The one thing that we're all looking for in life is happiness. Guest contributor Emily shares her tips on how you can make your life better...and ultimately happier.
George Bernard Shaw was a 19th century Irish playwright and author with a lot to say about our relentless search for happiness and self-fulfillment. I've taken some of his most popular quotes and turned them into life lessons, mostly directed at myself but as we're all on this journey of self discovery together, I hope that you will gain something from it too. This article probably should have been titled "7 solid bits of advice by George Bernard Shaw that might make your life a little better" but that's not quite as punchy is it?
1. Self Educate
"Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself"
Having access to thousands of educational resources is one of the best things about living in the digital age. There's always something to learn, and if you find yourself stuck in a rut at your day job, why not take a night time sushi making class? Learn sign language, knit yourself a pair of knee-high socks, do a crash course in coding or learn how to palm read and impress (or embarrass) your friends at parties. There's no limit to what or how much you can learn - no one's brain ever exploded into a million pieces from knowing too much. It's easy to sit back and be a lazy office chair potato, but what great stories ever came of that? Stop watching YouTube clips of baby turtles and do a cupcake-decorating course. And then post photos on Instagram, I want to see!
2. Become a Regular Volunteer
"What you are to do without me I cannot imagine"
Volunteer work is both rewarding and a great way to meet new people. There are always opportunities available for a wide range of skills, from physical labour to writing and admin. You don't need to make a big commitment, just set aside a day every few weeks or months and select a charity or line of work you're interested in. Whether that's working in a cattery (personally, this sounds like a dream), event coordinating for a local not-for-profit or environmental field work. There are plenty of resources online to help you connect with charities and lend your skills. SEEK volunteer is a good place to start.
3. Spend Time with Animals
"Animals are my friends...and I don't eat my friends."
You might think that this is a strange thing to add to this list, but spending time with animals can teach you a lot about yourself. We are constantly surrounded by people and we have a tendency to overthink our interactions with them. Animals on the other hand, don't care about why their date didn't reply to their last text message. In fact, they don't text at all. Animals don't understand the concept of waiting three days before making contact for a second date (unless they now train chimps in text etiquette but I am not aware of such studies).
Forgive the crass generalisation, but animals carry on without worrying about things that aren't an immediate threat to their lives. Connecting with our furry, scaly, or feathery friends can bring a kind of perspective you might miss if you're hanging out with humans all the time. Spend the day with your pet, or take your neighbours' dog for a walk. Watch him sniff literally everything. To him, the world is an exciting, smelly, colourful place even in black and white. His focus is not on yesterday when you threw his stick so far he couldn't find it, his focus is on all the wondrous smells filling his tiny dog nostrils. Don't you want to be a little more like that?
«Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.»
Roll your eyes all you like dear reader, but that doesn't burn calories (does it?) There's no getting around the fact that exercise is important and you should be doing it everyday. Exercise is not just for fitness freaks anymore, it's for everyone and it's about improving your quality of life and ensuring you're fit in old age. Find an exercise routine that works for you even if it's just walking for half an hour and doing wall sits while brushing your teeth (this is a perfectly legitimate form of exercise). If you find yourself constantly lost for time when it comes to exercise, try the 7 minute workout smartphone app. It may only be 7 minutes, but it's definitely a start! Once you change your attitude towards exercise, you're that much closer to becoming one of those people who says things like "I can't imagine not starting my day with a 6k jog!" and then hopefully you'll actually start jogging everyday instead of just that one time in 2011.
5. Stop Wanting Things
"Doing what needs to be done may not make you happy, but it will make you great."
Wait let me rephrase that; stop wanting material things that will clutter your home and never truly satisfy you the same way that experiences, social interactions and a high interest savings account will. Here's what you should do instead: make a list of things you want at this very moment (material, immaterial, life goals, relationship desires, the hot pink sparkly stilettos you saw in Marie Claire) and rank them by level of importance. How many of these are impulsive choices you just made up because you saw a flashy billboard on your way to work? Decide whether you will still want them three months from now, and if you had them at this very second would you be truly happy for longer than three minutes? You may realise soon enough that the things you "want" are not worth it if they only satisfy impulsive desires. Or you may realise that you do in fact desperately need a pair of hot pink sparkly stilettos, in which case good on you for getting your priorities in order (I am not being sarcastic, I am quite jealous).
I suppose what Shaw is getting at is that you should be aiming for what makes you great, rather than what makes you (momentarily) happy.
6. Say No to Women's Magazines
«If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.»
Popular women's magazines are mostly sponsored by advertisers who don't have your best interests at heart. Advertisements in magazines are like that bitchy friend who says things like "you are healthy, smart and successful but you'd be so much prettier if you had Lauren Conrad's nose" (I sincerely hope you don't have a friend like this). Resist the urge to pick up that glossy magazine on the newsstand, trust me you'll feel better for it. Research has found that women who read magazines feel worse about themselves than women who don't. The shiny, photos hopped world inside a magazine is just that - photoshopped, edited, completely unattainable - and not to get all academic - but heavily influenced by ideologies that are designed to facilitate consumerism.
Most women's magazines create false perceptions about what you should look like, what your aspirations should be and what you should be buying. Basically, they make you feel like you don't own enough stuff. Girl, check your wardrobe, drawers and kitchen pantry - you have a lot more than most people. Flick through Woman's Day while waiting at the Doc's, but don't make it part of your literary diet. Pick up a book instead, and don't feel bad if you're hovering around the chick lit section of the book store. Empower yourself with some smart chick lit like The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, or something by Marian Keyes for a quick read that won't make you feel like you should be booking in for a nose job consultation.
7. Quit Worrying about Wrinkles
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing"
Youth is a state of mind, wrinkles are inevitable. No matter what way you look at it, wrinkles are a mark of how far you've come in life. Don't equate wrinkles with being too old to do things, wrinkles won't hold you back, only your mind will do that. Yes, one day you will wake up and realise you're losing all your teeth and your chin sags in a downward direction, but that's life. Remember, no one will ever tell you you're too old to ride the water slide*. If you're really so concerned about wrinkles, wear sunscreen but honestly, ask your grandma, the only people who worry about wrinkles are the ones who don't have them yet.
I hope you find these 7 ways a little bit helpful and inspiring. Don't forget to share your own tidbits in the comments section below!