Happiness Part V: We Know Too Much

computers

Day in and day out, we are being bombarded with information.  Some of it will be correct and some of it will prove to be incorrect yet, we will absorb it all as though through osmosis.  Whether we are truly paying attention or we’re subliminally and subconsciously picking it up, we have most of that info, rumbling around in our brains somewhere and it’s acting upon us like a slow release pill, coming out in dribs and drabs. It’s likely that we don’t even recognize that info is there or that we’re utilizing it in one way or another.  Our brains are wonderous machines with a filing system that makes computers look like toys.  Reality is, we know far more than we need to know and it’s causing us both stress and distress.  It’s a road block to being happy.

Remember back a few entries ago when the scenario of children being happy was the centre point of that piece?  If not, you can review it here.  Part of the reason that children are generally happy is that they don’t know enough to be un-happy.  Not only have the brains of children not developed enough but, they don’t know enough to be upset, stressed, worried or any of the adult things that we, as adults, have come to learn to do.  They live in moment because they can’t really foresee much trouble in the future.  Ignorance is sometimes, bliss.

Let me give a scenario here that may help demonstrate that point better.

Two men are in a car, stuck on railway tracks.  They cannot move back nor forward.  The elder gentleman in the car has a form of dementia and is busily reminiscing about days gone by that he remembers with fondness.  The younger gentleman, fully able to compute the dangers of what is happening, is trying not to frighten the older man while trying to start the car again with no success.  Off in the distance, he sees the faint lights of an oncoming train and keeps trying to start the car, filled with panic now.  The elder man is completely unaware of what is happening and continues on his trip down memory lane with pure joy and delight, laughter and a smile while beads of sweat drip down the younger man’s forehead.  Finally, in vain, as the train approaches rapidly, the younger man exits the car, opens the door of the passenger’s side and drags the old man out of the car to safety.  The train soon demolishes the car into a tangled heap of metal before coming to a stop.  The young man tries to catch his breath while the elder gentleman simply says, “why did you stop me?  I wasn’t finished my story.”  Both men experienced the same situation.  The difference in their reactions were simply that the younger man knew what was going to happen while the elder man was blissfully unaware of the danger lurking down the tracks.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be aware of dangers or ignorant of facts nor, uneducated.  What it is saying is that we are overloaded with information that oftentimes, is false, misleading and most importantly, un-needed.  We can’t be child-like because we now know too much.  As a matter of fact, we know more than we really need to know and that, in and of itself, causes stress, distress and un-happiness.  We are now incapable of simply living in the moment and being amused with simple things like the taste of our coffee, the smell of freshly cut grass, the clouds that are floating past us above, the purr of our cat, the sound of a stream, a song that we love or many other of the most soothing and amusing things in Life.  Instead, we are analyzing everything silly, thinking about what lays ahead, how much damage it’s doing to us and the world, some study that proves that the caffeine in our wonderful tasting coffee can kill us or how the water in our bottle of water might pollute the earth or be polluted by the chemicals in the plastic bottle or wax that lines the paper take-out cup is toxic.  We’re usually reading or listening to the news which is filled with doom and gloom as that is what sells air/paper time and we’re using technology devices such as our cell phones to look up more crazy-making information.  The list is endless as to how information is slowly not only taking away our happiness and ability to be happy but, is potentially causing us stress that will or could kill us sooner or later.

How many shootings do we need to hear about before we can say, “there’s a lot of kids, killing others with guns”?  How many studies have we all heard, read or talked about that eventually get reversed or at the least, changed because newer studies have proven differently and yet, we’ve given up that great tasting coffee or bread or eggs and, it’s now not only ok to have them but, we find out we should have been having them all along as they’re beneficial to us?  How many car accidents do we need to see on the news at night with people we never met, don’t know and never will know before we get the idea that driving a car in today’s world and in traffic or driving distracted or impaired, can kill us? Do we really need 24/7 news stations that cover a story live and have “experts” on panel to discuss every nuance of the situation?

The bottom line is that we have far too much information floating around in our heads that not only don’t serve us beyond simply having a fact/knowledge but, are harming us in one way or another.  It’s all certainly a stumbling block towards being happy.

