the mind and body dualism of health and happiness

Without one, you can’t have another. Though I often wonder, which one is more important, the body, or the mind?

Before this get too chicken and egg, let me explain by saying that I believe in science.

I also believe that there are things science has yet to uncover. Things like, how positive thoughts and self love potentially influences the body (don’t quote me on this, but perhaps, your thoughts also influences the chemicals in your brain and visa versa). Or perhaps, it’s the will and decision to put yourself first that sets the stage for a healthy mind and body, or body and mind.

I find myself intrigued on this topic, as I’m always searching for ways to improve in every aspect of life. And of course, one of them involves happiness.

What is it?

What is happiness?

Is it the rush we get when we accomplish something great? Or is it the steady flow of contentment?

I think it’s both with the latter being more prevalent in life.

So how do I achieve this happy state more often? Here’s what I’ve noticed from my day to day and summarized.

Bodywise:

A healthy balanced diet: meaning, cut the junk, note to self: no more cocopuffs in the pantry. Focusing on protein, healthy fats, fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Shop outside of the grocery store and make your own meals. Keep things light, so you’re more energetic.

Get moving: do you know that numerous studies have shown that just by walking 20 minutes per day puts you into a better mood. And that exercise is the most under utilized anti-depressant? I also noticed that I become more alert when I go for a walk, so I do that often.

Get enough sleep: yes, unplug, unplug unplug! I used to get so nervous when those straggling emails flood my inbox when I’m not at work, do I reply, or do I sleep? SLEEP! Just because society has advanced and your inbox is exploding doesn’t mean we’ve evolved to handle all of that. Yes, you heard that right. Although we don’t live in caves anymore, we’re not used to this constant exposure to electronics and stress. Wait was that a bear or was that just a mountain of emails? Prolonged exposure can seriously disrupt your sleep cycle (and there’s been no study ever done on what the long term effects are, I guess they’ll know in twenty years or so when the millennial start to go grey, yup we’re all lab rats)… Radiation, light, and noise pollution. Sorry, you still need your sleep.

Schedule ‘me’ time: I like to pretend my day only has 23 hours instead of 24 hours and I give 1 hour to myself to do whatever I want, meditate, read, go for a long walk. Give your body the chance to relax. What I don’t recommend is being a zombie in front of the television or Netflix (c’mon this is 2015)…blue light, radiation, techno-overload.

Have a sit down meal with your loved ones: or cook them a healthy sit down meal and enjoy it with them. This borders on the mind aspect of health, but social connection, even simple things like hugs and human touch are overlooked. When’s the last time you hugged your loved one? Told them how much you appreciated them? I’m not big on hugs, but hugging releases oxytocin, the human bonding hormone, and releases stress. So okay, maybe this should’ve read. Host a home cooked dinner party and hug the guests when they leave. Remind them how much they mean to you and remind yourself how lucky you are to have them.

Mindwise:

Choose your thoughts: I think this is the most important, rather than letting whatever in your outside environment ruin your mood, or cloud your judgement. Be clear with yourself that somethings are out of your control no matter how things turn out. And rather than worrying for something you can’t control. Act on what can be done and do a good job on that instead.

Become curious about everything: I’m not a big fan of kids (say what?! But that’s story for another time.) I do admire one thing about them though, they’re curious about everything! To the point they ask about how things work to the point their parents get annoyed of answering. There’s only so many time you could sagely go, “Well you see,”  before you run out of answers. I’ve done that too when I was a kid. And I remember my parents telling me I was being annoying and I should learn to be quiet. Especially, when they found their knowledge base insufficient for my curiosities – but I suggest, be curious, about everything again, like you’re a kid again and what you find might surprise you!

Feed the mind with thoughts from great thinkers: I’m currently reading up on philosophy in my ‘me’ time, something I’d never thought of in the past – but why not? It’s probably the only way I’ll get to time travel. And although I can’t agree with everything they say, since they too are products of their time.

Pick up a new hobby: Or learn a new language, a new skill, pick something you think you’d enjoy, even if you haven’t tried it before, try it – this protects against the aging brain. Really, the only way to stop those neuron from dying off fast is to seek out new experiences. And then you end up with a new skill you could brag about too.

And finally, “Don’t forget to love yourself.” or as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard puts it:

  • Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any human being in the eyes of all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busiest haste of busy-ness – busy with wasting life and losing itself.

So there you have it, my honest guide to happiness. 

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