The Bumpy Road to Happiness – and how to stay there once you get there!

By Rob Hourmont

 

I’m always talking about getting people Fit, Healthy and Happy. Why do I use this term? Well, a fit and healthy body will support you in achieving a healthy mind and happiness. At least that’s my experience and what I see with my clients and how they transform from within to the outside. However, it isn’t easy to get there and to be honest, once you achieve a fit, healthy body and mind, like your body, your mind needs to be trained and nurtured on a daily basis to stay in that good space. This is the essence of reaching true happiness and staying happy. A lot of people fail at this and regress back to unhappiness. Being fit, healthy and happy is about several attributes; such as positivity, focus, drive, determination, self-examination, will power, motivation, empathy and self-love.

Happiness, how to get there, stay there and avoid unhappiness as much as possible, is the core of this article. We have to be realistic though; unhappiness will always occur, as life is complicated and it’s impossible to talk through it without moments of unhappiness.That’s just not possible and all the “experts” out there telling you how to always be happy are bullshitting you. Let’s start:

Positivity is a major player. Some people like to say that forcing yourself to be positive is fake, as you are simply blocking out reality and not dealing with the negatives or problems in your life. They like to call themselves “realists”. I disagree; positivity is a mind-set, an attitude, not a forced view of reality. Negative things happen to us pretty much every day, and it’s all about how you approach those experiences. How you balance those emotions. Do I flip, rant and get angry, or do I take a couple of deep breaths and say to myself, it’s going to be ok, just breath and let this pass? Who do you think at the end of the day will be happier, the person with the first or second approach?

Does that mean we can positively “think” ourselves out of every difficult or negative situation we are confronted with, especially if these are serious? No, we have to deal with those negative emotions and process them, we may even need to cry alone or on someone’s shoulder and it may be a struggle to offload the negative thoughts, but we have to keep looking at ourselves in these situations and say this sucks, but it is what it is and I will do all I can do work it out and get stronger and I will win this. With this strong and positive mind-set supporting us, we will eventually and I say eventually, turn things around to make us stronger and shake off the negative emotions. The more we apply this the better we become at it over time.

Willpower comes in very handy here. With strong and determined willpower, processing those negative emotions and turning them around into a positive is key. I strongly believe that the famous saying “one door closes and another opens” is true. But you have to have the willpower to not let a situation and your mind drag you down. You have to keep on at it and keep overriding those negative thoughts with positive ones. Outlining all the good things you have in life (even if they are simple things) will help achieve that. But you must develop a very strong sense of willpower, then you can conquer all!

Focus is often overlooked. Everyone is so busy busy… I have a client who is always too busy for everything and therefore has regressed with his health and happiness after initially making great improvements.Focus is so important to our happiness and understanding how to focus properly is key. You can’t simply let work and life demands take you over and run your life (which is what most people do), you have to focus on you! Meaning, your body, mind, spirit, soul and well-being. If you don’t, you will soon be that dog chasing its tail, with no end in sight. Where is the happiness in that? Figuring out what’s important in your life, structuring and making time for you is probably the most important thing you can do to achieve happiness. Focusing on your time management, including yourself in that time management is essential. If you don’t have time for yourself, what’s the point in living really?

In any case, it’s simply rubbish, we all have time and if not, we must make time for our health and ourselves. As Richard Branson said; “If you don’t have time for exercise, make time”. I tell my clients to walk every day for at least 6 to 8 km at a fast pace and I follow up on them daily. Sometimes I hear, didn’t have time, too busy, too tired and so on. That’s all nonsense, as it’s all and only about your mindset. You must make time and that time slot for YOU should actually be your daily priority. A simple adjustment such as getting up 1 hour earlier will for example make time for you. Focus on focusing on you and your needs, then you will achieve all the time you need and your life will be less busy and happier.

Simplify your life. Unclutter and offload stuff you don’t use or need. Get one or two hobbies, and work on those, enjoying them and having fun. Don’t do too much, all that does is make you very average at everything and then you get stressed over that. Cut back on all things you don’t need, stop spending crazy money on expensive holidays or dinner at 5 Star Restaurants. Enjoy what you like of course, but keep it simple, minimize and do more yourself. A home cooked meal with family or friends always tastes better, is fun to prepare, plus you can make sure you are using all organic ingredients, which you don’t get at restaurants. Making your own BBQ steak will always beat any top rated steak house, if you put a little effort into it.

Exercise is a key component to achieving lasting happiness.  You can exercise in many ways and by the way, it should never be too strenuous, or at least if you exercise hard, make sure you limit this to brief 30 or 40 minute sessions 2 to 3 times per week at a maximum. Exercising the right way and less is the mantra here. Simple things like walking at a brisk pace for an hour a day, or swimming for 30 to 60 minutes, biking for an hour, are all great forms of exercise. You just need to keep it up and make sure you exercise in an aerobic state (your heart rate at 180 minus your age is your aerobic maximum) almost every day. Make it a habit, do this for a month, at least 5 times a week, then you won’t want to miss it, as it will be embedded in your daily routine and you will notice how such a simple form of every day movement is so empowering.

