Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Tips on living a good life

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Tips on living a good life

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Okinawa

I was talking with a few friends over tea and coffee, which slowly segued into a semi-counseling session about the difficulties on living a good life. The world is filled with daily challenges, adversity and, at times, confusion. The lengthy discussion was on how to manage life with a positive attitude. What do we have to do to navigate the bumps on the path of life.

My initial advice was committing to a change in your life and examining your mental framework. Then determining what was truly important in your life, then asking yourself what was missing in your life. These were personal discussions met with silence and long gazes into the cup, hoping the tea leaves would relinquish an answer or direction.

No amount of wishing can make your dreams come true. No amount of regret, guilt or feeling sorrow for yourself over past mistakes, will improve your future. Energy spent on negative or unhappy thoughts is a waste of good energy that can be replaced with positive energy. My friend said he had a lot of frustration and pent-up negative emotions, so I told him emotions can harm you, it’s best to let go of negative energy and choose to be happy.

I like what Norman Vincent Peale said: “A positive thinker does not refuse to recognize the negative; he refuses to dwell on it. Positive thinking is a form of thought which habitually looks for the best results from the worst conditions.” My mother was always reading his books, so, I started reading them after she finished. He was quite the guru in the 1950s.

My other friend sitting quietly, glum faced, asked, what do you do when you just feel sad? I suggested that I always try to cheer someone up, and that helps to cheer me up. It’s a paradox, but it’s a small act that begins to turn the corner on sadness. Humor is a social lubricant. Little squirts of humor can go a long way. I like what Mark Twain said: “Humor and laughter are amazing tools. They can turn a serious situation into something to laugh about. They can lighten the mood just about anywhere. Now your mind isn’t filled to the brim with negative emotions. When you are more lighthearted and relaxed then the solution to a situation is often easier to both come up with and implement.” My friend replied: “That won’t work. It’s hard for me to be happy when I’m miserable. Besides, being around happy people is irritating.”

This was our late morning coffee chat, sitting outside under a cloudy sky. But, behind every cloudy sky, the sun is waiting to shine through. Now we were getting hungry, as lunch was approaching. One of the guys started scrolling through the news on his phone. I asked him to stop reading the news while we are talking. I said, “The news is filled with stories of people suffering. These sad stories influence your view of the world, creating a negative internal dialogue, resulting on you focusing on your fears and negativity. Limit your time on the news, it can lead to news overdose, preventing you to see the good surrounding you. I watch the top of the news, that’s it, finished.” To which he replied: “I like the news. It’s stimulating. Reading about the bad stuff, makes me happy that it’s not happening to me.” “That’s not good,” I replied.

Lidiya Kesarovska, founder of Let’s Reach Success, said people should appreciate what they have because “grateful people live great lives.” Kesarovska suggests a gratitude journal where you can write three things you are grateful for every day.

As we walked to the Italian restaurant for our pizza lunch, we jokingly took turns muttering what we were grateful for that day. The answers were: Being alive, having friends, being able to walk, not being sick, a loving relationship, not worrying about today, happy we have a stable job, and a stable life. We were happy just to be us, appreciating the miracle of our existence, then enjoying a large pizza with everything on it and a diet soda on the side.


Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at or at Follow his YouTube channel Hilary’s Quick Talk for more insights.

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