Happy Life Tip 1 – Live in the Moment
It is very easy to get lost in the details of work and day to day life. I am a worrier by nature, and sometimes, even small events at work or at home cause me a fair amount of stress and unhappiness.
Once something bad occurs, it can be difficult to pop out of it, and retain balance and objectivity. When I am in one of my “black moods”, it is easy to just spiral down and get into an even “blacker mood”. Small things that otherwise would not bother me, suddenly become big issues.
When such moments arise, my dogs really anchor me to the present and remind me to enjoy not just the big stuff but all the little moments in-between.
In his book The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama talks about curbing our desires for material things. If we always desire more, it will be difficult to appreciate what we already have. Dogs remind us of this important lesson just by being who they are – happy, goofy, always ready to play, and always appreciative of a good tummy rub.
Telling someone to “live in the moment” is similar to telling someone to “buy low and sell high“.
Easy to say, but very difficult to implement. Dogs, however, make living in the moment seem easy, because that is what they naturally do, every second of the day. My dogs help me stay connected to the world around me and provide me with a fun and sometimes very demanding activity to take my mind away from my troubles.
If you are not a dog person, Dr. Tracy Gaudet has some interesting tips on living in the moment.
Happy Life Tip 2 – Be Positive and Use Positive Methods
There is an Aesop fable about the Sun making a bet with the North Wind on who can get the cloak off a traveller quicker.
The Wind gusted, and blew, and blew and blew, but the traveller just pulled his cloak tighter around himself.
The sun slowly beat down on the traveller, and soon he became hot, started to sweat, and ultimately decided to remove his cloak to cool off.
The moral ?
Persuasion is better than force. It is true with animals and it is true with humans.
When I got my first dog, I started out with forceful aversive techniques. Very quickly, I learned that such techniques may work well initially, but do not work well in the long-term. Reward or positive reinforcement dog training, may take longer to show results, but those results are better and last for a lifetime.
Such techniques have long been studied by psychologists, to modify both animal and human behavior.
Sadly, our current society and culture is one that is very steeped in the use of aversive techniques. If you want some examples, just peruse any online forum page. We value the negative so much so that insults commonly pass for wit and arrogance passes for intelligence.
Our education system, unfortunately, encourages “critical thought” with a much greater emphasis on the “critical” rather than the “thought“. Opps, there I go again, trying to pass an insult off as wit!
I too grew up in that education system, and even though I know positive reinforcement is better, it is still extremely difficult to use such techniques in practice.
In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) talks about the importance of redirecting negative energy (e.g. jealousy, anger) into a positive direction to achieve a more balanced and happy life.
In a social encounter we tend to ignore neutral and sometimes even positive behavior. For example, If someone is sitting quietly beside us at the airport (neutral behavior), we ignore them. If someone is trying strike up a friendly conversation with us (positive behavior), we are usually too busy and reply in monosyllables, and ultimately ignore them.
On the other hand, any perceived negative behavior often gets an explosive negative response. For example, if someone is talking loudly on the phone, or is monopolizing the shared armrest, we get irritated, annoyed, or even angry.
The Dalai Lama points out that this negative energy hurts our own quality of life. In contrast, if we choose to respond positively to a neutral or positive stimulus (e.g. be friendly and strike up a friendly conversation with the person next to us), and ignore the negative stimulus (e.g. let our neighbor use the armrest, after all, its not such a big deal); then at worst we walk away from the social encounter in a neutral state of mind, and more likely we would have had a pleasant conversation and a positive social encounter.
Happy Life Tip 3 – Control the Force
Dogs are extremely sensitive to the energy/force of the people and animals around them. When I am angry, or stressed, my dogs pick that up immediately and reflect the same energy, except with much greater gusto!
Therefore, I must control my energy and always remain calm when I am with my dogs, especially when they are stressed. This is a very difficult lesson to learn, because I have a bad temper, that can be challenging to control. But I know that if I lose my cool, things will get a lot worse, and my dogs may become very unhappy and unbalanced. This motivates me to try and control my own negative force.
Dogs can sense your inner energy/force so it is not possible to pretend with them. Which is a good thing, because you cannot pretend with yourself either. If you just suppress the bad energy, rather than control and dissipate it, the bad stuff will resurface at some later time. Too much suppression, is unhealthy, and may cause unexpected eruptions down the road.
Even though it has been challenging to control my bad energy, I find that it has brought good improvement to my quality of life. I commonly say many things, in anger, that I later regret. It is much better not to say anything at all. Even Jedi knights have to learn to control the Force.
May the Force be with you.
Happy Life Tip 4 – Let It Go
I think that dogs and the young are generally happier because they do not have emotional baggage. Holding grudges may sometimes hurt the target of our grudge, but most often, it only hurts us, and sometimes those who love us most.
Dogs do not hold grudges. There are some dogs who have been terribly abused by their owners, but they still respond with a smile and a lick to everyone they see.
We should take a chapter from that book.
I have found that simply ignoring and avoiding nasty people work best. Sometimes this may be difficult, but actively thinking of something else, or doing a fun activity usually pops me away. I just play with my dogs or look through their pictures. Sometimes I write or draw.
If we practice forgiveness and just let it go, we will be happier, have more friends, and have more memory cells available for the good things in life.
Happy Life Tip 5 – Laugh, and the World Laughs with You
Remember, men need laughter sometimes more than food. ~~[Anna Fellows Johnston]
While current research does not definitively show that laughter actually improves our health, it undeniably improves our quality of life. As we get older, however, it is easy to leave humor behind.
My dogs remind me to laugh many times every day. My Shiba Inu has this one move where he puts his head down on the ground with his butt sticking up in the air – it is just too precious. He thinks it is such a great “move” that he does it all the time. Sometimes he flips over and lands on his back. Dogs have so many goofy antics that you cannot help but laugh.
If you don’t have a dog, remember to share laughter with your family and friends.