Try to exercise as much as possible outdoors, connecting with nature, listening to the birds, dogs barking, trees rustling, water flowing in a river or the waves of the sea.  Besides being great exercise for your body, this is wonderfully therapeutic, relieves stress and anxiety, which in turn will make you much happier. Plus, at the end you will feel a great sense of accomplishment with those endorphins flowing, which sets you up for a positive and happy day.  Best is to do this first thing in the morning before starting your day. But before that comes this:

Meditate every morning as soon as you awake for 10 – 20 minutes and do the same in the evening whilst getting ready for bed, and build this into your daily routine. Meditation brings peace of mind. It allows you to focus on you, your mind and soul. Being with yourself alone, feeling your breath, your heart beat, listening to your mind, whilst calming it down to focus only on the now and clear it of cluttered thoughts, is what makes this daily practice so special. Once you get used to it, you will enjoy this so much as you will feel clarity and calm. That’s what’s so powerful about meditation. With practice, it brings you to your true self and will calm you and balance your mind, body and soul, resulting in more happiness.

Mindfulness is closely associated with Meditation. Buy a book on Mindfulness, I recommend The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. What does Mindfulness really mean? Well, how about being mindful of what’s going on around you? That means you are actually taking in your immediate environment and are paying attention (focusing) on what is happening right now, in your NOW. That’s Mindfulness in a nutshell. Sounds easy right? It is, providing you actually make a genuine effort to practice this every day. Most of us drift through day after day, week and month, well, drifting. While driving thinking of a vacation you want, or while eating talking about work or school, while walking texting your friends and so on. The list is endless. Most people today are so preoccupied with other things in their life, their clutter, so distracted that they actually don’t ever realise what’s going on now, or stop to smell the proverbial roses. Life is just a blur, a rush through from one thing to the next, work appointments, school runs, grocery shopping, and dinner, TV to bed… How was your day? Don’t really remember, or busy would be most people’s answer. Kind of a waste, right?

It doesn’t need to be that way, not at all. It’s all a question of your mind-set and you slowing your life down to actually take in what is happening and to make a concerted effort to be in the present for most of the time, focus on the moment and enjoy the moment fully. Even mundane things like grocery shopping or picking up the kids from school, become enjoyable if you set your mind to it and explore everything that’s in front of you. Instead of getting mad at other drivers as they are slow or messing up, drive more relaxed and listen to music or talk to your kids, or just observe the road (probably best). Taking each moment and every day for granted is a problem in today’s society. Opening your mind to take in everything that’s around you in the moment, will not only make each moment more meaningful, it will stop your mind from wondering and worrying about other issues. Constant rumination and anxious thoughts about what’s happened and what needs to be done to get this or that done, is poison for our brains. This is where my next point comes in:

Goals: setting daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly goals is a great way to rid anxiety and worry. You have to take some time each week and write down your goals for the week and revisit them every morning and evening to check your progress, tick them off and or amend. Goals will change or be added, but stay true to your goals, and your mind will be free.

Habits: habits are formed by daily action or routine. You must check and write down your daily routine and note all your habits. You will see a definite pattern, and you will see yourself repeating bad habits over and over again. Habits are deeply installed in our brains and are had to kick, such as smoking for so many people, or texting while driving, or watching TV while having dinner. Many bad habits are actually quite stupid things and if you self examine, truly reflect, you will accept that and can agree with yourself to work on replacing those bad habits with new good habits, such as getting up an hour earlier, doing your meditation then going for a brisk 1 hour walk to start off your day. Repeat this for a month every day, and then you will have installed this habit in your daily routine. You will suddenly notice that you don’t want to miss this new habit because you start to enjoy it. Building more good habits in your daily routine will make you much happier!

EI, or Emotional Intelligence is an important factor in our happiness. Why and what is EI all about? It’s about self-awareness and keeping your emotions in check and balanced. It’s in line with mindfulness but goes further as it requires you to really be aware of how you are responding to you and the outside world and people on a constant basis. It requires empathy, compassion, and diligence. If you are frequently getting upset over small things, such as traffic jams or long lines at a store, you are not applying your EI and the only person you are really hurting by starting to rant or complain is you, well unless you then become obnoxious to others, then you are making an ass of yourself too. The book of all books about EI is of course Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goldman. If you haven’t read it, please go and get it today! Learning to be self aware, reflecting and caring about yourself and others will strengthen your power of EI. This will strengthen your character and make you feel better allround every day, because you are able to deal with “difficult” situations much more easily. A nice side effect is that you will greatly lower the amount of stress in your life, remaining calm and composed at all times. Your fight or flight hormone (cortisol) will be released much less and this will greatly (over time) lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.