If you want to feel a bit happier,

  • Turn off the news or put down that newspaper
  • Quit Googling or Binging or whatever search engine you use for a bit
  • Turn off your cell phone or use it to actually CALL a friend or relative and enjoy talking to them instead of texting or ignoring them.
  • Stop taking every study too seriously because it will eventually turn out to be changed or reversed by another that will follow.
  • Either turn up your favourite music and sing or dance with it or, listen to the birds chirping, the stream sounds or your cat purring for a change
  • Watch a comedy or inspirational movie instead of a horror, police or crime show
  • Read a book or story with an inspirational message behind it
  • Buy yourself an adult colouring book and colour for a change.  Heck, get out the crayons and colour a child’s colouring book.
  • Ditch the “Know-It-Alls” who are walking encyclopedias but, are as negative as hell
  • Limit time with or eliminate those people who are bringing you nothing but headaches or demands for you doing something for them
  • Spend more time with people who make you feel good and most of all, make you laugh
  • Get silly. Roll down a hill, play with toys, splash around in a local pool just for the fun of being in water and weightless or buy yourself a teddy bear.  Seriously.
  • Stay out of your head and thinking for even an hour a day.  Just pay attention to things around you that are soothing and relaxing.  If you can’t find that, find them in your memory bank.  They’re there, believe it or not.
  • Be thankful for what you have right now even if it’s not your dream situation
  • Set aside a worry time of 20 minutes where you write your worries out into a dollar store notebook then shut the journal and tell yourself worry time is over until your next planned session then, get on with something light, silly and funny

These are just a few ideas.  There are plenty more.  If you’re going to Google anything, search for ways to have fun.

Stay light, stay laughing, stay away from people or information that brings you down to a stressed out level as much as possible.  Just be.  Be in the moment and enjoy the little things in Life.  Be happy!

Blessings, Love and Light from my little corner of life to yours.

 

Happiness Part III: Can Our Thoughts Create Un-Happiness?

emilysquotes-com-reason-negative-thoughts-situation-advice-intelligent-relationship-eckhart-tolle

As adults, we’ve become trained as well as training ourselves, into believing that we are responsible for all that happens in our lives and if we are parents, in our children’s or even spouse’s lives.  That means that we often place the burdens of making everyone happy and taking everyone’s happiness, well-being and other needs onto our own shoulders.

We’ve also learned that “bad things” can happen and often do.  We listen to the news every night which is geared towards only the catastrophic, death, war, politics and we are seeing loved ones, friends and others we cared about, dying.  We have lost that innocence that we possessed as children where the world is magical and besides a scraped knee or a fight with a friend (which usually lasts a whole day or two before playing again with one another), we don’t know that the world can be a hard, cold and harsh place.

If you have been reading my series on being happy, in Part II, I talked briefly about children, our childhoods and generally, most of us were fairly happy.  We found wonder and magic in practically everything that we did.  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule in families that were dysfunctional and children were fearful of every day and what it would bring.  On the whole though, as children, most children are happier than adults for some fairly simple reasons, the least of which is that our brains haven’t been trained or formed enough yet to see that life and this world can be a harsh place to be.

I’m not a neuroscientist nor, do I understand the mechanics of the human psyche or brain.  What I do know is that the way that we think is what affects our moods.  We cannot have an emotion, without having a thought.

Let’s take the example of a husband and wife coming home from work.  Both have put in full days so, they agree that making dinner shouldn’t be left up to one or the other but, should be done together.  There’s equal responsibility happening in this case and dinner is put onto the table.  The husband sits down, looking at what he sees and feels is a delicious looking meal to be eaten with his wife.  His feelings are those of joy and happiness.  The wife, on the other hand, sees the same dinner table, same food yet her feelings are anything but happy or joyful.  As a matter of fact, she has a knot in the pit of her stomach.

They are both facing the same table, same home, same meal, both did the work and both will clean up afterwards.  There’s seemingly no difference, is there?  However, there’s a difference in their feelings.  Why?  What is it that makes two people, facing the exact same situation and circumstances, same responsibilities, feel so differently?  And, no…it’s not because men are from Mars.

The difference is their thoughts.

Husband is thinking thoughts like:

  • “Look at my wife.  I’m so lucky to be able to share this dinner with her tonight.”
  • “Aren’t we lucky to have that slow cooker?  That pork roast looks so delicious.”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to stretch out on the couch and watch the ball game.  I’ve been looking forward to that all day.”
  • “This smells so good and I’m really hungry tonight.  I can’t wait to dive into this dinner.”

Wife is thinking these thoughts:

  • “I should have made just a salad.  Look at the calories in this dinner and the potatoes are carbs galore.  I’ve ruined an entire day’s worth of eating healthy.  There goes my diet.”
  • “I really should put away that slow cooker.  It’s too easy to throw in a roast and add quick side dishes.  I’m getting lazy now with cooking. I’ve been lazy with everything lately.  I’m really a bad person and wife! What is wrong with me?”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to have to get onto that treadmill and work out to burn off some of these calories.  Oh, wait, I can’t.  I told Clara that I’d call her to work out the plans for our bridge get together next week.  Why did I think I should play bridge?”
  • “Now, I’ve lost my appetite.”

