There is a Chinese proverb that says: ?Whoever loves and understands a garden will find contentment within.? Now I often visit the zoo, which is set in beautiful gardens. While I?m there I can see that we can learn a lot about happiness from observing nature.
What are some tips we can learn? Here are the top 10.
1. Find and value our niche
The animals and plants in a forest all have a purpose ? a niche. In a balanced ecosystem they work together in harmony. When the balance is lost the system falls apart. Food chains are destroyed, animals become extinct and land degradation sets in.
Like plants and animals, each of us has a purpose for being here. If we took away jobs from society, the balance would be lost. Observe in the media what happens when school teachers, bus drivers or any other profession goes on strike for a while. Chaos!
Years ago I did some training to become a salesperson in a fitness club. During the training the instructor mentioned how he once spoke to a person who said he was ?just a cleaner? in a school. The instructor told the cleaner that he is not ?just a cleaner?. The instructor then pointed out that by cleaning away the rubbish, the cleaner was preventing children in the school from getting ill, and possibly dying from diseases, so he had an important job to do. The instructor mentioned how no one should understate their jobs, as all jobs are worthwhile. Saying we are ?just a?? devalues ourselves and the importance of our jobs.
Sadly society often values people on things like their job, class, looks or wealth, and overlooks people?s kindness, compassion, generosity and other positive traits.
Be proud of whatever talents, skills and positive attributes that you have, however humble you perceive them to be. We are all needed.
Plants follow the light; they grow towards the sun. Without sunlight they die.
In a spiritual sense we can think of ?the light? as love, harmony, peace and other positive elements. They help us soar to our true potential. They give our lives meaning. They can give us extra happiness.
Hatred, bitterness, jealousy and other negative feelings, however, waste energy, destroy creativity and can hinder our health, happiness and success.
Seek more of ?the light? in our lives.
? The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.?
– Anne Frank
Nature is constantly changing. The seasons change. The climate changes. We change as we make the transition from children to adults.
Some people think that they are the way they are, so they don?t need to adapt to the changing environment and other inevitable changes in life. They might blame their relatives or childhood for how happy, healthy and successful they are, and use them as reasons not to change. ?I?m always sad because my mother is always sad! It runs in the family.? This is not taking responsibility for our lives.
Accept that change is inevitable, so fighting it is pointless; it wastes vital energy and can lead to unhappiness. Rather than thinking of change as something to resent, view it with interest, and as a way to expand our lives and grow.
So what can we do to be adaptable? We might need to be retrained; perhaps overcome destructive old habits and replace them with new helpful ones; go on a stress management, cooking or parenting course. Whatever the changes are, being adaptable is vital for success, good health and extra happiness.
When we plant seeds it takes time for them to grow shoots. Before the leaves start to show nothing seems to happen for a while, but things are going on beneath the surface of the soil. Like seeds, when we ?sow? ideas and aim to be happier, it can take time to see results. Be patient.
5. Aim for balance in our lives
Nature thrives when it?s in balance. Plants and animals need enough water, nutrients and sunlight to flourish. Too much or too little and they can get ill and die; same with our bodies.
For extra happiness we need to balance how much food we eat, our body weight, stress levels and so on. High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood fats are a few signs that our bodies are out of balance.
Striking balance in our lives can be a challenge in our chaotic world. Here are some tips to help find balance.
Learn from those who are successful, happy and healthy. Ask them questions. Read their biographies or success stories. What philosophies do they have? What coping mechanisms do they use? What are they thinking, doing and believing that helps make them happy?
Find an area of your life that you?d like to have more balance in. Identify one or more ways that you could make it more balanced. Choose at least one way and put it into practice. Later on assess how successful it was. If necessary, do this with your other ideas.
6. Eat the way nature intended
I was listening to the news on the radio a few years ago when a vet came on air. He said that more and more dogs are becoming obese because their owners are feeding them junk food. He highlighted that junk food is not suitable for dogs and dog owners should not feed it to them.
As I?ve studied nutrition, I was very glad to hear this segment. I then wished a dietitian would come on the radio and say a similar sort of thing to parents about feeding their children junk food. ?Scandal, junk food not suitable for dogs, but parents feed it to children!? is a headline I?d love to hear.
Our bodies are made to eat fruit, vegetables and other natural foods. Only in the last few decades have many societies started eating a lot of unhealthy and artificial foods.
A happy mind needs the right fuel. A balance of B vitamins, certain minerals, essential fats and so on can help make us happier. Not having enough omega-3 fats, for example, can cause depression.
UK nutritionist Patrick Holford discusses the link between food and mood in his book Optimum Nutrition for the Mind. He explains how healthy eating habits can raise IQ, enhance happiness, reduce aggression, and help treat and prevent mental health problems. Future articles on this website will cover happiness and nutrition in more detail.
7. Continue to grow
Life is abundant with growth. Plants grow. Animals grow. We grow ? spiritually, mentally, physically? ? to survive. Do not stagnate. Keep learning, growing and improving.
We should aim to keep growing no matter what age we are. My late grandfather did a college course aged in his 70s. He died shortly afterwards, so he didn?t have much time to use it, but as he did something he wanted to do before he died, he was a happier man because of it.
8. Make time to rest
Some people I know are always doing something. They rarely take time-out to relax. They told me what they do; it was exhausting! Full-time work, after-hours study, taking their kids to and from sport miles away from home and more. I?m worried they could get burn-out if they don?t make an effort to relax more.
We all need rest. Meditation, day dreaming and the like are vital to restore our energy levels. Add regular chill-out time to your day and watch your energy and happiness levels improve. A few fifteen minute breaks throughout the day might be all you need.
Animals in the wild rest ? they do not work full-on without a break while they are awake. Learn from them.
? Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.?
– Lao Tzu
9. Make time to enjoy ourselves
Many animals play and have fun; it adds extra happiness to their lives. Remember the importance of putting regular time aside to enjoy ourselves. Sport, recreation, laughter and happy times with friends and family add years to our life and life to our years.
10. Accept that loss is part of life
Loss is a normal part of life. After a loss, it?s important to look to the future and, in time, move on and make the most of our lives.
When we lose something it can open-up the door to new opportunities. Look for the opportunities rather than focusing on what we have lost.
? For happiness, one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.?
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American writer and aviation pioneer
? There?s always hope as every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.?
– Author Unknown