5 life lessons we can learn from Audrey Hepburn that will make us happier

Audrey knew a thing or two when it came to health and living well!

By Bronte Chaperon
Audrey Hepburn probably has one of the most recognisable faces in history.
While most people would probably associate Audrey with her successful Hollywood film career - who could forget her incredible performances in Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady or Roman Holiday? - she was much more than that.
Not only was Audrey a talented actress, she was a wonderful person. She dedicated much of her life to volunteering and would often use her celebrity for good; raising awareness of causes and organisations that were important to her.
In her personal life, she was just as thoughtful. She was kind, loving and placed a lot of value on living well and feeling good.
Here are the top five lessons we think we should all take from the lovely Audrey Hepburn:

1. Find an exercise you actually enjoy

While Audrey wasn't known for her athletic ability, there were a few activities she enjoyed doing that would've been great for her physical health.
Audrey was a trained and talented ballet dancer (which explains her natural grace and petite frame) and liked to go on long walks.
No F45 training, half-marathons or grueling six day gym schedule for Audrey - and it worked for her.
From this we can gather that if you're doing an exercise you hate because you think it will help you lose weight faster, don't.
Find an exercise that you enjoy that will give you joy - life is short, why spend it doing an exercise you simply endure? There are plenty of fun exercises that are great for toning the body and will boost your mood, too.
Exercises that are fun:
  • Dancing - not just Zumba, the dancing you do around the kitchen when a great song comes on the radio
  • Skipping with the kids
  • Walking the dog (seeing their face light up with excitement just makes our hearts beam!)
  • Going on hikes with friends
  • Sex - yes, it does burn calories and is a great workout
  • Have a jump on the trampoline with the kids
  • Do some relaxing yoga or pilates
  • If you're on holiday, why not hire a bike and see the city while exercising?
Exercises you need to stop doing because we know you secretly hate them:
  • Running (if you simply do not like running, don't do it. There are other cardio exercises you can do.)
  • Any gym routine that makes you feel dread rather than exhilaration
  • Burpees, because why put yourself through it?

2. Eat delicious, healthy foods - but don't skip treats

As Now To Love has previously reported, Audrey was a big fan of eating well, and we don't mean that she was into clean eating - she loved carbs and chocolate, and that's what we call eating well!
Audrey's son Luca Dotti wrote in his tell-all book Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother's Kitchen, that his mum enjoyed eating pasta and would eat it almost every day.
"People think because she was skinny that she had an eating disorder, but it's not true. She loved Italian food and pasta. She ate a lot of grains, not a lot of meat, and a little bit of everything," Dotti recalls.
In an interview with Yahoo! Health Dotti elaborated even further on Hepburn's love of a good pasta.
"[Her favorite meal was] pasta with tomato sauce. This was always everywhere, when she was coming home from a trip. Pasta with tomato sauce may sound easy, but to make it well is difficult, and no two results are always the same. Tomato sauce is not only tomatoes. Maybe with a little bit of potato, or carrot."
Apparently Hepburn also loved potatoes, enjoyed more of a 'flexitarian' approach to food and only ate until she was 80 per cent full.
She did follow some rules: no snacking and drink lots of water. Audrey also ate lots of grains and dairy and plenty of colourful food, including fruits and veggies.
A woman after our own hearts, the actress and humanitarian also loved a good breakfast, in fact, she ate it every day without fail.
"Mum, like any wise family doctor, believed in the virtues of a good breakfast - she never skipped it, not even on her monthly 'detox' day when she ate only plain yoghurt and grated apple," says Dotti.
The takeaway from all of this? If a woman as fabulous as Audrey Hepburn doesn't care about indulging in pasta, chocolate and potatoes then neither should you!

3. Be charitable and volunteer

Audrey Hepburn was undoubtedly one of the greatest actress' of her time, but that doesn't mean she wasn't humble and kind.
Audrey volunteered and was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador from 1988 to her death in 1993, working in poor communities in Asia, Africa and South America. According to UNICEF Australia, this charity in particular was especially important to Audrey as the organisation had helped her 44 years earlier when she was in need.
Audrey was a teenager living in Holland during World War II, and post-war was very malnourished. UNICEF provided food and medical relief to Audrey, among many others, when the war was over.
According to the UNICEF website, Audrey has said: "I can testify what UNICEF means to children," said the late actress, "because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II. There's a big difference between dying of starvation and malnutrition, of course, but I was very, very undernourished."
"UNICEF has a wonderful long arm, trying to reach the most wounded, and UNICEF works in a marvelous way to help people retain their dignity," said Hepburn.
"There is just no question that there is a moral obligation for those who have, to give to those who have nothing."
It's clear volunteering was important to the actress and humanitarian - Audrey knew that when you can, you should try to help others.
Audrey has reportedly said: "As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."
So find a cause you're passionate about and start dedicating a portion of your time to helping those less fortunate - it's good for the community and your wellbeing.
Need some ideas? Why not try:
  • Volunteering at the SPCA
  • Picking up rubbish at your local beach
  • Donating blood
  • Volunteering abroad - you can work on a variety of projects, including: wildlife sanctuaries, conservation projects, in schools and orphanages
  • Mentoring a child - Pillars is popular in New Zealand
  • Donating money to a needy child
  • Volunteering in a retirement home

4. Keep your mind sharp

Between social media, video games and mindlessly eating during nightly Netflix sessions, our brains don't get much of a work out.
Audrey knew the importance of keeping your mind open and sharp - she could apparently speak six languages. Hepburn has been filmed speaking in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and her native Dutch.
Keeping your mind stimulated and on the ball ensures you build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them.
As a bonus, you'll also sleep better at night, challenge yourself, reduce your risk of mental decline and increase your brain's vitality.
Why not try:
  • Doing a puzzle, sudoku or crossword
  • Reading the paper instead of watching the news
  • Having a passion project
  • Learning a new language
  • Reading a book
  • Daydreaming
  • Play a game with someone like checkers or chess

5. Prioritise happiness

Luca Dotti opened up to Yahoo! Lifestyle about his famous mother, and said she always had a zest for life: "She had more than a positive outlook. She was naïve in the sense that she was like a young girl.
"Every time that she found something new, or went to a market, or got a new recipe, she wasn't blasé. She was so excited, like a little girl.
"She took life by the day. … She never sounded panicked by the idea of being sick. She was more worried about others, about us, about the kids. … My mother, she was really interested in living the day. She was very interested in life."
Having a positive outlook or learning to appreciate the smaller things in life may not come naturally, but it is great for your health and mental wellbeing. If you struggle to think positively or prioritise happiness, remember: it's never too late to learn how.
And after enough practise, you may even find yourself thinking positively without trying!
Of happiness Audrey has reportedly said: "The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters." She has also apparently said: "I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."
What a wise woman!