When asked what they want in life, most people say, “I just want to be happy.” In fact, there is a whole movie about this called “Happy” and I highly recommend it.
The big question is: What does it take to be happy?
There are lots of different answers to this question. How would you answer it?
For me, part of being happy is feeling well physically. If I’m in pain or exhausted, it’s hard to feel happy.
Another big aspect of being happy is feeling good emotionally. When we feel love and gratitude, almost all of us agree that we feel happy. In fact, love and gratitude are the most powerfully healing emotions we have.
shopping, sex, Facebook, working, spending time with friends, reading, exercise, sleeping. . . Now, these aren’t necessarily bad things to do — quite the contrary. Some of them are necessary and helpful in many ways. HOWEVER, when we use them to avoid feeling our feelings, and we keep avoiding them over the long term — we’re just covering up symptoms.
We can get so good at covering up our stressed feelings that we even fool ourselves. At the first hint of this inner distress, we reach for that substance or activity that makes us feel better. And besides, everyone else we know is in the same boat, so it just seems normal. It’s “just the way it is.”
Well, the truth is, we were never designed to experience chronic stress. Like other animals, we produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to deal with an emergency. We often call it the “fight or flight” response. When faced with a life-threatening situation, this response can save our lives, as it was intended to.
But in our current world, this stress response is more likely to kill us than save our lives. Deadlines, over-booked schedules, traffic, concern about finances, about our health, about our relationships, about the state of the world never let up, so the stress becomes chronic.
This chronic stress leads to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and depression. It often leads to self-medicating with unhealthy foods, which promote these same health problems, and increase our stress even more.
Is there a way out of this?
We can learn specific techniques to quiet our stress hormones, allowing us to feel calm and peaceful. This allows us to think more clearly, make better decisions, and choose healthier options. The vicious cycle that we were on is reversed, leading to a cycle of health and happiness.
It’s important to realize that stress is not what is happening outside of us.
Stress is our body’s response to our perception of what is happening. What feels stressful to one person can be a joy to someone else.
This is good news because we can learn to handle situations in a way that minimize our stress. And we can also learn to reverse the stress reaction if it has already taken hold of us.
So if you “just want to be happy,” like most all of us, learning how to handle your stressors is hugely important. Reducing your stress will also help improve your health, and you can more frequently be filled with love and gratitude.
In my "Dissolve Your Stress for Health and Happiness" class I teach you how to recognize stress in your life and helpful techniques to minimize stress in your life.
Delisa is a plant-based nutrition and cooking instructor in Alaska. She believes that we are designed to be slim and healthy.