There is one thing that every single person on this planet has in common: one day we will die. It’s not something many of us like to think about and it’s definitely something that many of us fear. The phobia even has a name, thanatophobia. And, as we revealed in this article about facing your fears, if you acknowledge your fear and undress it, you can start to understand why it scares you, and how to tackle it.
But not everyone fears death. In some societies and cultures funerals are a celebration rather than a commiseration. Instead of being sad about the end of a life (a glass half empty mentality), there is a celebration of what has been (the glass half full mindset). For example, in New Orleans there is an event called a jazz funeral that is most often for musicians who have passed away, but anyone can request one. The funeral procession, including a band, starts at the church or funeral home with mournful music but once the loved one has been laid to rest the procession becomes upbeat. A party atmosphere fills the streets and passersby are encouraged to join in and help celebrate.
While none of us know whether death is truly the end, what we do know is that it’s the end of our life on earth. Nowadays, there are so many famous sayings that remind us to make the most of every moment the most famous being the Latin carpe diem, that translates to seize the day. Of course, it’s not realistic to seize every moment, throwing caution to the wind and living a life fueled by our desires - we still have responsibilities like bills to pay and errands to run (that floor won’t hoover itself!). But in Mo Gawdat’s book Solve for Happy, he shares three life-changing lessons on the topic of death that everyone should learn. When you face up to death, that’s when you can live a life that’s full and happy.
Lesson One: Death is Inevitable
You can’t fight death, instead, the best thing you can do is surrender to the fact that one day we all die. Take this moment to flip that thought around, the fact you will one day die means you have been lucky enough to live on this earth.
Lesson Two: Life Is Now
Mo describes the start and end of life like the covers of a book, and they don’t matter as much as the story inside. Think about it, how would you live today if you knew it was your last? Of course, you may not be lying horizontal on a beach in Bali but you can take the time today to enjoy the moments. As Mo notes, if you knew today’s meal was your last would you worry that the waiter was rude, or would you be too busy savouring every mouthful? If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, would you angrily honk your horn or would you crank up the radio and sing along? Every day can’t be perfect, every day is not a holiday, but we can find happiness in the smallest of moments every, single, day.
Lesson Three: Life Is a Rental
We all come into this earth with nothing and we all leave with nothing. Our material things are not really ours, we’re merely ‘renting’ them during our time on this earth. While this sounds a bit sad, it doesn’t have to be, in fact, the truth can free you. ‘If nothing is mine, then nothing can be lost,’ Mo writes. ‘Whenever something moves out of my life, space is created for new things to move in.’ Nothing lasts forever, all we can do is enjoy the flow of life, relish the good times, and learn from the bad.
TODAY’S HAPPINESS TASK
Think of all the experiences you would like to enjoy before you die. Why not create a 'life to-do' list that encourages you to make the most of every moment. Have you always wanted to hike the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland, spend a night under the stars in the Sahara or make a wish at the Trevi Fountain? Fill your list with wonderful experiences that you can't wait to make happen. Now, pick one and make a plan so it happens this year. Remember: we often dream of the things we would love to do and we always think we have the time to do them, but we don't know that. Live each day as if it's your last.
Click here for Day 13 of the Happiness Challenge.