As I cruised the countryside today doing some serious thinking about my future, I overheard a fellow on the Martha Stewart network offer some practical suggestions on how to live happier and more productive lives.
The man’s name was Rick Foster and his ideas were not particularly new – just recycled versions of what you hear on daytime television. The originator of the idea was Jesus, himself. This guy got my attention when he began to discuss the “bio-chemical rewards of giving.” He suggested we are “wired” from birth to give as our contribution to humanity and perpetuation of the species. Interesting.
Nothing lifts us from negative emotions more effectively than giving, he declared. The happiest people will tell you that if you feel put-upon — give. If you’re angry — give. If you’re disappointed — give. If the world is making you feel burned out, remember how much you have to give. Share your intelligence, community-centeredness, problem-solving skills. Giving will energize you, he said. And I believed him.
Secondly he recommended that we make the choice to relax even in the face of a deteriorating world economy, war and crime and anything else that is causing us stress and anxiety.
The instant we make the choice to relax when we’re paying exorbitant prices at the gas pump, or we cool our rage and decide to laugh at talk radio personality with whom we disagree, we leave behind the heavily stressed flight-fight-freeze reactions of our “victim brain.”
He maintained that such actions are more biochemically good choices for our health and our happiness. He further warned about placing blame for parts of our life over which we have no control.
“Happy people take life by the horns and take action where they can. When you’re in a state of blaming, you’re back in that “victim brain” mode and it’s not a happy place to be – nor a healthy one. You’re much better off if you focus on what you can do to make your own life and the lives of others better, rather than stewing about the international oil cartel,” he added.
Foster said we should “look for the gold in each day. Upon waking, we should look for happiness on the other side of the bed.” I liked that. So I drove home to check under the bed.
2008 is stacking up as a politically and socially stressful year. People and events are acting on us. But even though the cause of this stress is often way out of our control, we might consider Aristotle’s words: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”