should happen to you and grow rebellious and morbid over your sorrow. We are never happy until we learn to laugh at ourselves.

Fourth. Don’t take other people too seriously. They are not so much, anyway. Don’t let their criticisms worry you. You can’t please everybody, so please yourself. Don’t let your neighbors set your standards for you. Don’t run into debt trying to keep up with the Joneses, or bore yourself to death trying to be as intelligent as the Highbrows. Be yourself and do the things you enjoy doing if you want to be comfortable and happy.

Fifth. Don’t borrow trouble. You have to pay compound interest on that and it will bankrupt you in the end. It is a queer thing, but imaginary troubles are harder to bear than actual ones. There are none of us who have not lain awake at night petrified with dread of some calamity that we feared might befall us and that we felt would shatter our lives if it should occur. Generally it never happened, but if it did, it was not so bad after all and we survived it without serious injury. Enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself. There is no sounder adage than that which bids us not to trouble trouble until trouble troubles us. The only good that worrying ever did anyone was make him thin. It is grand for the figure but hard on the disposition.

Sixth. Don’t cherish enmities and grudges. Don’t keep up old quarrels. Don’t remember all the mean things people have done to you. Forget them. Hate is a dreadful chemical that we distill in our own hearts, that poisons our own souls. It takes all the joy out of life and hurts us far worse than it does anyone else. There is nothing so depressing as having a grudge against someone. Nothing makes a home so miserable as for the family not to be on good terms. Meeting someone you don’t speak to will spoil any party. So if you have an enemy, forgive him and kiss on both cheeks, not for his sake but simply because it is to making you unhappy and uncomfortable to be stirred up in wrath against him.

Seventh. Keep in circulation. Go around and meet people. Belong to clubs. Travel as much as you can. Have as many interests as possible. Have hosts of friends. That is the way to keep yourself cheerful and jolly and thinking that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Eighth. Don’t hold post-mortems. Don’t spend your life brooding over the mistakes you have made or the sorrows that have befallen on you. What is done is done and cannot be changed, but you can have your whole future life in which to make good. Not all the tears can bring back those we have lost, but we can make life miserable for ourselves and those about us by our unavailing weeping. Quit beating upon your breast because you haven’t as much money as you used to have. Don’t be one of those who never get over things. Have the courage to take misfortune on the chin and come up smiling.

Ninth. Do something for somebody less fortunate than yourself. Minister to other people’s trouble and you will forget your own. Happiness is a coin that we keep only when we give it away.

Tenth. Keep busy. That is the sovereign remedy for unhappiness. Hard work is a panacea for trouble. You never saw a very busy person who was unhappy.


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