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Happiness is...
by Don Bennett, DAS

I was driving back from Houston, Texas, and I noticed a billboard that said, "The road to happiness, next three exits." It was an ad for Wendy's hamburgers. A little farther down the road, a billboard sported, "Happiness to go!" It was an ad for McDonald's drive-through, and was referring to their "Happy Meal". It's called a happy meal, not a healthy meal. Why? People want to be happy. Sure, being healthy is all well and good, but what good is being healthy if you're not happy. Happy sells things. If you're over 60 you might remember this jingle, "Happiness is, the taste of Kent" (cigarette ad). But if you get lung cancer, and both lungs need to be removed, I guarantee that you won't be a happy camper.

Happiness is a state of mind, and whatever affects your state of mind, obviously affects your ability to be happy. This article will explore the things that influence your state of mind, and therefore your "happiness potential".

The Mind-Body Connection gets a lot of press. You can't pick up an alternative health magazine without finding an article about how your state of mind affects your physical health. But what about its counterpart, the Body-Mind Connection. It plays just as big a role as its brother, but we don't hear much about it. Your physical health greatly affects your emotional well-being; more than most people realize. But the pharmaceutical industry would rather you control your emotional state with drugs, and the food industry would rather you alter your mood with food (grain products contain opioids, dairy products contain caso-morphine). But these things negatively affect your physical health, which in turn negatively affects your emotions, which makes you gravitate towards mood altering foods and pharmaceuticals; a vicious cycle, but one that's very profitable for certain industries.

If you want to experience your happiness potential, there's only one way to do it, and that's becoming physically healthy. I've had experience with many people who've modified the way they lived in order to deal with a serious health problem, and who invariably reported the side benefit of being happier, less stressed, less snippy, more tolerant (of things like being stuck in traffic), and this change for the better was not just the result of being glad they were no longer plagued with a health problem. The less irritated the body is, the less irritated you will be. The less burdened the body is, the less emotionally burdened you will be. These things go hand-in-hand.

Ever notice how easy it is to make some babies smile, and how other babies are cranky a lot? The easy-to-smile/laugh state of being is the normal state. But if a baby is irritated on the inside (most likely due to a less than perfect diet), that baby will be irritated emotionally. Try this exercise: Remember a time when you laughed heartily. Now go back to the moment just before you laughed, but this time you've got a headache, a toothache, and you just hit your thumb with a hammer. Now, here comes the funny thing that made you laugh… Did you laugh this time? This illustrates how your physical state affects your emotional state.

To have a high happiness potential, you need to pay attention to all the requisites of healthy living, and not just diet. Sure, diet's important, but you could eat the healthiest diet for a human being and still succumb to a serious disease, which won't leave you feeling very happy. Equal attention must be given to the following "basics of health"…

1. Sunshine: Get enough, not too much. There are many variables that dictate what is "too much" (time of day, day of the year, where on the globe you are, amount of cloud cover, and skin tone are the major ones), so there is no definitive amount of time you should or shouldn't spend in the sun. In general, if you want to remain in the sun as long as possible, sunbathe early or late in the day (the sun is strongest from about 10-2 PM non-daylight savings time), but this is not advised during your "vitamin D winter" (when the sun's rays pass through a lot of atmosphere and are weakened). Because any chemical you put on your skin will be absorbed, and chemicals are best kept out of your body, I'm not an advocate of using sunscreens to avoid sunburn. Plus, sunscreens interfere with the rays that you are looking to get to create vitamin D. So after getting direct sun for an appropriate amount of time, if I want or need to remain in the sun, cover up is my motto, using white lightweight cotton clothes and a wide brimmed hat.

Additionally, be well hydrated when sunbathing, pay attention to your body's need to get out of the sun (if you're reading or snoozing, you won't "hear" it), and obviously don't get burned, especially if you eat foods grown with pesticides or you smoke. Why? The sun is not the primary cause of skin cancer; it is a secondary cause. If it was the primary cause, all the cultures that get tons of sun would get skin cancer too, but they don't. In fact, skin cancer is rare among them. Skin cancer, like other forms of cancer, is directly related to how "toxic" you are (which is an article in itself). Your body is always expelling toxins as best it can. One method of elimination is through the skin. If you want skin cancer, take skin that is eliminating toxins (like pesticides) and over-bake it in the sun on a regular basis. Skin cancers have actually been reduced by getting adequate sunshine (not directly on the affected area of course), in addition to the other basics below. For more information on cancer and vitamin D, read this article.

2. Physical activity: Up and down motion makes you feel good, and for good reason. The healthiest way to move lymph fluid is by jumping on a mini-trampoline (rebounding). Sure, you could move lymph fluid by running, but the punishment you'll give your joints will very likely haunt you years down the road (if it hasn't started to already). Remember, I'm an advocate of the healthiest way to do things, and to move lymph fluid, it's spirited walking and rebounding.

3. Sleep: Deep, phase four sleep is when major healing takes place, and it's when the body recharges itself. REM sleep is where your mind "rebuilds" itself. What interferes with REM and deep sleep? Eating just before going to bed, a room that isn't totally dark, medications, and taking problems to bed with you. Try leaving problems outside the bedroom; don't worry, they'll still be there in the morning (if your problem is your spouse, this is not the best way to resolve things). And try falling asleep while thinking of something that puts a smile on your face. If you're hungry at bedtime, so hungry that sleep would be impossible, eat a few small pieces of melon or a few grapes. Deep sleep is also where a goodly amount of growth hormone (GH) is produced. The calories used by muscles require GH. If you're not making enough GH (due to not enough deep sleep), these calories become fat; yet another reason to get a good night's sleep if you're trying to normalize your weight.

4. Diet: The less cooked food, and the more uncooked fruits and vegetables you eat, the healthier you will be, regardless of blood type, body type, hair color, or Zodiac sign. And go easy on the nuts and seeds; it is very possible to be an unhealthy, overweight 100% raw food eater if you're eating too much fat, and not enough simple carbs (which come from fruit, and are not to be confused with the unhealthy carbs from grains and beans). Excessive fat from nuts, seeds, and fatty fruit (and oils, which shouldn't be a part of a healthy diet) can keep you from achieving your health potential. And eating simple meals, devoid of bad food combinations, goes a long way towards experiencing your happiness potential. Another way to look at this is: Easier digestion = less stress management needed, which brings me to…

5. Emotional poise: Take advantage of the "power of positive thinking", which is simply not being in a negative frame of mind, which depresses the "immune" system and allows disease to flourish. The good news is: the physically healthier you become, the easier it is to be positive, and therefore happy. You'll find that things which once annoyed you, no longer do. And make sure you find time to relax and unwind, even if it's just a few minutes of deep breathing here and there.

So we now see that "happiness is... a healthy body". But our free-will allows us to choose between "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die" and "Eat and drink healthfully, and be happy, so tomorrow you can do it again". The former is the watchword of those slug'n down multitudes of beer, burgers, and bad breakfasts, the latter belonging to those who have the wisdom to realize that a long and naturally happy life can be theirs if they simply respect (their) nature. To paraphrase Leonardo da Vinci, "Vitality, beauty, and happiness are gifts of Nature for those who live according to its laws". And Nature's law regarding health is, "Give the body what it wants, and don't give it what it doesn't want". Believe me, that'll make your body really happy; and when your body is happy, you'll be able to experience happiness like you never could have imagined. Oh, and that Happy Meal might make you happy while you're eating it, but it also might be something that gets in the way of you experiencing happiness in between meals. Food for thought!


Suggested reading :

Food & Behavior

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