Monday, 10 December 2012

Practical tips for happiness

I realise this sort of a list or a post might come off as disingenuos coming from me, that is coming from someone who has spent the better part of this year in turn hiding under my foldable bunk bed or writing out letters filled with brimstone and every last drop of teendaged insecurity to absolutely no one and then maybe possibly told everyone who'd listen that I don't much care for living in this country. But I present to you that despite and because of all of that and still being alive/having friends/very much looking forward to everything that happens next I'm JUST the person to be writing this sort of a list.
Because I have been profoundly unhappy. Even more so than what comes with the perpetual dark and cold. And because in the past year I have not been unhappy but annoyed and occasioanlly scared and a lot of the time very much aware that I am exactly where I need to be right now and exactly where my actions have taken me. And that's cool, bro.

So, a couple of a practical tips for everyday happiness that are proven to work, on me, 100% of the time.

1. Exercise. Every few hours (particularly if you're doing something sedentary), do a few lunges or leg lifts or best of all, put on a good song and shake what you got like nobody's business.
Because it is nobody's business but yours. And you're awesome and so is what you got.
On a scietific level: this will increase blood flow to everywhere including your brain and your mind will keep sharper. Brain likes exercising. And it likes being challenged in different ways.

2. Eat well. Not "eat chips/burgers/ice cream/chocolate because that shit tastes good and oh my good I feel awesome afterwards". No. Eat well. Eat loads of foods. Eat things you made yourself. From scratch. Go to a proper restaurant with table cloths made of cloth and not plastic or a cafe with sandwiches that don't come out of plastic wrappers and protective gasses. You can have a cookie after you eat your soup/stew/risotto/that-thing-they-call-food.
On a scietific level: your body needs food. Your brain needs food. Not just all the nutrients in actual food, but the look and taste and experience of having a proper meal. You know those foodie pictures people lust after online? Like this one:
(picture found online at Creative Loafing)

There's a reason why you think it looks good enough to eat. Because it is. And more than likely, if you're reading this, it's not out of your budget to make something like that for yourself. If you're feeling crap, there's a good chance that you're not eating well and getting both enough energy to keep your body functioning and enough nutrients to keep it functioning well. Feeding yourself well is part of being a grown up.

3. Sleep well. Another thing that's part of being an adult and knowing that you and your body are the same creature that needs to take care of itself to be happy and do the stuff it wants to. Your body needs rest.
On a scientific level: there is such a thing as DSPD (Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder). What this means is that a person is not able to fall soundly asleep and experience deep sleep in the same pattern as "normal" people. Often times "sufferers" fall asleep between 1-5am and sleep past noon. I'm using a lot of quotes there. The thing is that our western capitalist/consumerist world is built to accomodate people resting in your regular 9-12pm to 6-7am patterns. This is how everything is timed. If you're resting outside of that pattern, no matter how rested you yourself feel, the rest of the world will not wait for you and you will miss out of a lot of the things going on while you sleep. HOWEVER, most of the western world is becoming increasingly 24/7 with factories and entertainment running at all hours of the day. This will undoubtedly increase the amount of people experiencing DSPD (along with increased use of internet which is basically another world running 24/7 already and the very very high use of energy drinks/similar) and it does make it worth a ponder if the anxiety and depression DSPD-"sufferers" experience is due to metabolical changes caused by the changed sleep patterns or due to the societal demands and blame heaped on them.
Regardles. However you do it, do it well. Sleep well. Sleep enough. You need to recharge and process. Don't over do it.

4. Go out. Even if it's raining pitch forks and frozen peas. Go out.
On a scientific level: it's a light version of this. On a non-scietific level: it's where all the stuff really happens.

5. Spend as much time as you can with friends. The ones that listen to you and who you in turn listen to. If you find yourself failing on either one of those points, then it's not the sort of friendship you should be cherishing. Hug them. Hugs are good for keeping warm on the outside and inside.
On a scietifinc level: Friends are like pets, only better because more often than not, you're not responcible for housetraining them, cleaning their vomit off everything, feeding them or putting them to sleep after having known them for 15 years. Hugging is known to reduce anxiety, strengthen bonds of belonging to a group and fight depression.. all of which are pretty much parts of the same big mass of being healthy inside your head.

6. Write it out. Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean a lot of the time, people have thoughts and things going on inside their heads. Things you don't understand, things that scare you, things that confuse you. Negative things. Sometimes those things are like a sweater with static electricity and they attract other crap to form a Crappy Dust Ball Of Doom and then you're in trouble because you're carrying around all this useless crap that attracts other useless crap and it makes you look like crap and feel like crap and it just not good for anything at all. And even if your friends might volunteer to get some of that off you, putting negativity out just means you heaped a bunch of your crap on someone else and made their day a tiny bit less awesome. So write it out. Write that shit out and write all the nasty words you want to use you'd never say to anyone to their face because when you have enough crap on your back, everything comes out disproportionate. Don't be horrified at how much anger or negativity there might be inside you. It's human to have emotions. It doesn't make you less of a good person to be angry. But negative crap attracts more negative crap and that's why it's important to not carry it around with you or throw it at other people. Put it in a letter and then burn that sucker. Also think carefully during every day communication. It's very easy to slip into being Judgy McJudgerson and spreading negativity without meaning to.
On a scietific level: I got nothing. It helps. And it definitely helps with putting your own emotions and reactions in perspective and not infecting other people with negativity they had no part in to begin with. When I find a study explainging just how this helps, I'll be sure to link to it. All of which bring me to...

7. Do difficult stuff you like. Why? Because the more you don't do the difficult stuff you'd want to be doing because there's this ideal You you have inside your head that does all kinds of stuff, the more annoyed you're going to get with yourself and your life. And the more annoyed you get with yourself and your life, the less you're going to enjoy it and the more you're going to enjoy other people being miserable (or, in other cases, the more you're going to be hating on other people seemingly enjoying their life because being preoccupied with their life makes it somehow ok for you to not think about your own life). Here's a secret: that difficult stuff you want to do? You can totally do it and it's not actually difficult once you learn it. Sure, you might not be the best ever at it, but people run marathons without feet and dogs drive cars and dolphins use tools, so whatever excuse you might have that relates to physically not being able to, is pretty much invalid. It's mostly a question of priorities. Is your life a priority to you. Is your happiness a priority. Is your health a priority to you. Yes, health. Healthy spirit, healthy body, the two are just facets of the same thing.
On a scietific level: neuroplasticity. Your brain is by far more adaptable and capable of learning throughout your life than people think. You CAN learn new things and you can learn to learn new things. Like enjoy learning.

And finally
8. Just say YES! If it's a choice between doing what you've always done and doing something you haven't (given that doing something you haven't doesn't get you/other people killed or seriously injured) always do the thing that you've never done before.
On a scietific level: see the bit about neuroplasticity. We're training the brain to be happy here. You wont know if you like something or not before you try it.

And that's all I got. 8 things that make you (me) happy.
I might not have much financial room to travel or be in another country right now, but I'm enjoying being in this moment. Every morning is a thousand new opportunities to change those bits that you don't like, accept the things you can't change and enjoy the bits you do. So you really can't lose.

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