Two people with extremes in thinking.  That’s the only difference between the shared experience with one feeling joy and happiness and the other, feeling like they’re having a panic attack.

Happiness is a complex emotion and involves many different mechanisms.  Women cannot think like men necessarily as women have hormones and all sorts of brain wirings (again, I’m not a neurologist or scientist) that men don’t.  Women can be thinking 20 thoughts at once while men are really only focusing on the task at hand for the most part.  That’s not to say that men don’t worry or can’t become obsessive over things too but, it’s to say that the thinking patterns in men and women are different therefore, what a man finds as happiness, a woman may not.  A lot of that will have to do with a difference in thinking patterns and thoughts.  We also can’t include people who have a true mental/emotional disorder or brain chemical imbalance in this but, by and large, most who can’t find happiness, are searching for it when much like The Wizard of Oz, the answer was right there all along, under their noses.  Their thinking patterns.

Change a thought and you change the emotion.

It’s this concept that makes a difference.  Children are generally happier because they don’t know enough to be worried, fretful, concerned, upset etc., at least not for long.  An adult has been trained to see the bad first and the good second.  A child will see almost every moment as an opportunity to find something to make them happy while an adult will usually find something in every moment to be concerned about.  That’s trained into us as we grow and our brains mature.  It’s also part of our experiences but, on the whole, adults tend to be far less happy than children because they’ve trained their thinking patterns into those of worry, fear, upset, self-belittling, catastrophes, blocking out most of the positives in life.  Life and other people teach us to think that way as we grow.  Teachers, bosses, peers, co-workers, media and so much more.  Even Facebook can make us feel like we’re losers because everyone else’s lives seem charmed when looking at their personal walls by comparison.  It’s not them who do it to us.  It’s us.  We know that no one’s lives are as perfect, joyful or seemingly wonderful as what is portrayed on Facebook yet, we still take it at face value on a subconscious basis.  Equally, or more one-dimensional, is the news where it’s filled with disasters, death, wars and creates things to fear.

More than anything, we learn as we grow to become “responsible” and we long since have given up on things that used to make us happy.  We can’t find the time any longer for such trivial things.

We have “too much to do and take care of,” we reason within ourselves. “There’s no time for laying back in the grass, relaxing, watching the clouds and I’d break bones if I rolled down a hill now.  Did I put sunscreen on?  I don’t want skin cancer!”

If you doubt what is being said here, take the time for the next day or two to make a list of the thoughts that run through your mind.  Don’t edit them.  Just write them out.  I’m going to be doing the same thing and, we’ll regather to see if we can see patterns, ok?

In the meanwhile, stay tuned for Part IV on being happy.  It’s coming.

 

Laura Mae, Youtube’s (Lose It Like Lauren) Has Lost The Weight But Still Struggles With Her Life And Unhappiness

Anyone who has been looking for weight loss tips, will likely have run across “LoseItLikeLauren’s” channel.  This young British woman has lost some 147 lbs, without surgery and without a program. She’s done this all on her own and is to be commended for her achievements, without doubt.

Lose It Like Lauren

First of all, I wish to express that I really like this young woman and her sense of humour about herself and her entire journey.  She’s truly an inspiration for people of all ages who wish to lose weight but more so, she’s a leader to look up to for the twenty to thirty-something crowd as she was in that age group when she began to lose weight but, now in her 30’s and still making videos weekly with regards to both how she started as well as how she’s kept it off.  In total, her journey has been about 6 years thus far and she’s documented quite a bit of it on Youtube.  Truly commendable.

Where Lauren has started to fall from grace in my opinion is in her obsession with her weight and, in keeping it honest, her lack of a life beyond her weight loss.  Lauren, herself has also commented that she has spent a good portion of the past 6 or more years of her life, focused on losing weight.  She has no job, lives with her mom still, gets depressed and has no lasting relationship in spite of being gorgeous, intelligent as well as intellectual and humorous.  In short, Lauren has created a life around her weight rather than herself and her life beyond weight loss.

For all intents and purposes, someone like Lauren who has focused on her preoccupation with her weight and turned it into her life’s purpose, begs the question of whether she focused on this weight loss because she could find nothing of substance otherwise in herself or her life?

While that may sound like an insult towards this young woman and her efforts, it’s truly not.  At this point in time, Lauren has not moved beyond her initial goal of losing that weight and helping others to do the same.  Her focus has remained on her weight loss even though she has long since lost what she set out to lose.  Though I get the idea that she’s simply trying to motivate and help others to do the same, Lauren has not much else going on in her life in pretty much everything else and has become depressed.  It’s highly likely that she’s also running out of ideas for weekly videos.  They have progressed into more or less whining or even speaking through her depressive, tearful and admission sessions.  Her channel has begun to sound more like a washed up star who is desperately trying to cling onto their glory days but is showing their age and unhappiness.

