Happiness, a topic worth exploring…
This can be a confusing and taboo topic.
Sometimes I get sick of social media and pull into an introspective hole. I come out the other end with some new insights, pages of hand written notes or a blog I feel that’s worth sharing. Today is one of those days.
At one point or another we have all had the thought,
“Hey, am I happy?
“What is happiness?
I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of posts and videos that address this topic. None of which I have read…
The internet is at a point where if it’s not an original thought, someone has most likely said it better.
So in today’s post, I highlights some of my ideas around happiness based off reflections and insights during a lifelong pursuit.
Before we go any further I want to express that I’m not a doctor, a psychologist, therapist or happiness expert but I’m just a guy who’s worked with hundreds of people driving them to be healthier, fitter and happier.
Remember professional help should always be your first point of contact if you’re dealing with mental health issues.
You: “So Ian… if you’re so deep and insightful, what is this happiness you speak of?”
Happiness is combination of internal and external environment coming together as one
You: WTF does that mean Ian? lol i’m going to stop reading now
Bare with me, before I touch on the underlying subtlety’s of “happiness” I want to preface, as an emotionally sound human you are designed to feel sad, happy, angry, disappointed, fearful and everything in between.
You: Okay continue, i’m listening…
Think about training your body, results don’t happen over night. There’s an entire time invested process involved.
Cultivating happiness, emotional stability and joy takes practice.
It’s not like BAM you wake up in a blissed out state. It’s a pursuit that should begin but never end.
Happiness is a tricky one because there’s no tangible object that can be measured but only a feeling and sensation.
Happiness isn’t a macro, PR, ripped selfie, trending supplement, marketing ploy to get you to buy something so it’s often overlooked by the fitness community and in my opinion a fundamental part of being healthy.
If you can’t buy it and no ones selling it where does it come from?
I touched on internal and external environment let’s delve deeper into your Internal environment;
Physiological aspects like
-Breath and breathing patterns
-Sympatheic vs parasympathetic regulation
Your internal environment can also be psychological
-Conscious stream and internal dialogue
-Spirituality, belief system and moral framework
When it comes to happiness there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that can affect the way you feel which goes beyond thoughts.
Remember emotions HAVE molecules and your subconscious dictates a lot of your actions without you even knowing.
Now let’s take a look at external environment
-Material objects/Short term rewards (Hedonistic pleasure trap)
-Creative outlet/Hobby(Music, art, sport, food etc)
-Filters which you consume knowledge/media/information
-Climate(YES, this matters)
Hopefully you’re starting to get clear picture on internal and external environments!
Based of the information above you can start to understand the importance of not only looking after your body but minding your surroundings with good people, purpose driven work and ultimately having a lifestyle built towards your temperament.
Let’s talk managing your internal environment.
Obviously I'm bias but simple habits like eating healthy food, hydrating, sleep quality, conscious breathing, supplementation and sunlight can provide a huge return on investment for feeling good.
I’ve talked about testing neurotransmitters in the past, something that had such a positive affect on my mood, drive and focus. The test can be taken here.
Science backs up the connection between the brain and gut. It’s estimated 90% of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the digestive track!
There are entire books written on poor sleep and it’s impact on mood disfunction!
We know the correlation between nasal breathing and regulation of parasympathetic nervous system. We also know the anxiety affects of mouth breathing
It’s well understood hormone imbalances can cause depression.
MD’s around the world describe how chronic inflammation affects brain tissue and energy levels.
So let’s not overlook a healthy body for a healthy mind.
I don’t see healthy and fit people putting others down, causing excessive drama, starting wars, out raged by irrelevant minutiae and draining your energy by being negative. They’re probably annoying you to come workout!
Next, let's talk psychological factors and emotional fitness. This is coming from a guy who’s mentality was rub some dirt on it and suck it up. A short term solution to suppress emotions, pushing them down because they’re too painful to deal with.
What happens over time? Numbness and eventually emotions start to become dull. What was a psychological defence mechanism to protect you from pain, has now become corrosive over time. Continually pushing things down, again and again is a sure fire way to negatively affect your mental health. You can become closed off, lack vulnerability and start to lose connectivity with meaningful aspects of your life.
Part of the journey to get emotionally fit which can be very challenging is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It is far easier said than done, for more insight on this topic check out this Ted talk
Next, let’s touch on conscious stream and internal dialogue in psychological factors.
What does this mean?
This is your internal voice, here’s an analogy I like
“Your brain is like a garden, you can plant beautiful flowers or weeds, both will grow”
This is something that takes practice, from someone who’s fundamentally optimistic it comes easier to me than most.
This doesn’t mean I don’t understand that it can be hard to draw lessons out of a bad situation, or see the bright side when it may seem dark. Over time if you search for silver linings, they begin to appear in the most challenging situations.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”
One of the best ways to cultivate this is through gratitude and appreciation for the simplest things. Not only saying it, but embodying the feeling of a deep thanks for something as small as eg. having running water. We often focus on what we don’t have and overlook all the amazing things that we do.
To keep this happiness ball rolling let’s move on to spirituality and moral framework.
Believing in something that’s bigger than yourself can offer peace of mind and purpose. You see this work for those recovering from addiction, criminals who turn their lives around or individuals who have high moral standards and spiritual commitment.
Research shows the affects prayer have on stress reduction and through whichever spiritual form you practice, there is a strong contribution to happiness. I’m not here to talk religion or spark a debate, regardless if you are or not we all should focus on developing our own principles to operate a morally sound life.
Not only will you have guidelines to make better decisions but developing a personal philosophy on how you live your life leads to deeper thinking. Which is always a good thing!
There are many takes on happiness, each of these bullet points above could be entire chapters in a 1000 page book. I don’t exhaust your attention span so I will leave you with part 1 for now. In part 2 I will discuss meaningful work, creativity, building a lifestyle that breeds happiness and more.
In the meantime, have a healthy, happy and fit day.