Eat this “superfood.” Gulp down these supplements. Perform these exercises. Think happy thoughts.
There’s a ton of advice out there on how to attain optimal health and happiness. Articles, studies and talk show segments: Do any of these ideas work?
I don’t know, but I’m at a point in my life where I have the time and energy to experiment and find out.
So I will.
I came across this article from Self.com earlier this year and it appealed to me from the beginning because it’s not just about increasing your happiness; it’s also about decreasing your stress. Learning how to manage stress better is a personal goal of mine. Chronic stress is an ugly thing. Overcoming adversity to achieve your goals is wonderful, but if you’ve let the stress from that struggle take its toll on you and overwhelm you then that victory means almost nothing. You can’t even enjoy your dream job or life because you’re too busy just trying to survive: fixing any number of health problems and fighting to keep crippling anxiety and depression at bay. I’ve learned that it’s far better to address it sooner rather than later, rather than letting it get worse. Preventive care is the key.
But rather than chase after every study and try every health notion under sun for the rest of my life, I am just going to focus on the next fourteen days and each of their featured paths to health and happiness. I am just going to dive into this article and see what works best for me. And what’s particularly great about the tips this article offers is that it doesn’t really offer any quick-fixes. It’s not about popping pills and supplements, it’s about changing attitudes and leading a more physically and socially active lifestyle. And so I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
Day 1: “Enjoy Frequent, Tiny Hits of Pleasure”
Today got off to a bit of a rough start since I started Day 1 of this project late. Late-in-the-afternoon late. And so it was a bit difficult to schedule “frequent, tiny hits of pleasure” throughout the day as it said in the article. Note to self: Don’t sleep in during project days. But not to worry, the great thing about this project is that I’ll be building on these activities every day instead of just doing one activity each day. So I’ll have fourteen days to get today’s task right!
I didn’t get to enjoy every fun activity I had planned to do today but of the ones I managed to complete here are my thoughts on today’s task:
- Once every hour I tried to watch one funny YouTube video. Those who know me already know what a YouTube junkie I am. And so it should come as no surprise to them that I had trouble limiting myself to just one video. But it surprised me that I had a tendency to re-watch videos I enjoyed and that it was hard to remind myself that I was only allowed to watch it once. And limiting myself to just one video also caused me to be more careful in picking which video to watch at the next hour. I wanted to maximize my laughs and I didn’t want to waste my next chance on something less funny. That said, the videos worked pretty well if they were funny. A lovely distraction from stress. I’d just start thinking of funny situations related to the video and soon I’d forget about what was bothering me in the first place. But if it turned it out that the video wasn’t funny, I felt (slightly) disappointed and more tense.
- As I was performing other activities (reading a book, drinking my favorite tea etc.) I realized that sometimes planning these “tiny hits of pleasure” out might be a source of stress in and of itself because I’m expecting these activities to be a certain way and therefore make me feel relaxed. Maybe the book I’m reading brings up a stressful subject for me. Or maybe the tea doesn’t taste as good. But what happens when what I’ve planned doesn’t happen the way I wanted it to and it’s less fun? Then I’m tense. So maybe the key to this exercise is to do something nice for myself without worrying about when and how. I should just enjoy these little activities as they are, because I want to and without expectations.
- Honestly, you’ll probably laugh, but I think the activity that just involved me eating a small handful of semi-sweet chocolate probably worked the best. I don’t know if it’s the energy from the sugar or special chemicals in chocolate that release “feel-good” chemicals in my brain but I’d had an anxiety-ridden moment earlier and now it just seems silly. Chocolate seems like a decent short-term distraction. And I think using semi-sweet chocolate (for me anyway) helps curb my tendency to overindulge in it. Overindulging I think would dull the relaxation effect, in addition to breaking the rules of today’s task. As the project goes on, I’ll do more research to find out what effects if any chocolate has on the brain.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories! Or even if you have any other ideas for fun, happy activities to do, please feel free to tell me!
Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a lovely day!