What’s most disturbing to hear is that Lauren speaks of her former heavier self in Third Person as though she’s totally detached herself from the Plus Sized woman that she was before her weight loss.  She giggles and laughs at herself in her early videos, referring to herself as “she” while crying over what she’s accomplished and how different she is.  At the same time, she’s admitting that she’s depressed, has no life, no job, no relationship and would love to travel, do art and photography but, it’s unclear whether she’s not doing any of this because she can’t afford it financially without working a full time job (something she seems unwilling to do) and while lounging around “mom’s house” as an un-working adult child.

There are a few things that watching Lauren’s videos have brought to mind that everyone should take to heart and think about.

Losing weight won’t make you happy unless you love yourself as you are right now.

There’s no doubt that losing weight is healthy if you’re overweight.  Not many people would argue that point.  However, if you’re thinking that losing weight is the Holy Grail towards feeling happy, think again.  Being slimmer can certainly bring you more energy and help you like yourself better but, it won’t solve all of your problems nor, make you love yourself if you don’t already.  As a matter of fact, you may spend all of your time and energy, putting it into your weight loss and thinking you’ll be happier if you’ve lost that excess baggage but, if you didn’t already love yourself before you started into your weight loss journey, you’re not going to suddenly adore yourself once you’ve lost all of the weight that you’ve set out to lose.  Weight loss adds to your love for self but, it doesn’t create it.  Hating yourself as is means that you’re not going to love yourself once you’ve lost that weight.  Many still see themselves as “the fat person” in spite of the scale, clothing label sizes as well as the mirror image.

You have to have a life and goals whether overweight or slim.

It’s likely obvious that Lauren is making some money off of her Youtube channel videos but, it’s reality that Lauren is not making enough money from that or her part time personal trainer’s position to move out from her mother’s home, sustain herself and she’s not able to sustain a romantic relationship.  No matter how much weight she’s lost, she’s still got issues because she didn’t set up goals for herself within her life or create a full life for herself while losing the weight or even once she had done so.

If you don’t have goals, ambitions or a life and keep those things up, adding to them, your weight loss isn’t going to bring you those things either.  You have to begin those things before, during and after you’ve lost the weight or, you’ll find yourself struggling with depression.  Weight loss is not a magic wand.  You are your own creator of your own show, life and purpose and, that is not dependent upon your weight unless you are so heavy that you can’t get out of a chair or walk out of your home.  Even then, you have to have goals for yourself and your life outside of losing weight.  It cannot be your sole focus as Lauren has done in her own life.

Sadly, we are a society that both adores slim and even thin people while we’ve become an increasingly overweight and even obese society.  Even those who are slim, seem to hate something about their bodies and themselves in this day and age of celebrities, thinness, red carpet looks and plastic surgery.  However to think that your life will be peachy-keen if you were to just lose that extra weight, is naive, false and won’t lead you any closer to being happy than staying heavier.  You may squeeze yourself into a size 0 or 2 now instead of a 20 or 22 but, your problems, issues, lack of self-love and relationships will still be there unless you, yourself, make the inner changes as well to invite happiness into your life.  One look at the celebrities who have had the plastic surgery, walking the red carpet with designer clothing and adoring fans who hunt them down for selfies and autographs will tell you to look beneath the surface.  Many of them, in spite of being stick and bone thin, dressed to the 9’s with seemingly everything at their finger tips, including admirers, have also been in therapy or are self-medicating themselves with prescription or street drugs and dealing with broken marriages, relationships as well as children who have run amok.  Self-love has to come before anything else can make you happy, including losing weight.

While, of course, I wish Lauren every happiness in this world, I also can see a young woman who now has to free herself from making herself, her life and who she is based on her weight loss. She has to venture out into the world and create a life of her own now.  Her weight loss is behind her and while much like an alcoholic, she will likely always have to work on keeping weight at bay, she also has to learn to love herself and move forward and away from her weight in order to be happy in her life now.  It’s just time from what I’m hearing from her in her videos.  She’s not a happy person in spite of losing an entire person’s worth of weight and won’t be contented until she reaches out into the world and does something she enjoys with herself and her life.

Remember: weight loss is a health issue but, it’s only an adjunct to happiness.  If you’re not a happy person to begin with, you’re not going to be a suddenly happy person once you’ve lost your excess weight.  You need to be happy with you as you are right now, at the weight that you are and success in weight loss adds to that happiness but, doesn’t create it.  At least, that’s the way that I’m seeing LoseItLikeLauren from my little corner of life.

