I’ve been thinking a lot about my health. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older, but I’ve been overly concerned about my body being in tip top shape. Every tiny part of my physical self being on the up and up. I know I’m not as healthy as I could be, and I’ve been working out at home almost every day, and will start running again soon. I’ve done this before, though. I had gym memberships to gyms I’d go to for the first few months, but it always died off and then I was just paying the gym because I liked them, basically. I went running with friends, and eventually that would die off too. I started working out religiously right before I got married, and I managed to lose a few pounds. But a few months in, I lost momentum…Like I always do.
So why would it be any different this time? Well, it may not be. But I know I feel differently about it. I feel differently because It’s not just my physical health I’m worried about anymore. I used to worry about the way I looked, and what others thought of me. But now, I don’t really care about that anymore. No, what I care about more is that, as I get older, I’ll still be able to do things. I want to still be able to run, lift things, go backpacking, fight if I needed to, and take care of myself. I also care a great deal about my overall health, not just physical. And that is definitely different from before.
I feel like I’ve spent most of my 20’s just trying to figure out how to be happy. What I didn’t realize is that in order to be happy, you have to first learn to be content. Contentment isn’t an easy achievement for me. I am very prone to anxiety, restlessness, and constantly feel some need to be moving, progressing, trying desperately not to linger in any one area of my life.
I guess I never really just feel OK. There are some good aspects to always wanting to be growing or progressing in life. This need to always want your story to be moving forward. But YOU can’t do anything with your story. You’re just a character. You’re not the writer of your story, just the editor. You don’t know how your story will end. But I think God intentionally lets us co-author some of our story in a sense. God lets us choose what kind of story we are going to be a part of. Whether He already knows what story we will choose is a theological conversation for another day.
I think it would do you and I a lot of good to learn how to be content in our daily life. If we could learn this, who knows what we could do!
So here are some ways I’m learning to be OK in my life.
1. Learn To Be Optimistic
There’s something called hedonic adaptation. This is a term used in psychological circles to describe the process of happiness. Basically, hedonic adaptation says that every person has a basic level of happiness that they will always come back to, no matter what happens to them. Good or bad, we always return to a certain level of happiness that is determined partially by our genetic makeup, but also partially determined by how we think.
It is SO HARD for me to be optimistic. I am so painfully logical, that I am very much so a realist in all circumstances. This makes me prone to be more pessimistic by nature, due to the way my brain processes each situation and the anticipated outcome of most situations. Put simply, its really hard for me to not see the world through a pretty dark grey filter.
I’ve begun to explore ways for me to be more positive in my daily life. This is what I’ve come up with so far:
- Write down all the good things that happen today in a journal. By writing it down, you get a visual representation of all the good things that happen on a daily basis. It can help you turn your outlook around a little bit at a time.
- Exercise being thankful for what you have. It’s harder to be down in the dumps all the time if you’re occupying your thoughts with what you’re thankful for. I have so much to be thankful for each day. I try to thank God daily for all that I have, and all I am blessed with. It’s easier to tackle the harder things of life with a stronger mentality and a sensible grasp on reality.
- Make every attempt to view the glass Half-full. A couple of months ago I lost my full time job. It was a hurtful experience for sure, but I had a choice to make: Do I choose anger, frustration, and revert to how I’ve always handled these situations and settle for working anywhere I can to make not enough money somewhere else? Or do I look at this as an opportunity? I was tired of how I had always handled it. So I chose to look at me losing my job at that church as a blessing. I was fairly miserable at that church. It was an unhealthy place to be, and it was having great effects on me emotionally and mentally, and even on my marriage! Being forced to leave was a blessing. It enabled me to do find the courage to do the next thing on the list…
2. Pursue Your Passions
I lost my job on a Sunday, and by Monday morning I began trying to figure out how I can make money doing what I love. So I started writing blogs and songs, and doing everything I could to get paying gigs and write better songs. I figured out a way to record a new album (with the help of some really great friends!) and started the process of trying to brand myself so I could make a business around what I am passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still probably end up at another job doing something I’d rather not be doing. The bills have to be paid. But What I decided was that my dreams and passions weren’t going to take a backseat anymore. Since making this change, my life has a lot more opportunities to feel stress and anxiety but somehow I’ve found more fulfillment in each day. My wife tells me she’s never seen me so happy before. The funny thing is I didn’t even realize I felt happier! I was too busy doing what I was passionate about to think about if I was happy or unhappy, which actually made me happier.
