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10 tips for a happy life, according to Pope Francis

 Pope Francis attends a meeting of prayer at the Isernia's cathedral on July 5, 2014 in Isernia - Campobasso, Italy.
Pope Francis attends a meeting of prayer at the Isernia's cathedral on July 5, 2014 in Isernia - Campobasso, Italy.
(Franco Origlia/Getty)

Earlier this year, Pope Francis outlined a ten-point plan for happiness. The Top 10 list appeared in an interview for the Argentine magazine Viva, which was released to celebrate Francis' first 500 days in office. As the National Catholic Register reports, Francis was interviewed by Pablo Calvo, "an old acquaintance" of his, which added a familiar and off-the-cuff quality to the interview. Calvo also noted that Francis rarely referenced God during their 77-minute conversation.

Here are Francis' 10 steps for a happy, healthy life.

1) "Live and let live"

The first step to peace and happiness, said Francis, is following the ancient advice of the Romans: Campa e fascia campà, or, "live and let live." This advice is an echo of his now famous "Who am I to judge?" line, which was spoken in the context of his view that the Church should not "interfere spiritually" in the life of any person, gay or straight.

2) "Be giving of yourself to others"

This advice isn't surprising coming from Francis, who has often admonished Catholic ministers and laypersons alike to live charitably toward all. Some of Francis' most well-known comments have to do with his philosophy of economics, which places a special emphasis or "preference" on the poor. Francis also thinks charity extends beyond money, and includes giving one's time to someone who needs it. No matter how it's done, Francis advises against withdrawing into oneself, since that runs the risk of stagnation. And as he put is, "stagnant water is the first to be corrupted."

3) "Move quietly"

For his third bit of advice, Francis cited the novel Don Segundo Sombra, which was written by the Argentine novelist Ricardo Güiraldes. The book, according to the National Catholic Register, follows the journey of its protagonist, who, in his youth "was a rocky stream that ran over everything, but as he became older, he was a running river and in old age was quietly peaceful." Francis' advice is to be more like the older protagonist, moving calmly and slowly through life. The theme of stillness is an aspect of Ignatian spirituality, which Francis, as a Jesuit, has been trained in.

4) Have a healthy sense of leisure

"Consumerism has brought us many anxieties," said Francis, who has often spoken out against what he sees as the negative effects of capitalism. Francis said that in Argentina, he'd often take mothers off guard by asking them how often they played with their children. It's hard to make time to play, and to enjoy art and literature, but "it must be done," he said. This advice echoes a passage from his book Pope Francis: His Life is His Words: "people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport."

5) "Sunday is for family"

Following up on #4, Francis said that once a week, people should take a break from their work lives to spend time with their families. Francis has often spoken highly of the family unit. For example, in a radio interview, he said the concept of family is "necessary for the survival of humanity." Although Francis has gone on record saying that marriage in a religious sense is limited to heterosexuals, he has also suggested that he is open to considering non-traditional forms of marriage. The concept of resting once a week from work is an important one in both Jewish and Christian theology, and is actually one of the 10 Commandments.

6) Find ways to make jobs for young people

Francis noted that the rate of drug use and suicide is high among unemployed people under 25. That crisis, he said, requires us to be creative with helping them find work. For Francis, jobs don't only give a person money — they give her dignity. In a homily last May, the Pope said, "Power, money, culture do not give us dignity. Work, honest work, gives us dignity."

7) Respect nature

This one isn't surprising, either. Francis has discussed environmental concerns before in homilies. And according to the National Catholic Register, he is currently working on various writings about ecology that will "draw attention to the connection between environmental problems and poverty." In one of his more provocative turns of phrase during his interview with Calvo, Francis had this to say about our "degradation" of the environment: "Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?"

8) "Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy"

Joy is one of the hallmarks of Francis' theology. No surprise, then, that one of his secrets to happiness evolves shunning negativity. Francis made headlines earlier this year for including a curious word choice in his first apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. In paragraph 85 he wrote, "One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, sourpusses." Instead of talking about others who frustrate us, Francis advises that it's healthy to let negative things pass quickly and quietly.

9) Stop proselytizing

Yes, you read that right. Francis' recipe for happiness includes cooling it with the aggressive conversion tactics. "The worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes," he said. To Francis, we shouldn't talk with others with the sole goal of persuading them that we're right. Each person, he said, sees the world in his or her own way, and that should be respected. Besides, he thinks that ultimately people will join the Catholic Church if they are attracted to it, not if they are argued into it.

10) Work for peace

Francis hasn't shied away from commenting on international crises. Earlier this week, while addressing the conflict in the Middle East, Francis put out an impassioned plea for the violence to stop: "I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please!" In the past, he's also advocated for those displaced by conflict, and praised those countries, like Sweden, who have taken steps to make things easier for refugees. Francis said that working for peace must be proactive, and never quiet: "Peace is the language we must speak."

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