Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Mass. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next 18 years helping grow it to new heights. After Advance Auto Parts purchased it in 2005, he was free to focus on philanthropy, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy.
The following article is based on his new book, “Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and — Finally — Let the Sunshine In,” which was co-written with clinical psychologist Dr. Howard Rankin.
Patkin lives with his wife, Yadira, their son, Josh, and two dogs, Tucker and Hunter.
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve come up with 10 simple things people can do to become happier in 2013. You don’t have to do all of them at once — just focus on the three or four that resonate most with you and do those.
If you don’t exercise, start.
You already know exercise keeps you healthy and helps you control your weight. But did you know it’s also a natural antidepressant? Even a 20-minute walk every other day is great for both your body and mind if you do it consistently. And the good news is you can do it with your spouse or kids —and spending more time with them is another shortcut to happiness.”
Be easier on yourself.
A lot of New Year’s resolutions are little more than thinly disguised vehicles for beating yourself up. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement but it needs to come from a place of love.
Many of us have a we’re-never-good-enough-or- doing-enough mindset that’s antithetical to happiness. It’s not easy to change these ingrained thought patterns, but it can be done. And becoming aware of this tendency is the first step.
Find some way this year to put your gifts and talents to work.
Talent wants to express itself. If your job doesn’t allow it to do so, find something that does. Playing to your strengths brings real happiness, and when you combine those strengths with a desire to do something good, it’s a double whammy.
Strengthen family relationships.
Is your marriage running on autopilot? What about your relationship with your kids? Do you come home from work and sit in front of the computer while they play in another room (or worse, watch TV)? Too many Americans fail to engage their families in a meaningful way.
Celebrate your spouse.
And speaking of your marriage, how is it? If it’s mired in negativity or characterized by bickering or tension, you’ll never be happy. The good news is that it may not take a lot of effort to dramatically change the tenor of your marriage. Random acts of kindness are always powerful, and that’s even truer inside a marriage.
Let the people you appreciate know it.
Yes, of course you need to let your close friends and family members know how you feel about them. That’s a given. But what about your coworkers? Your barber? Your child’s teacher? The neighbor who keeps an eye on your house when you’re away?