Here is my latest essay on Psych Central it has to do with fear and anxiety.
Last night I watched the documentary, Happy.
I wish that everyone was required to watch it. It is all about the science of happiness. There is a country (Bhutan) where the government is more concerned with Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product. I wish Americans felt our citizen’s happiness was more important than money.
People in Denmark top the world in happiness and most cities in Japan top the world for unhappiness.
The scientists doing the research said that 50 percent of happiness is genetic, so there isn’t much we can do about that, but a whopping 40 percent of our happiness can be altered by how we act, what we think, and what we do. That is a substantial amount that we have control over.
What do they suggest we do to increase our happiness?
- Be social. Everyone that scored high in happiness had a network of family and friends.
- Think of something bigger than you. You don’t have to be religious to think of, or participate in, activities that benefit the greater good. You can volunteer at a place that provides hospice care or a shelter for the homeless, or any activity that helps your community and other people.
- Exercise. People that are the happiest move their bodies.
- Do activities that you love. The researchers talked about “flow.” That place where people go when they are in the “zone” and are experiencing something like being at one with the activity they are doing. The more you can create “flow” in your life, the happier you will be. People can experience “flow” in their jobs. In the film, they interviewed a chef who loves cooking so much that he is experiencing “flow” while he works each day. In my life, I think I experience “flow” at times when I am writing. Other people experience it while gardening, playing music, dancing, etc.
- Try to change your routine. Even minor changes in your daily routine, like walking to work a different way, increase your happiness. Our brains respond well to variety.
There was one other way to significantly increase happiness that I found controversial because the researchers said meditating on compassion and loving kindness proved to be as effective as antidepressants over a certain length of time. I would never recommend someone going off their medication to exchange that for meditation, but it seems like if the findings were that significant, it is worth a try to read up on meditating about compassion and loving kindness and possibly start a practice of meditation.
The documentary didn’t address mental illness. They did mention depression a couple of times, but they didn’t qualify that with any science. I didn’t know if they were talking about clinical depression or bipolar depression. Were they talking about situational depression? I’m not sure the severity of the depression they were referencing.
But, if for most people, 40 percent of our happiness can be influenced by our thoughts, actions, etc. then I want to focus on some of the things they mentioned. I think I am fairly happy, but who couldn’t use more good feelings in their life? I plan to take steps to be happier this year – a goal that if reached, will spread to all those around me.
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I am trying to focus on life beyond paranoid schizophrenia. Last week there was an article on the news about an 8 year old with cerebral palsy that finished a triathlon. At the end of the run, near the finish line, he left his walker behind and started to run by himself. He fell. He got up. He ran. He fell. He got up and crossed that finish line.
I want the determination, courage, and fierce can-do attitude of that 8 year old.
Life is big and broad and bountiful. Get yourself to try something new or uncomfortable every single day. Grow and experience your way into more courage.
Love is all around us. Smile at people. Talk to people. Hold doors open for people. We all have a heavy load, help someone to carry theirs.
Put your phone down. Step away from the computer. Look people in the eyes, ask them about their day. Ask them about their family. Ask them if anything new is happening in their life. Reach out, and make a connection that has nothing to do with technology.
Make something with your own two hands. There is wonder and healing in creating with your own two hands. Stretch them out and use them on something besides a keyboard.
Bake something. If you know your way around the kitchen bake some bread – knead it, roll it, form it. The smell will lift your spirits for hours as it waifs through your home. When you cut into it, and take a bite, know that you created it. With a few ingredients you made something that can feed you and your loved ones. Live in the miracle of it.
Spend time doing things that make you laugh. Laughter is medicine for almost all that ails us. You can’t laugh and think of your problems at the same time. Let go! Find people, shows, books, videos that make you laugh from deep in the belly – blurt it out – yoga from the belly – meditation for the mind – salve for the soul.
Make plans to fulfill a dream. If you dream of traveling to a city, or country, buy travel books for that area. Start a jar for dollars and coins by your door, and every day empty your pocket into the jar – save the money for your trip. If you dream of accomplishing something like writing a book, make yourself spend fifteen minutes at it every day. Work toward your dream, a little bit every day. It will keep you moving forward. It will give you hope. Hope can carry you into tomorrow.
Think of something you can do for someone else. Does your spouse love breakfast in bed? Does your best friend love cupcakes? Give of your time. Give of your gifts. Give of yourself. The more you focus on others, and give up thoughts of yourself, the happier and healthier you will be.
Give sincere compliments freely. Tell your friend they look beautiful. Tell your spouse they are smart. Make your words healing words that help people become whole.
There is so much more that can be done to live courageously, to live intentionally, to put schizophrenia on the back burner and find the miracles, the wonders, and the joy in life.
I know all people suffer, but there is enough beauty to replenish our hurting hearts, souls and minds, and that beauty is free for all of us – seek it out, search for it, and mine it like gold. You can run the rest of the race without your walker, you may fall, but get up, the finish line is within reach.