Monday, February 27, 2012

Slow Down

David Blaine posted the story above on his Twitter page a while back and now I pass it along to all of you. Sharing is caring.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Thoughts on Everyday Bliss

Not long ago I concluded there is very much a scientific explanation for enduring happiness. Of course we all have happy moments, but that doesn't mean we can all describe ourselves as happy people. In studying those who can, I realized quickly the people who are happy day in and day out are not lucky, or happy by coincidence. There are very specific patterns of thought and behavior that allow them to achieve a state of bliss daily. Accordingly, I have really been taking note of all the things that make me feel good or bad. Tiny little things, even. What I have noticed is mundane activities like cleaning, exercising, eating cleanly and even just taking pains to dress a little nicer have all been bringing me some measure of bliss. A non-negligible level, at that. By this, I mean my mood has improved for hours at a time through these small rituals. I realized quickly that the rituals which make me happiest are the ones that bridge the gap between the person I am and the person I aspire to be.
Illustration by bilygates
To wit, I used to hate cleaning. It was a chore; it was something I had to do versus something I got to do. I suppose on some level it still is. But as an adult, I find it rather therapeutic. At first I thought that was rather silly—why should this tiny little thing make one lick of difference?  Eventually I realized this mundane activity enabled me to excise direct control over my environment. It is so very rare that we are able to bend our surroundings to our will with such comparatively little effort. It also makes me feel neater and better organized, bringing not only a sense of accomplishment but a sense of progress, which seems to be the key word. 

"Progress equals happiness."
-Tony Robbins

The same is true of fitness, of course. Exercise can be a great reliever of stress and is also an underutilized treatment for mild to moderate depression. 1 Yet it isn't necessarily the exercise itself that brings real happiness but the comfort of a ritual we know leads to growth; growth of muscles, increased endurance, greater and greater esteem for oneself, etc. As I thought about it even more, I realized that on some level, there is really no happiness without some kind of growth. Spending time with loved ones is great in and of itself, but greater still because on some level it makes us feel closer still. i.e., we grow on an interpersonal level.

By the same token, the things which make me feel worst seem to be the things that widen the gap between who I am and who I aspire to be. Overeating or eating poorly (even for just a few days), not keeping up an appearance, not keeping my apartment tidy, being overly reclusive, insensitive to the needs of others and anything else that leads to a sense of moving further away from being that internal vision of an idealized self. I feel worst when I am no longer even able to clearly visualize who and what I aspire to be because my behavior is so out of step with that idealized self. I suppose to some extent this accounts for why I feel guilty about telling people "no," even when those people are quite frankly being exploitative. Thus I have concluded that the way to feel better about saying "no" is to reconstruct this internal image of the uber-self. I always feel like I want to be a "bigger" person, i.e., more sensitive to the needs of others and more to willing to give without asking anything in return. I seem to have developed a neuro-association with Rescuer2 behavior, associating it on a pre-rational level with a sense of growth. The solution seems obvious—I need to find a way to reconstruct this internal image of an idealized self to be one more assertive while still sensitive and considerate. The only problem being, I really don't know how exactly I am going to do that. I did however find this instructional video on visualization from former Mr. Olympia competitor Kevin Levrone inspirational. It's a simple exercise and oriented towards a an internal image of an idealized physical self but in going through the exercise, I got a real sense of empowerment. As though this idealized body is already there and just waiting for me to step into it. And thus I now find myself wondering how effective this same technique can be for visualizing other forms of the uber-self. I suppose only time will tell.


1. Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress and More
2. The Gospel of George

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