Self Love or Self Care is another favourite building block of mine to achieve overall happiness. Being kind to oneself every day is highly underrated. That inner voice in your mind is often telling you off or berating you, calling you an idiot for doing this, trusting this person or making a bad decision. You have to shut down the inner voice (best by always being in the NOW), as much as possible. And when self-talk does get negative, you have to immediately replace it with a positive thought and talk. “No no, this is not going to be a problem, I’m going to master this by doing such and such and I’m completely confident in being able to do so, I’ve got this….” For example would be a way to replace a negative thought with a positive. Being kind to yourself or Self-Love also means to take time for yourself. Don’t be that busy bee who is so busy never has time to do anything good for him or herself. When I hear people respond to my question “how are you?” with, oh man so busy, I know whom I’m dealing with. A very stressed out person without much self-care. The good news is there is always time to learn and it’s never too late. The key here is to take time for you, for walks, exercise, a massage, spa time, being with friends and or going to the movies, enjoying nice food at home our outside. Take time and enjoy yourself, love yourself, only then can you really love others.

Socialising and Friends is another key topic. Once again, due to a demanding work or family schedule, socialising with family and friends often gets thrown out the window. That’s a very bad idea as in time this will lead to frustration within a family home and everyone getting pissed off at each other, which can have disastrous results. It really starts off with making sure your friends are real friends and please get rid if the “deadwood” friends, who drag you down are always negative and a pain in the ass to deal with. You may think they need you, but trust me, if you are only feeling negativity around these friends, they are feeding you negativity and you aren’t helping them, as often they don’t want to be helped. So, get rid of that type of friend and hand them a card for a good therapist! Try to spend only quality time with good, caring and positive people. But most importantly, do spend time out socializing, at dinner, bowling, exercising, or just talking. We need to interact with others as often as possible. Frequent interaction or socialising is scientifically proven to elevate our moods and keep us happy for long periods of time. Therefore if you are married with or without kids, a new couple, keep in mind you need to socialise together with others and also alone with others! Don’t be jealous and not let your partner interact with others. That’s selfish and will lead to a dead end in your relationship.

Hobbies and practicing these select hobbies (remember we said 1 or 2 maximum) is vital to your health, agility, mind-set and much more. Whatever your hobby is; fishing, bowling, tennis, basketball, golf, it doesn’t matter. Just get out and do it one to two times per week, on your own or with someone. Practicing your hobby on a regular basis will satisfy you and stimulate your mind for more.

Sun Exposure, yes you read right, plenty of sun exposure to large body parts every day if possible is very important. This is your main source of the key hormone Vitamin D, which is crucial for us and we cannot get enough of via food intake, just by consuming supplements. The right type of sun exposure (covering up with natural organic sunscreens, your face and hand, as these are frequently exposed) to your large body parts such as back, chest and legs for 20 minutes a day will give you the perfect natural does of Vitamin D. When light is diminished, the body increases the secretion of melatonin, and the secretion of serotonin is conversely slowed. Being out in the sun is proven to make you healthier, not just emotionally but physically as well… and this makes you happy.

Resting enough each day and getting plenty of sleep on a regular schedule is far more important than most like to believe. Powering on throughout the day without any breaks other than another coffee here or there is extremely damaging to your mind and body. It’s going to raise your stress level with your stress hormone cortisol being switched on all day long to keep you buzzing along. This will eventually lead to burnout and you breaking down, which can be serious. Constant high levels of cortisol production are a leading cause for heart disease today. Rest every 1 to 2 hours and take a break, a walk and some time to relax. You will get much more done that way and you won’t kill yourself doing it.

Sleeping enough and the right way is something basic that will make you feel better. We need more sleep than we think. Sure you can get by on 4 or 6 hours, but it’s not really good for you to have that little sleep, as you will always need the adrenaline to keep you going. Going to bed 2 or 3 hours after sundown and rising with the sun is the ideal way to set your body clock, for your body and mind to repair and regenerate cells during your sleep, giving it adequate time to do so. Our body and mind is a complex highly sophisticated machine. Much like a Ferrari but way more so. Would you drive your Ferrari into the ground every day without giving it a break, some fresh fuel and cooling down time? I don’t think so. This goes back to above, Self-Love.

Affirmations; closely related to Meditation and Self-Love comes Affirmations, positive Affirmations. I’ve built this into my daily meditation routine in that I end my meditation in the morning by telling myself what I’m grateful for, who and what I love, what I want to achieve today and in the near future and how I will accomplish this. I repeat 3 to 6 mantras in relation to what I’m affirming to myself over and over again for a good 10 minutes. These affirmations are then ingrained in my mind and I keep them in front of me all day long, reminding myself. This keeps your spirits and mood high throughout the day.

Smiling and Laughing is a great way to make you happy. A lot of us forget to smile and laugh throughout the day, because we are so busy and serious and need to get so much done. That’s bad. We have to smile a lot, to ourselves alone, with others and just laugh, and even make yourself laugh a few times a day about nothing, just remember to laugh. It really helps!

Finding true happiness is not that hard, but it’s not easy either and there is no shortcut. You have to work on yourself, body and mind every day and cultivate a clear path in your mind, create good habits, stick to your goals and blueprint you have designed and designated for yourself with your affirmations. That way you will gradually get to where you want to be in a much happier frame of mind.

A Primal Lifestyle

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