Advice from Sydney Smith in case you're feeling low

Some people, I know, feel a tad low on New Year’s Eve. If you happen to be one of those, here’s one of my favourite letters - sent by the great Sydney Smith to his friend , Lady Georgiana Morpeth, on 16 February 1820. The advice is almost two hundred years old, but I reckon it’s still worth heeding. Happy New Year!

Dear Lady Georgiana,

Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done, so I feel for you.

1st: Live as well as you dare.

2nd: Go into the showerbath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold.

3rd: Read amusing books.

4th: Take short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea.

5th: Be as busy as you can.

6th: See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.

7th: And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

8th: Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment.

9th: Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.

10th: Don't expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.

11th: Compare your lot with that of other people.

12th: Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.

13th: Do good and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.

14th: Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th: Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.

16th: Struggle little by little against idleness.

17th: Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th: Keep good blazing fires.

19th: Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

20th: Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana.

Very truly yours, Sydney Smith.

Gyles Brandreth