Health and happiness go hand in hand

| January 16, 2013

By the end of the first week of January I’m already sick to death of hearing about New Year’s resolutions. There’s an insane voice in our heads that actually makes us believe because it’s a new calendar year, we can set unobtainable goals for ourselves and achieve them.

I start every week off with a determination to finish every writing project I have, clean the windows and take the cats to the vet before the weekend. Monday morning rolls around and I act like it’s the last day I’m ever going to breathe. I get a whole bunch of stuff done on Monday, but by Tuesday, I’m over it. Our cats haven’t been to the vet in six years and the windows are now the same color as the walls, so it blends well and I’m strangely OK with it.

I was perusing Carolyn’s blog (Reality Check) the other day and read about the guy who set 10 resolutions for himself on Jan. 1 and had broken two of them by Jan 3. Consequently, he was feeling like a turd of a human. Her advice to him was perfect, and she set him straight (which is her gift) and on his way to feeling much less turdy. Sometimes it just takes an “I’m just say’n'” kind of person in your life to help you realize how silly it is to feel bad about failing at impossible tasks.

Setting goals is fantastic. It’s an excellent tool to keep us striving to be better human beings. Setting these goals is easy, obtaining them is the problem. People tend to feel like failures when they aren’t able to quit smoking and lose 50 pounds at the same time. Are you kidding me? These are two enormous goals, both require intense life changes and together they seem insurmountable. There’s a distinct difference between setting goals and setting yourself up for failure.

I’m no expert on anything, but I’ve been around long enough and observed and written about enough people to know that the achievers are generally happy, well-adjusted people. Are they happy because they achieve, or achieve because they’re happy? A great majority of them will tell you they achieve because they’ve learned to break things into bite-size portions, so when they do fail, it’s easier to brush themselves off and get back on the proverbial horse. A small disappointment is much easier to recover from, and recovering from these disappointments equals happiness.

Any task you set out to do is easier when you find joy in it. Pounding the treadmill for 45 minutes is impossible for me to find joy in, so I give myself treats for doing it. I get no pleasure from the action, but I absolutely love the treats. (Anyone ever train a dog? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

I also love the fact that each day I accomplish this horrendous task, I put a star on the calendar, so I can have a visual of my “good days” every time I look at it. The psychological effect of having an instant positive result is imperative for me to continue my tortures on the treadmill. I still don’t like doing it, but I found a way to squeeze some satisfaction out of it.

Every human is hooked up different in the brain department and needs to navigate their own psyche to find what gives them joy. For you three Jolly Ranchers and a star on the potty chart might not inspire enough gumption to exercise, but for me it’s a winner. Of course when I was a little kid, my granny gave us sticks and china berries as our “outside toys,” so my expectations may not be exactly what you’d call lofty.

Sure we knew there were other kids with Barbies and bicycles, but we built forts with our sticks and learned to become sharpshooters with the berries and a handheld slingshot, and we loved every minute of it. We found our joy in tick-infested forts and welts the size of plums all over our legs (arms, faces, heads) from pinging each other with china berries (or rocks, or dead animals — whatever we could find under the shed that would fit in a sling). It doesn’t sound like much, but we were happy and I have to say that we’ve all become fairly successful people.

It’s a medically proven fact that happy people are healthier. Happiness gives them an inner strength that actually makes their bodies function better. We are inextricably entwined with our psychological and physiological selves. Without both working in tandem, we’re just a skin sack full of bones and other assorted gross stuff. Our brain not only runs the mechanics, it sets the tone for how smooth the machine runs. You may master your body, but you will never master your brain. (It has a mind of its own — ha ha!) The best bet is to feed it well, both figuratively and literally, and try to learn to get along with it.

Before you sit down and make a list of all the fabulous things you’re going to accomplish this year, decide first how you’re going to be happy doing it. Find joy in your life, trick that mean ol’ brain into loving every minute of it. Life is short, and when you spend a vast majority of it trapped in the cab of a truck, it can seem pretty dim sometimes. Dance like a fool in the shower, make a little kid belly laugh, pet your dog — whatever it takes, but do it.

Your overall health and wellness will benefit and the general public will thoroughly enjoy the Youtube video your kid posts of you doing the Mashed Potato wearing nothing but a bath towel. Be safe, be kind to one another and be healthy!