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Shannon Says: You Hold the Keys to a Life Well Lived

By Dr. Shannon Terrell Gordon

Photo by Leah Yetter


Some people say living well means having certain possessions or exotic experiences.  However, research shows that once basic needs are met, more possessions do not equal more happiness. In fact, building financial security is far more connected with long term well-being than any temporary endorphin rush triggered by short-term purchases.


Besides, don’t you want things with more staying power to form the foundation of your life experience? Good news! Research demonstrates circumstances only contribute 10 percent toward whether people experience persistent well-being.  


Those same studies show that genetics influence our experience of the world by 40 percent.  It is here the biology of mental and other health challenges comes into play. More good news: Treatment for mental health is effective, and recovery can be expected. Even chronic illnesses do not have to mean chronic debilitation. 


If you’ve been following the math, you’ve realized that we each hold the keys to at least 50 percent of what contributes to our well-being. Isn’t it wonderful we have so much influence over our experience?


To live well in the days ahead, I will choose based on what science says about the factors I can control. What decisions will you make today toward living well?


  • I will take time daily to be still and connect with the eternal. Prayer or meditation elicits the body’s relaxation response and is a vehicle through which we can release stressors. These same practices also connect us to energy for more effective living.


  • I will dedicate myself to honesty, personal responsibility, reliability and tact. These approaches are proven to remarkably reduce life stressors.     


  • I will practice self-care. I will get regular sleep and aim to laugh at least once a day. I will drink more water and eat fewer refined sugars. I will spend time in nature and sunshine (with sunscreen). I will take breaks or vacations to recharge.


  • I will practice optimism. Decades of research defines this approach as choosing to see challenges as specific, temporary, solvable and external to one’s sense of self. People who choose to think of life as long and easy are 40 percent happier and more generous. 


  • I will be intentional about people with whom I spend time. Unhappiness and loneliness are contagious, and positive social connections are vitally important.  


  • I will tend to my emotions daily. Whatever it takes, I will make peace with the unchangeable past. I will practice gratitude and look for the good in the present. I will hold hope for the future.


  • I will shape my surroundings to favor well-being. I will surround myself with colors, clothing, décor, sounds and smells that foster feelings of satisfaction, peace and contentment.   


  • I will order my life to live from my strengths with positive purpose, to do what I do best.  


Dr. Shannon Terrell Gordon leads Macon’s River Edge Behavioral Health and River Edge Foundation. Shannon is a researcher, author, speaker and teacher to help each person live his or her best life and to help leaders make the most meaningful impact possible.


Find more tips from her on Instagram with #drshannonsays. Contact her at

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