So figure out what you’re passion is, and do that…No matter the sacrifice! Nothing great was ever done without a lot of risk, failure, sacrifice, pain, blood, sweat, and tears. They just didn’t give up on their dream for something. I won’t be giving up anymore, and neither should you.
3. Treat Your WHOLE Body Well
If you think your brain is the only thing that deserves to be happy, you’re wrong. If we look at happiness as really another way of saying when someone as at optimal performance, then every part of you, organs, bones, etc. deserve to be happy as well. Exercise is a proven catalyst to feeling a more complete sense of happiness overall. Getting enough sleep is also a major factor in how happy we feel. And Lastly, having not just a well balanced diet, but also a well informed diet can make all the difference in the world. Some studies have speculated that processed carbs, sugars, and industrial vegetable fats cause brain shrinkage, and also cause many brain diseases like dementia. Knowing as much as you can about the food you are putting into your body can have a major impact on the way you feel on a daily basis.
4. Be Compassionate
Brain imaging studies (the type where they watch your brain while participating in a given activity) have shown that someone giving to those in need, or even watching someone give to those in need actually experience just as much happiness as when they receive money or something of value from another person. I think there might be a sermon in there somewhere about how giving is receiving.
Seize opportunities to be compassionate to those in need. It will not only have an effect on your own outlook on life (and help you be more thankful as well), but it will also cause you to be less concerned with yourself, which in turn will help you be more content.
5. Learn To Forgive Yourself
This has always been a tough one for me. Both in doing, and also in explaining to someone else. Recently my wife asked me how you’re supposed to forgive yourself. I didn’t know what to tell her. How DO you forgive yourself I thought to myself. I began mulling over this idea, trying to conceptualize such a process. I didn’t get very far. The only thing I knew for certain was that its a relative process. Everyone has to forgive themselves in their own way. I don’t always know how to forgive myself for everything, but I know that I have done it before, because I don’t carry those things with me anymore. So how do I do it? How do you do it? I’m not sure of the how, but I know the why of it pretty well. We must learn to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have committed against God, others, and ourselves. We can’t carry those things with us or we will never achieve anything great because we won’t believe we can, and doubt is the death of all passion in life.
And while I’m on this topic…
6. Learn To Like Who You Are
Everyone is on a journey to becoming a more complete version of themselves, but rarely are they on a journey to become someone different. So don’t fool yourself into thinking if you hate who you are today, you can become someone else tomorrow. No one fully changes. They just grow up and learn to take responsibility so they can embrace the parts of themselves that were there all along, but are more beneficial to society, healthier for their own well being. This is otherwise known as the “good” in you.
Everyone has good in them. It just usually gets suppressed until your mid to late 20’s by self-centeredness, egos, and/or crippling doubt and self-worth issues. When it comes to getting through adolescence in this day and age, our generation didn’t have it easy, and the generations below us have it even harder. But if we can learn to get past all that and see the good in ourselves and in others, we can begin to see the world very differently, and maybe even start to love ourselves and others too.
When you age, you don’t look like a different person all together. You just look a little different. More character in the wrinkles and scars. More color in your cheeks. More life you’ve lived. More wisdom in your eyes. So it is with your soul. You’ll still be you in 20 years. You’ll just look a little different. More character. More experience to draw from. More life to discover. More wisdom for others to glean from. But you’ll still be you. So learn to like who you are, and begin to pull out the good that is within you, so that you may conquer the parts of you that hold the keys to the chains that bind you to your failures.
We can all be better people to the parts of the world we touch. But we can only be better for the world if we are better for ourselves first. We need to learn to just be. If we can embrace a better state of being, we can achieve the allusive contentment of our souls, and begin to grow beyond ourselves and into the lives of those around us. Maybe we could accept our own value, and begin to see the immense worth of others and start to call it out of them too.
Happiness is a mirage. A cheap imitation of a much greater wealth. Joy is much more eternal. Hope strengthens much more. Peace is much more nourishing. Love is much more life-giving. All of these together is what we should really be after. Only then will we start to feel OK about ourselves, and everything else.
Do you agree or disagree? What ways have you found to be “happy” in your daily life? Anything you’d add that I didn’t mention?