5 lessons on happiness from Dr Seuss
Story Pieces is running a FREE online course Paths to Happiness: Live Your Best Life Story (open for registration), so we thought we would look at what we can learn from Dr Seuss about happiness.
1. Embrace your individuality
This quote mimics one of my favourite sayings, which is attributed to Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” But many of us have difficulty following this advice. It is especially hard for young people. We grow up wanting to fit in. So, we bend (and sometimes break) ourselves in an effort to conform to our peer group and our parents’ expectations of us. We wear the right clothes, have the right haircut, and engage in approved activities.
Until one day we wake up to find that we have completely lost ourselves. We feel wrong and we’re living a life that we never wanted. We have lost sight of our values and don’t even recognise the person in the mirror. We feel unhappy or even depressed. Accepting ourselves for who we are and living by our own values is one path to greater happiness.
So, take some lessons from people who are disruptors – individuals who do things their own way, are true to their values, or have their own look. Sophia Amoroso is one of those people for me. She shows us that there is more than one way to do something or to be somebody. In her best-selling book #Girlboss, Sophia writes: “I’ve been a drop out, a nomad, a thief, a shitty student, and a lazy employee. I was always in trouble as a kid.” She had no higher education and even dropped out of secondary school. But she worked hard selling vintage finds on eBay and, in a few short years, grew Nasty Girl into a multimillion-dollar company. Iris Apfel is another person who I love for her individuality. In her 90s, Iris eschews the rules in favour of originality and outrageous style. “I don’t think that style has any age. It’s a matter of attitude, attitude, attitude,” she says.
Who do you look up to as a mentor of individuality? What lessons do they have to teach you?
2. Look around you; notice beauty and be inspired
How often do we walk around completely focused inwards on our own thoughts and feelings so that we fail to notice the world around us? How often are we completely focused on our phones and social media? We get from A to B and don’t even notice what’s in between. But by not being in the moment, we fail to notice the beauty that is around us every day – the golden sunrise, the way the light reflects off the clouds, the tiny flower sprouting from the crack in the pavement.
I’m a strong believer on looking for beauty in the world around us, and particularly in the places that we usually consider ugly. There is beauty in the worn and the old, in the rusty iron roof and the discolouration on the concrete. If you don’t believe me, take a look at my Pinterest board jewelled colour. I especially love the photographs of rust, which show an amazing range of beautiful colours in decaying metal.
So, next time you are out and about, make a concerted effort to pay attention and really notice what is around you. Gain inspiration from an unlikely source.
3. Savour the moment
When I look back on my life, I feel that some of my memories are a bit faded and tattered. I know that I had a great time but I can’t connect deeply with the memory. That’s because at the time I didn’t fully appreciate how special the moment was. I didn’t take the time to be fully present. Like many, I have a habit of being too caught up in the past or the future to really notice when something amazing is happening right now. And before I know it, the amazing event is a fading memory and, too late, I realise that this is something I really should have paid attention to.
The amount of happiness that we gain from any experience depends on the way we chose to pay attention to the moments in our life. We can increase the amount of happiness, joy, or excitement that we gain from any event by savouring it. Savouring can occur before, during and after any event. It involves anticipation, which is about generating positive feelings by looking forward to an event, present enjoyment, which is about prolonging positive feelings through our thoughts and behaviours during an event, and reminiscence, where we rekindle positive feelings by looking back on an event with fondness.
Use savouring to increase the amount of happiness you bring into your daily life. And in Story Pieces fashion, why not create a positive memories journal where you commit to recording at least one positive event each week? Describe the event in detail using all your senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste). Write about how it made you feel. Add photographs or drawings. Read through your journal at times when you are feeling down and need a pick-me-up.
4. Never stop reading, learning, or exploring
A book swap chain mail came up in my Facebook newsfeed this week. The idea is to post a copy of one of your favourite books to a previous person in the chain. As the chain is continued eventually you should receive several books in return from complete strangers. What I love about this is that each person involved should receive a bunch of books that perhaps they would otherwise never read. What a fabulous way to keep on learning, to keep on exploring, and to be taken some place in your imagination that you might not otherwise go. It carries the chance to spark interest, amusement and inspiration, all of which are positive emotions that can increase our happiness levels.
This week read something that you wouldn’t normally read or go somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go.
5. Embrace the endings
Life is full of beginnings. But that means that it is also full of endings. Its just the ebb and flow of life – summer fades into autumn, which becomes winter, which gives way to spring, which grows into summer. When we welcome something new into our life, whether it is a new relationship, house, job, or city, we often have to say goodbye to something old that is comfortable and familiar. So new beginnings are at once both joyful and painful, both exciting and uncertain. By acknowledging the full range of feelings that are associated with beginnings and endings, we can develop gratitude for where we have been and bring the lessons we have learned with us.
Here’s some ways to help you effectively embrace endings:
- Let go of your need to hold on to the past or to control the future. Be open to letting things unfold as they will.
- Notice the tiny beginnings and endings that happen in life all the time. When you see that life is full of cycles, it will be easier to deal with a big ending when it comes along.
- Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that occur around beginnings and endings – the joy, excitement, sadness, and fear.
- If possible, give yourself some space between the ending of one thing and the beginning of another, even if it is just one afternoon off to journal what is happening and how you are feeling.
If you would like to discover ways to bring more positivity and happiness into your daily life, register now to join our FREE online course Paths to Happiness: Live Your Best Life Story.