From time to time we are all called upon to give advice to a friend or family member who is feeling gloomy, or lonely, or just plain bored with life. Giving advice is never easy, and most of us aren't trained for it... My theory is that they are all too much focused on the self and not enough on the world of people and things we have to live in. By contrast I came upon a collection of letters by the Rev. Sydney Smith, a nineteenth century English clergyman, who gave practical advice freely to everyone, and his letters are full of wit and charm... It is addressed to Lady Georgiana Morpeth, wife of the Duke of Carlisle, and dated February 16, 1820:"First, live as well as you dare. Second, go into the shower with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold. Third, Amusing books. Fourth, short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea. Fifth, be as busy as you can. Sixth, see as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you. Seventh, and of those acquaintances who amuse you. Eighth, make no secret of low spirit to you friends but talk about them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment. Ninth, attend to the effects that tea and coffee produce upon you. Tenth, compare your lot with that of other people. Eleventh, don't expect too much from human life – a sorry business at best. Twelfth, avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence. Thirteenth, do good, and endeavor to please everybody of every degree. Fourteenth, be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue. Fifteenth, make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant. Sixteenth, struggle little by little against idleness. Seventeenth, don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice. Eighteenth, keep a good blazing fire. Nineteenth, be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion. Twentieth, believe me, dear Lady Georgiana."
I disagree with #12 - I love poetry! But I found his list very helpful and insightful. My favorite is #17 - do yourself justice. Amen.
Listen to it here.