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Health & Balance

The Simple Secret to a Happier Life

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You'll be happier, not to mention more sane, if you focus on the relationships in your life that are reciprocal — the friends and loved ones you can rely on, says Robinson. "Your peace of mind ultimately doesn't depend on the closeness or distance of one person," she explains. "The more healthy relationships you have in your life, the better."

If you've had a long standoff with a relative and you're aching for some closure, consider writing that person a heartfelt and compassionate note, she adds. "Make it simple, not a rehash of past events," Robinson suggests. "Tell them what you appreciate about them and that you look forward to hearing from them on their time and terms." Mail it and let it go, telling yourself that you've given it your best shot. Or write the letter and don't mail it — instead simply use it as a way to release and sort through your feelings. That process alone will make it easier for you to find peace.

If you want to get it all done — and perfectly — at work...

Museum educator Nikki Manning used to feel compulsively driven to complete all her work by the end of the day — and when she couldn't, she carried her anxiety home. "I'd wake up in the middle of the night and begin to write down things I needed to do the next day," says the 27-year-old from Columbia, SC. "My bathroom mirror was covered in sticky notes."

Sure, being a productive and valued staffer is a good thing, but knocking yourself out day after day — whether to achieve perfection on a project or feel "done" — doesn't make sense, since at any well-structured job there will always be fresh deadlines to meet, more paperwork to do, and the like. (It's sort of like the laundry at home — you're never completely caught up.) Plus, if you're consistently working late, you're likely neglecting your well-being, health, and relationships, notes Robinson. Ultimately, the satisfaction that you get from being "on top of things" is fleeting and not a true source of happiness — and it simply isn't worth the steep personal price you're paying.

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