Everyone’s state of happiness is unique, so is the way to get there. But how to be sure that you are on the right path?
It is so popular these days to talk about happiness. The ads scream happy faces from the posters, websites and television screens. Internet is filled with advice on how to up your level of happiness. What’s more, your employer (do you have one?) expects you to always be in a good shape and ready to press on with your tasks. Your partner secretly crosses fingers that you never cry and are always cheery. Your friends have probably only seen the happy and bouncy side of you, have they? I am not even talking about your lovely kids and their expectations of how you show up to them 😉
But do we truly know what it means to be happy?
To start with, let’s settle on the following:
Happiness is not something that happens to you as a result of external events. Your degree of happiness is not defined by today’s weather or the way the bus driver looked at you. Happiness is a decision. It is your mindset, your choice, your credo.
By consequence, being happy implies a series of responsibilities. In other words, it implies you being able to respond to circumstances, events and situations. To put it simply: no matter what happens to and around you, you stay centered – like in the eye of the storm – connected to your higher self, to the Universe, in the knowledge that everything is gonna be alright (thanks, Bob Marley).
Let’s consider a few ingredients for success on our way to happiness. In short, some of the founding members of happiness are good health, true understanding of who you are, your determination to succeed in your endeavors, in your willingness to serve others, in your ability to be in the flow.
In this post, I would like to focus on the first point, i.e. on your health aspect. Health is our most basic need and obligation. And notice how no one can make you healthy except yourself. This is how it becomes your responsibility (response-ability) to take your health in your hands.
Early to bed, early to rise…
So what does it mean to be healthy? Let’s start with the sleep – the activity that takes a fair chunk of our 24 hours.
For starters, we must always have sufficient sleep, meaning 7-8 hours straight . And we are not talking about working until 11 pm, eating dinner and then crushing onto bed at midnight. Nor we mean partying till 3 am, and then sleeping into the afternoon. That’s a recipe for disaster. The truth is that we should not go to bed later than 9 pm (the latest – 10 pm)! Otherwise we are missing out on the most crucial part of the night. By going to bed late, we are not getting the high-quality rest we so crucially need.
Note that afternoon naps are not advised, unless you are a pregnant woman, who needs to take regular rest to get through the day.
The habit of getting to bed early will help you develop another crucial habit of get up early. If you go to bed at 9.30 pm, you can happily get up at 5.30-6.00 am and do your beautiful morning routine.
The beautiful morning routine includes washing yourself, followed up by morning yoga (ideally, performed to a gentle tune), greeting the Sun, meditating, and drinking a glass of water. (You can add a sprinkle of lemon juice in it, if you are a healthy junkie:)
If you don’t start working until much later, you can follow up with a brisk walk in the woods or listening to some inspirational speaker of your choice. Why is that so important to do these things in the morning? Because this is when the daily energies are the most beneficial, and your mind is fresh and ready to receive. So it is your conscious choice to fill your morning with the best possible experiences.
Think about it. Remember the last time you woke up from that neighbour’s loud music? Or the drunk youngsters singing loudly in the street on their way home from a party in the early hours of the morning? This was your “bad encounter first thing in the morning”. How did that day go? I bet it was below par. This is what we call “to get up on the wrong side of the bed”. Now imagine that you woke up naturally five minutes before your alarm clock, stretched deliciously in bed, went to the loo and brushed your teeth. Then you listened to some soothing music while you were doing your morning stretches. A delight in the making, isn’t it?
To build on my previous point, I would like to stress that healthy routine also includes having a good balance of movement and rest throughout the the day. This is certainly a challenge for those of us who are sitting in front of the computer all day, standing all day on the trade floor, or driving a car around a busy city. However, walking helps activate your digestive system, and that’s a big bonus! This is part of the reason why it is such a good idea to have a brisk walk in the woods in the morning.
Finally, we must not forget to have a good dose of fresh air (I am not talking about opening the window of a sky-scraper on New York 5th Avenue, you get the drift?) because oxygen is a crucial element for the well-being of our body. If you have enough fresh air, you avoid some of your headaches, your nervous system is calming down faster, your blood is well enriched with oxygen to serve all the internal organs, and so on.