Can The Homeless Teach Us How To Be Happy?

Getting back to my car the other day, proved to be a rather daunting task with pouring rain and no umbrella.  At a certain point, you figure you can’t get any wetter than you already are so, running becomes rather redundant.

Taking my time at this point, I watched as people hurried around, umbrellas covering faces and hair, looking downwards and from what faces that I could see, somewhat miserable by the inconvenience of having to walk through water coming from the skies.

I had just spent the past four hours in a hospital, waiting for pre-scheduled medical tests that had been delayed due to emergency cases which had to be taken first.  At this point, my head was pounding, I was soaking wet from head to toe, my mascara had run to the point of looking like Alice Cooper and I was shivering, feeling as miserable as those who passed me by, looked.

It seemed as though a lot of people were miffed at trying to hold onto their umbrellas, a take-out coffee and their cell phones at the same time.  Afterall, how dare the rain ruin their coffee-cell time.

As I passed by an old church that has seen over one hundred years of rain, snow, wind, hail and sleet, I couldn’t help but notice a group of homeless men, gathered beneath a small overhang that sheltered the main entrance.  It struck me that the very same group of men had been there, in the same place hours ago as I walked past them while heading in the opposite direction, my mind occupied by hurrying to get to my appointment to wait, wait and do more waiting.

Photo by Keith Harris
A Chicago based documentary and street photographer, working on a photo-essay entitled “On the Street.” This essay is a series of images that document the people that call the streets of Chicago home.
http://www.the37thframe.org/2009/06/photo-critique-keith-harris/

Standing in the rain, waiting at a light to cross, I watched as these men went on laughing with each other.  I could barely hear their words but, what struck me most was the fact that these men were as wet as I was and had nowhere to go nor, were they even attempting to get out of the rather uncomfortable and unsavoury weather conditions.  Instead, they appeared to be making the best of the situation with each other as company.

Does misery love company?  Does company make misery any easier to handle?  What was making the difference between the laughter of these men who had nothing and the business people walking with warm coffees, cell phones, blue tooths and car keys in their hands, ready to get into a dry, warm car and likely head to a warm, dry home somewhere?

I stood for a couple of moments, discreetly watching these men as their voices carried through the air.  It appeared as though they were recounting stories of other days that they had lived and doing so, with great fondness.  Each one of them taking joy and laughter out of the other’s accounts, seemingly totally oblivious to their physical state.  It was as though their tales and laughter had carried them away from their current moment, helping them to forget that they were homeless, wet and likely as chilled as I was feeling at that point in time.  The difference being, they had been out there for hours in the elements whereas, I had only been out in them for a few minutes.

As I entered my warm, dry home, stripping my wet coat off, kicking off my soggy shoes and heading for the bathroom to grab a clean, fresh towel, I couldn’t help but think of these men who were likely still in the same spot I had seen them while both going and coming back in my travels.  Here I was drying off, changing into warm, comfortable clothing and about to figure out what to make for dinner.  I wondered if these men would even have a dinner that night or any other evening for that matter.  I knew that I would never know.

As I laid in bed that night, comfy, dry, warm, stomach full and satisfied, I thought again about these men, knowing that there were many more like them around this planet who were and are in the same or similar states.  They have nothing while so many of us have everything that we need and more and yet, they appeared happier than a lot of those whom I had passed or had passed me by that day.

What makes that difference?

Why is it that a lot of us who have seemingly everything, can’t find a way to be happy while others, who have nothing and live miserable lives by comparison, can still find happiness?

Is it that they don’t know what it’s like to live any differently so they don’t know what they’re missing?  Or, is it that they’ve found something that all of the material possessions and comforts in the world cannot bring us?

Could a lack of materialism and comfort cause us to find a spiritual source of contentment that we lose when we have so much to distract us from spirit?  Are we causing ourselves to be unhappy by losing sight of what’s really important as we strive to have more and more material acquisitions, bigger houses, better cars, climb the corporate ladders, strive for more lavish vacations, become swallowed up by technology and forgetting the value of simple laughter and friendship?

Are we slowly losing the art of being human?

Have we gone so far from our spiritual selves that we are moving further away from the ability to find happiness?

I drifted off to sleep that night with those questions running through my mind and I am still thinking but, that’s another blog entry for another day as I also continue to ask myself whether we should be questioning the saying, “there but, for the Grace of God go I” for it may be that we need to ask ourselves, “there, with the Grace of God, go they for they can teach us what we have lost”.