March 29, 2011

Four Simple Keys to Happiness.

Update: Exercise key to long, happy life: sustained physical activity can add years to life and substantially improve the quality of those years, according to a long-term study into more than 12,000 elderly Western Australian men (sciencealert.com.au)

Photo: robstephaustralia

We all dig making lists and, even more, the satisfaction of crossing items off of them. So, if the illusive “happiness” is the most sought after goal of all, why not try these four steps!?

We are all familiar with and probably appreciate the maxim, “What is worth having is worth working for.” What, then, is worth having more than health and happiness? We work our butts off for our jobs, for our families, for our vanities, for our pleasures, etc. But, when it comes to being happy most of us just expect it to happen.

Or, perhaps we think that by working hard for the above-mentioned aspects of our lives we will also reap happiness as an automatic reward. This is not the way it works. Intention and aim is essential for our success in any endeavor. We must dedicate specific time and energy to cultivating health and happiness for their own ends, or else we will end up with the lackluster experience that many of us, anxious, depressed, pissed-off and tired, excuse for life.

We don’t need to quit our jobs and become health fanatics that spout new-age aphorisms about “going with the flow” of our newly enlightened sense of irresponsibility. But, we do need to set aside consistent, regular time for each of the four following things:

Photo: Kailash Akhara Training Hall

1.    Exercise.

Preferably some form of conscious body movement (yoga, tai chi, martial arts, sacred dance, etc).  “Regular” exercise can work just fine, but we need to know how to do it in a way that makes us more sensitive and open, rather than more hard and vain.  Exercise changes our physiology. Our physiology dictates our mind. Our mind projects our experience of life. Do not underestimate the profundity of something as simple as getting regular exercise.

2.   Eating good meals.

Most of our meals should be home-cooked by ourselves, or someone who loves us (this is important!). Optimally, meals should be shared with those we care about and at the very least, food should not be taken in while on the phone, at the computer, driving in the car, etc. Set aside time to eat well balanced and tasty meals around a table with other people whose company you enjoy and reap the benefits of this simple human necessity.

3.    Taking time (at least 15 minutes) to do nothingevery day!

Photo: Karemell Zucker

Our culture has lost the value of nothingness. We think it is a “waste of time” and we want to cram our schedules and be super-productive! If you’re not convinced that that there is some flaw in this strategy for life, then look at this way: taking time to do nothing will make you more productive and effective when you have to be. So, “nothing” means, no: t.v., music, books, magazines, conversations, sleep, exercise, thinking etc. It means: nothing. Just sit up in any manner where your back is straight and not leaning against anything and feel… relax… feel more… let go of thoughts… relax more… and, whoops, I just taught you how to meditate. Meditation is key to sanity, health, happiness, longevity, wisdom, compassion, and life.

4.    Contribute.

Life is a balance of giving and receiving. At the end of the day we will simply be happier if we give more than we take. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it.  Don’t worry if you are doing it with selfish motives at the beginning. Just get the ball rolling and consider: there are no truly selfless acts because being selfless is the best thing you can do for yourself.

This is a full-proof plan for health and happiness. If you try to stick to it, I bet you will confront all sorts of obstacles and excuses why something else is more important for you to attend to. We have to question this tendency of ours as humans. Why do we seek that which makes us more stressed, anxious and unhealthy and resist that which we know will make us feel good?

Each of us must grapple with questions like this… but, more than that we must recognize that health and happiness are the most important things about life and are worth our specific time and effort. We must see that everything else that is good about our lives stems from the base of health and happiness and will be enhanced by cultivating this foundation. Having admitted this truth to ourselves, we must then choose to commit to working it like we would anything else we want in our lives. This means we must plan, follow through, overcome obstacles, be creative, seek guidance, learn, adapt, and grow… and, trust me, if you choose to walk through life in this way, its worth it.

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