You are what you eat
The next healthy tip for you is to eat healthy. Before taking on any diet, a very good idea is to do a food intolerance test with a homeopath. You might be in for a big surprise! It was certainly my case, when in 2012 I discovered how many things I was intolerant to. When I eliminated those elements from my diet, within 7-10 days I already had an incredible uplift of energy, improved mood, fewer colds, and I even shed a few kilos!
As a next step, I would suggest removing all the toxins. I hear the notes of surprise in your voice – please, let me explain. Let’s face it: there is an incredible fashion trend out there to detoxify this and detoxify that. But as a matter of fact, why not just become toxin-free in the first place? It will save you a small fortune (toxins are not free these days, right?), save you another small fortune on drugs, and will help you prolong and improve the quality of your life. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
If so, remove: alcohol (beer is also alcohol), cigarettes, coffee, black tea, meat (eggs included), chips, soda drinks, chocolate, canned food. Make an attempt to also reduce bread, biscuits and pastry to the minimum, and prioritise wholegrain over white flours. Put more emphasis on veggies, cereals, legumes and fruit.
Cook at home to delight your family members with your creative spark and tasty treats! There are many resources out there to support you in this important life-saving change. If you are a smart-phone junkie, then go for some healthy apps which will offer tons of delicious recipes to choose from.
Pro tip: remember to eliminate toxins gradually, in order to help your body adjust to the change, and and remain in line with you in your journey to health!
My final suggestion here is to consume the largest portion of food at lunch time, around 11.00-13.00. Why so? Because the “digestive fire” is most active during this part of the day. It is best to keep your breakfast small but consistent (don’t do just fruit – have some grains / legumes too), and definitely skip dinner as much as possible. If you must, eat at 5 pm at the latest (remember that you are going to bed early, right?) so that your stomach does not have to work while the rest of the body is given a signal to sleep. You can and should drink water or herbal tea in the evening. If you are not lactose intolerant, you could warm yourself a cup of milk with spices (cinnamon, ginger, nut meg), which is probably the healthiest option around.
You are what you think
Eating and sleeping well is a great start to a better and healthier you. But that’s not the end of the story. If you want to take this game to the next level, you need to consider your way of thinking.
Face this simple fact: your intentions define who you are. Intentions give rise to thoughts, which are already material. Thoughts give rise to action.
So, your intentions define your environment and the people who surround you. They attract events into your life, and that’s how you shape your destiny. Sounds big, right?
Is that not a great enough reason to become responsible in your intentions, to filter out negative and destructive thoughts, and start being caring and loving to the world around you? In the end, what you give is what you get, so it is only logical to be good and do good.
Show me what you do, and I will tell you who you are…
In my case, health does not stop there. I am a strong believer in that one can be a really nice person, but if that is not backed up with actions, then the niceness is only nominal.
My coach recently set out a challenge for me – to do something good to someone, which they wouldn’t be able to thank me for. That was a real tough challenge, and I had to think long and hard about how I could go on about it for a whole month. It was a great game-changer for me, as it totally turned around my way of thinking. Instead of letting circumstances find me to give me a chance to do something good, I would go out and create those circumstances to be able to make a difference for others.
And guess what? The moment you do something nice for someone, you get a dose of endorphin and serotonin, the happiness hormones. So why not start right away? 🙂
There is no price tag on volunteering, kind gestures and just caring attitude towards other people. Sadly, it is often overlooked and denigrated.
I invite you to reflect on what kind of “social footprint” you leave in your community. What will your neighbors, your co-commuters, your colleagues and friends remember you for? Are they be glad to have you in their lives? Do you feel good in the end to have lived the way you did?
Let me bring it all together for you. To be happy, we must start with being healthy. Healthy life starts with healthy sleep, healthy physical exercise, healthy food, healthy attitudes and thoughts, and finally healthy actions. Mull it over, while I am musing on the next part of our new happy lifestyle – a true understanding of who we really are and what we are here for.
And in the meantime, if my post stirred any thoughts or questions – share them below! I am always open for interesting conversations 🙂