Optimizing Health Part 19: Emotional Wellbeing
Happiness is next to healthiness. Studies show that folks who are consistently joyous, enthusiastic, calm and content are healthier, with fewer colds, less pain, fewer symptoms of disease, fewer hospitalizations and fewer injuries. They even live 10-40% longer. What's going on?
Your mind, nervous system and immune system are all linked together in a very complex way. It turns out that being happy energizes your immune system, prevents overproduction of cell-damaging stress hormones, takes a burden off your heart, and even protects your brain.
That's great. But what if you're just not naturally that happy? It's not like you can just decide to be happy, can you?
Actually, yes you can. With these simple three steps.
Happiness is our natural state of being. It's who we are. Just take a look at little children before their light is dimmed by society's happiness-snuffing beliefs, social structures and fears. They're easily and spontaneously happy!
In working with thousands of very ill people for over 35 years, I've found that there are three steps to happiness that can take you from wherever you are emotionally to feeling great! I recommend these three steps to my patients, and I practice them myself.
Note: In addition to the steps below, there are herbs and nutrients that can be powerfully effective at both settling down anxiety and helping improve mood. My favorites are Calming Balance and Happiness 1-2-3. Both provide unique mixes of herbs and nutrients that promote a happy mood. In addition, my simple e-book, Three Steps to Happiness! Healing Through Joy, can show you how to become happy — even when you're fighting an illness. And a happy outlook can be powerful medicine when you're trying to recover from illness.
Step 1: Feel all your feelings, without resistance.
Young children are happy because they experience all their feelings without resistance. Unlike adults, they don't worry what others think when they feel like expressing their emotions. Whether fear, sorrow or anger, kids simply go with it. Their feelings flow freely, are felt honestly, and leave quickly — making room for their natural state of happiness to return.
When it comes to dealing with our feelings, we would all do well to follow the examples of children. We don't always need to understand or justify our feelings. Simply embrace them and let them be felt. By opening up honestly to our emotions, we can work through them quickly and, like emotionally innocent children, quickly let them go and move on.
Skeptical? Think it makes no sense that you might actually feel good by being angry? The next time you find yourself seething over something, try throwing a good old fashioned self-righteous hissy fit. Processed in a healthy way, anger, grief, and any difficult feeling can all help you heal, and even be enjoyable (at least for a little while).
Step 2: Create a lifestyle of no blame, no fault, no guilt, no judgment, no expectations and no comparisons.
There is a simple attitude that can help you live happily — a willingness to let go of blame.
Yes, blame. Judging others for their faults. Judging yourself. Feeling guilty about something you did. Feeling let down by others. These are all forms of blame. And they are all emotional and mental habits of unhappiness.
Blame steals your power. Because casting blame leaves you feeling powerless to create what you want. And when you blame yourself — maybe because you've somehow failed to live up to your own expectations — then you feel guilty and like a victim. And that's one of the most useless emotions, because it doesn't heal or reform you. It simply ties you up in neurotic knots!
Don't think of blame as being such a big deal. It's a mental mirage and an unnecessary habit that can be broken. When you catch yourself playing the blame game, simply stop in mid thought and shift your attention to something that feels good. Which brings me to my third step…
Step 3: Keep your attention on what feels good.
What you focus on tends to create your reality. So why not focus on being happy rather than unhappy? On joyful thoughts rather than joyless ones? The simple truth is that life is made up of lots of choices. But it's our prerogative to choose which ones we put our attention on.
Abraham Lincoln hit the nail on the head when he said "People are about as happy as they choose to be." I know that's true because when I'm feeling particularly happy — centered, happy and joyful — I find that I'm connected to my soul and its desire, and that I'm as close to being authentic as I know how to be.
When I feel bad, I know that I'm not attuned to what my soul wants. To put it another way (because it's so important to understand), if I'm in a centered space and what I'm doing or paying attention to feels good, then I am being truly authentic.
Joseph Campbell, the world's most renowned anthropologists and an expert on the vast variety of our planet's different religions, myths and tribal cultures, was asked to summarize what he learned from all these traditions. He did so in three words: "Follow your bliss." It's just as accurate to say "Follow your happiness," as happiness is the call and guidance of your being authentic.
The Physical Components of Happiness
Exercise and sunshine are essential to emotional wellbeing (did you know that going for a walk in the sunshine can sometimes be more effective than Prozac for depression?). It's simply tough to be happy when your body is weak. With that in mind, here are a couple of articles and thoughts that can help you make sure your body doesn't sabotage your happiness:
- Seven Ways to Manage Menopause. Low estrogen or progesterone in women can contribute to both anxiety and blue moods.
- A Nutritional Insurance Plan in Just 20 Seconds a Day. B vitamins and magnesium are a must for maximizing mood.
- Get plenty of fish oil. The essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in fish oil are what our brains are made of. and they are critical for optimizing mood. I favor the product Vectomega, which delivers a hefty daily dose in one pill.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.