Have you read dozens of self-help books, tried every trick you could find, and nothing seems to work? Just when you think you solved one problem, do you promptly find something else to worry about? Has stress been effecting your ability to the happiness that you know you deserve? You may be missing a very basic prerequisite to happiness: physical health.
By physical health, I don’t mean a trim body combined with an absence of any chronic illness. In fact, some who have chronic illnesses and weigh above their body mass index are perfectly happy human beings. However, at other times seemingly minor health issues are the root cause of our unhappiness. When this is the case, even the best mindfulness techniques can have little to no effect. If happiness never seems to last no matter how hard you try, then looking at your health may give you the answer you are looking for.
We have a tendency to blame external circumstances for our state of mind. Of course, this can be correct. However, if there always appears to be an external source standing between you and happiness, then it is time to look within.
After the birth of my child, I found myself very stressed out and miserable. At this point in my life, I appeared to have everything that I had ever wanted, which made me realize that not only was I the central cause of my own unhappiness, but that the problem must be physical in nature. I searched tirelessly through many books and academic journals. At its root, the solution to my problem turned out to be surprisingly simple.
It all starts with the realization that we are our bodies. It is not that our body is a part of us; our body is all we have. Our brain, which is responsible for all of our feelings and emotions, is also a part of our body, and is interconnected with other organs. When you have a knot in your stomach, there is a real physical process creating this sensation. Every emotion, every thought, happens within your body. How happy you are at this very moment is entirely determined by the chemistry in your brain. Neurotransmitters and their receptors determine how you feel. This is no more and no less than a scientific fact. It should not be entirely surprising. Many of us know that our state of mind can be modified through the use of drugs, which act upon the physical body.
In particular, anti-depressants work by blocking neurotransmitter absorption, effectively interfering with the brain’s clean-up system. Now, I am in no position to recommend when to use antidepressants and when not to. But for me, the idea of making my brain less similar to that of a healthy person was unappealing. Often, there is another way.
If happiness seems to elude you, it is a good idea to take an honest look at your dietary and lifestyle choices. If you used to be happier, what has changed in terms of how you treat your body? With 20-20 hindsight, the answer for me was very simple. At the age of twelve, I radically changed my diet. I believed that I had found a better way. Ever since then, life became more difficult. Adding pregnancy to years of having an inadequate diet was too much for my body to handle. But the details of my particular mistake deserve their own article.
Health is a huge subject, and I will not attempt to condense everything that I learned about health into one short article. However, I can give highly condensed advice that can go a long way if it speaks to you. It may sound overly simplistic at first. Indeed, advice similar to this was given to me many times in different forms, but it had no effect as no one could provide a sound explanation.
The advice I got, which I now give to you, is: follow in the footsteps of your ancestors. To be more precise, you will benefit by making lifestyle choices that are similar to that of, say, your grandparents. And I mean your grandparents. Not the grandparents of someone who lives half way across the world.
Now to the important part. Why would imitating your grandparents make you happy? Remember, you are your body. And it is a scientific fact your body is similar to that of your ancestors. If, for example, your ancestors ate a lot of rice, then your body will be well adjusted to this dietary choice. It is well known that people from cultures where rice is a staple have a larger pancreas, which enables them to property process larger amounts of rice. If your grandparents heavily relied on animal protein, your body may not be adept at creating all the needed amino-acids from vegetable sources. Over generations your ancestors evolved to be well fit to the types of food available to them. By imitating your grandparents, you take advantage of generations of evolutionary wisdom.
Unfortunately, radically deviating from your grandparents’ lifestyle can come at a very high price. For example, let’s consider diet. With scientific innovation came a food revolution that has radically and quickly changed how we eat. At the same time, mood related disordered have reached an all time high. Unable to adapt to the vast amounts of sugar (did you know that even common table salt has sugar in it?), and a wide array of man-made chemicals, our bodies become unable to provide our brains with the right nutrients to promote a sense of well being. We then become susceptible to a wide variety of mood related disorders. The connection between diet and happiness is a direct one: deprive your body of the right raw materials for long enough, and your brain will not have the proper balance of neurotransmitters.
At the other end of the spectrum are those telling us to deviate from our ancestors in the name of health. Such health proponents seem to claim that generations of people before us had no idea what they were doing. The favorite suggestion is to eliminate entire food groups. Don’t drink milk, cut the carbs, and forget about meat. I know many people who appear to believe that the less they eat, the healthier they will be. Not only is the idea of making such radical changes unwise, it is also scientifically unsound.
Whether you don’t follow in you grandparent’s footsteps because you have not made enough effort to care of your health, or because you tried very hard to be healthy, the result is the same. If your dietary choices would leave you unable to have dinner at your grandmother’s house, you may have just found the root of your problem.
But if you have not been yourself for a long time, your body may require some additional help because your organs may have been affected. There are many natural remedies that can help, if this is the case. Often an organ can be malfunctioning well before conventional medicine would assign it a disorder. For example, the connection between happiness and a healthy liver is well established in holistic medicine. Among many other things, the liver processes your food, which in turn provides the raw ingredients for your neurotransmitters. People often find radical improvement in their well-being when liver problems are addressed through natural remedies.
Consider your state of happiness for a moment. If happiness never seems to last, and advice by famous happiness gurus is having no effect for you, then chances are that your health is the root of the problem. Health is a very complex matter and we are all somewhat different from each other. Ultimately, you have to find your own way. In this article, I have shared what has made the biggest difference for me. However, my primary objective was to share with you the realization that profound changes can be made to your levels of happiness by first and foremost improving your bodily health.