One of my favorite questions is “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be and why?” I get a lot of funny looks, but I actually find peoples’ responses very insightful. It’s even more entertaining when they answer quickly and know exactly which animal and why. It’s so interesting to me because everybody’s answers are always so different and often surprising. For example, I asked one of my best friends this and she replied “a rich family’s spoiled little dog.” I was confused so I clarified “of ALL the things in the world you could be, all of the magnificent, majestic creatures in the world” – lions, tigers, eagles, elephants – “and you choose a pom pom frou frou dog?” I mean, no judgement, but not even a big dog?
She replies coolly “Of course! Food and naps whenever I want! I would be spoiled and I’d be happy. Dogs are always happy.” Shut me right up! And not just because of the food and naps. I really got to thinking about what she said. That’s when it hit me.
Have you ever noticed how happy dogs are? Seriously. They are happy to wake up, to go outside, when you come home, to go on car rides, when they hear a noise, when they see a person or another dog, or animal, or something on the sidewalk… Anything, anytime, anywhere. They’re just freaking happy. I think we as humans could learn a few things from them and ever since that epiphany, I have been trying to live my life like a dog. Yep, a dog.
You know who else is genuinely happy and excited about life? Toddlers and other small children. Since my original hypothesis, I have added tiny children to my list of creatures/beings that adults should emulate. It turns out that the simplest things in life are also the most profound. Here are 4 simple life lessons from the miniature versions of ourselves and our best furry friends which I believe can have a profound impact on the quality of our lives.
Next time you’re moseying around your city pay attention to the dogs and little kids. Their natural state is happy. I believe this is mostly because they live in the present. They aren’t worried about that next work project 6 months out, nor bogged down by all of the pain and hurt from yesterday. They are just present. This is one of the most impactful lessons I have learned in large part from yoga. Just be present. Pay attention to your friend at dinner, look around on a walk through your neighborhood, look up from your phone and engage in the world around you. More presence = more happiness.
Expanding on the first lesson, don’t only be present, but be free! I heard a quote, (which may or may not be attributed to Buddha depending on the website you visit) that says “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Those things that we tend to hold on to – grudges, anger, unforgiveness, hurt, pain – are toxic to us. In order to be free, you must let go of all of those things in your life which weigh you down.
If something bad happens, if a situation doesn’t go your way, if someone acts malicious towards you feel it. Process it. Learn the lesson. Feel all of the feelings associated with it and allow yourself time to heal. After that time – let it go!
Have you ever accidentally stepped on your dog’s paw? They yelp and are hurt but then they move forward. Have you ever seen a parent discipline a small child? They’re upset, they cry and react, then they too move forward. Be like a toddler or a dog. When something happens act, allow yourself to feel the feelings honestly, and then let it go. We as adults tend to carry around so much emotional baggage that it can begin to pull us and our spirits down.
Have you ever tried to feed a young child something they weren’t fond of (i.e. broccoli, lima beans, carrots, most vegetables) They tell you what they don’t like. Although this is problematic for parents and necessary for nutrition, I believe we adults could take a cue from their blatant honesty. As we get older we lose this. We tend to go to things, commit to events, take on roles, the list keeps going and going, of things that we don’t particularly care for or want, but continue to do. While this is necessary in lots of cases, never do so to a point where you aren’t being true to yourself. If you don’t like doing something don’t agree to make others happy. It’s okay to say no. Always be honest with yourself first and stay true to you… Even when it is hard for others to digest… (like lima beans)
Last, but definitely not least, is one of my favorites: Be curious!!! Never stop exploring. Kids and dogs are excited to live and just be. They are enchanted by the world around them. We could all use an extra dose of curiosity in our everyday routines. One of my favorite quotes in life is by Roald Dahl: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Let’s add some curiosity, magic, and adventure into our everyday!