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Wellness: On Oliver Sacks’s “Gratitude” & the Dalai Lama’s “The Art to Happiness”

October has been a month for mental regrounding: keeping the peace as midterms creep in, highlight the reality of mental illnesses, and most importantly, as #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek underlined, basically the need to keep ourselves in check. You can adopt tools and ideas from a wide range of activities into daily routines to help remedy internal turmoil. Some find peace through yoga or cardio, while others lean towards painting, writing, or music. 

If you’re an avid reader and have time to grab a pair of books, these following recommends are great to add to your shelf. Although, if midterms are taking over your schedule, or generally on the run, they serve tremendously well as audiobooks, too. In fact, I would say these are pieces better if you listen rather than read. You internalize material differently through hearing, and the content that these two authors provide will be taken in better if it’s spoken to you. 

I recommend anyone seeking therapeutic ease the following two gems: Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, and The Art of Happiness by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.   

Who is Oliver Sacks? He was a physician and professor of neuroscience, but I found out about him through two of his major written works: Musicophilia and Gratitude. This last one is more of a select group of four reflective essays. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, his last months were spent swimming, traveling, playing the piano, and writing; out came four essays that were eventually published together as Gratitude. Sacks taps into what he believes are values everyone needs to have a wonderful life while expressing his humble gratitude for being gifted the opportunity to live the time he had. Mercury touches his pleasures of old age; My Own Life, the appreciation of a life fully lived; My Periodic Table, about his lifelong love for the Periodic Elements and his own mortal life; and Sabbath, his last written piece. 

“Because I believe we are all the same. We are all human beings.” 

– His Holiness


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Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, published alongside Dr. Howard’s C. Cutler “The Art of Happiness”, where he provides a step-by-step guide on how to lead happiness from within yourself in order to manifest it in the outside world. He believes that a calm mind is essential to find happiness, and the best way to put a mind at ease is through meditation. The book is divided into five parts: “The Purpose of Life”, “Human Warmth and Compassion”, “Transforming Suffering”, “Overcoming Obstacles” and “Closing Reflections on Living a Spiritual Life”. 

Back in my second year, I found it very difficult to find the positive side of things, especially within myself and felt hungry for more. At the moment I wasn’t clear on what that ‘more’ meant, so I initially thought more money, more clothes, etc. I don’t remember who told me about Gratitude, but I recognized the author because I read him before, so I gave the audiobook a shot. Dalai Lama was because of an Instagramer I was following at the time, I remember he posted a picture of his bookshelf, and The Art of Happiness stuck out amongst the rest for me. I googled the title, and thought it would serve as a cornerstone, too. 

I remember walking through campus with these two works read aloud through my headphones, and slowly feel better about myself and find peace. I only wish the same bliss for you guys, so I hope the material serves you in any way. 

Ana Teresa Solá is a Creative Writing student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus and aspires to further her education with an M.S. in Journalism. Solá covers all things society and culture, and advocates for human equality.
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