Some thoughts on happiness before my article.

I will write an article on happiness shortly , but in the meanwhile here  are some thoughts on happiness by others:

Top 20 most famous happy quotes and happiness quotations. Get 16 free self improvement and selfhelp guides with inspirational quotes, affirmations, happiness, meditation, relaxation, positive, manifestation, motivational quotes, the secret to happiness

What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

This piece includes his short film on Gratitude and Happiness. Brother David Steindl’s spoken words, Gary Malkin’s musical compositions and Louie’s cinematography make this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.

Spiritual Health

Spiritual Health

We may not think much about spiritual wellness but it has a huge impact on our wellbeing. It is our spirituality that gives us our sense of what is meaningful and what our purpose is in our lives. It also gives us our sense of worth, hope, commitment, peace and positive or negative outlook on life. If there is feeling of emptiness , anxiety, hopelessness, apathy or conflict then these maybe signs of spiritual poverty; resulting in unhappiness or dissatisfaction.

Spirituality means different things to different people. To many it is to do with religious traditions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism  or Sikhism etc but those that have no association with a particular faith, spirituality may be to do with growing in their personal relationships with others or to some it maybe being in harmony with nature. It is not the same for everyone, it is uniquely different for everyone of us,  it gives our ordinary lives the depth and value. It helps to cultivates a richly expressive and meaningful lives at home and in our society. It provides  us with a sense of who we are , why we are here  and what our purpose of living is. It also allows us to gain strength and hope.

Our basic intention when caring for physical and emotional health was to relieve suffering by treating. With spiritual health the approach is quite different. We don’t treat, instead we listen. By treating we may deny the soul something in the suffering which may ultimately be invaluable for giving full meaning to our lives. So we have to listen carefully to the symptoms and notice what is revealed in the suffering.  It is only by listening we are able to coax the soul to reveal itself further. Only then the we are ready to make changes in our souls.

Let me give some examples of the consequences of ignoring the soul or the spirit. I notice most physicians by very nature of there training are concerned only with evidence based medicine which means looking at the facts only, we like the intellectually predictable world, it is protected from the mysteries and the surprises. So when patient relates his or her story with rich details we only pay attentions to the cold facts, all the rich details are lost. By ignoring the details we , the physicians, lose the opportunities to lead a soulful life. Further more with working long hours, always rushing, our profession has only small percentage of the day to be soulful, and on  some days maybe no time at all because we are exhausted by the end of the day and want to sleep. The tragedy of this is we interact and treat with our loved ones the same way, we forget how to be soulful. This may explain why in physicians there are higher suicide rates, higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse and high divorce rates then in the general population. These maybe are the signs that doctors are suffering from spiritual poverty and resulting in unhappiness or dissatisfaction.

Another example of how the spirituality is related to real health and happiness. I know a friend who had been married thirty years and was fiercely independent. She paid her own way through school and refused any financial help from her husband. She said she scarified her own happiness so that her husband could further his career. The marriage eventually ended. She was proud to be independent, it give her self worth ; she had bought into the prevailing notion that independence was healthy and dependence was bad, that didn’t make her feel so great. I wondered to myself if she would still be married had she listened to her soul about the need to be independent.  Her heroic championing of independence might be a way of avoiding and repressing the  need of something in her to be dependent. Being dependent means trusting , to find intimacy with someone you can’t live without, to be able to rely on friends. But as with anything, the shadow side of dependence is the neediness, inferiority, submission and loss of control. I wonder if she could have balanced the the two side and lived more happily  and  with less dissatisfaction. This would have been the soul work she would have needed to do; by listening to her soul and spirit. If  we don’t listen to the soul and grow in our spirituality , it may sometimes leads to physical illness or fanaticism.

So when we pay attention to the soul and observe how it is manifesting itself in us, we will be rewarded with richness of our personhood. We will receive back what is ours, the very thing we assumed to be horrible may turn out to be helpful. The spiritually poor person will need to attend to this need with some urgency; for the real health and happiness to begin. I know I need to do some work myself.

I already mentioned briefly in my previous article on emotional healthy how we can cultivate our spirituality , so I will not repeat it here.

Have a wonderful week, the next article will be on happiness….hopefully within a week.

Resources:
1.Care of the Soul
             By Thomas Moore

2. http://www.tru.ca/wellness/spiritual.html

Emotional Health and Well Being.

In my last post on physical health I said it was hard to seperate it from the emotional health because they both effect each her. When we are physically unwell or in discomfort it is more likely our emotions are going to be impacted negatively. People with chronic medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease have much high incident of depression then those that are physically healthy. Moreover,the people who are depressed tend to have worse outcome when recovering from any disease; for instance depressed people who suffered an heart attack will have worse prognosis  as compared to those that are not depressed. Although the physical and the emotional sides are intricately linked , today I will be looking at cultivating healthy emotions that are likely to make people feel happy and content.

Four Dimensions of Ourselves

Most people have experienced recurring thoughts after having an argument with someone or ended a relationship under not so pleasant circumstances. We keep brooding over the situation and  playing out different scenarios , if only I didn’t say that, if only I made more effort, if only I hugged more , or if only I was more help in the kitchen or in the garden, or if only I appreciated more what was done for me or if only I was more interesting, cleaver or witty etc; these never ending streams of possible ‘if only I’ continue for ever into the late hours of the night, you can’t sleep , then from nights it spills over into day , then weeks and months. If after  this process of deep reflection one reaches a  conclusion that there are no solutions to the problem and moves on, then there is good chance that the  low-mood  will improve. However, if the the processes continues even after one has come to the conclusion that there are no solutions then it becomes like an addiction, one just can’t stop going over the same theme over and over until all the useful , happy thoughts get crowed out of the mind , and this leads to much unhappiness, then to fear, anxiety and despair. This process actually has a name, it called “Depressive Rumination“.

Rumination is bad for you; Meditation helps

The question is how does on get themselves out of this vicious cycle? Well there are ways and they work too! The methods I have listed are based on the various schools of psychological tradition;  the positive psychology , cognitive behaviour psychology , mindfulness – based cognitive behaviour psychotherapy and eastern psychology. I will not go into details about them here but if someone asks by leaving a  comment on the blog that they would like more details, then I will write in the future post. For now, I will just list the methods for getting out of  the  depressive rumination, and move towards the road to happiness. These methods require practice and some effort to get the most benefit.

1.Write a gratitude letter to someone  who have been kind to you and then read the letter to them. This causes immediate feeling of happiness.

2. Write down three good things that are going well and the reason why for one week . This provides even longer lasting feeling of happiness.

3.Care for others. There are many studies showing that the happiest people are those who devote their lives to caring for others. Recently one volunteer at the hospital told me that she forgets about her problems when she volunteers and she feels so happy to have left her problems behind for few hours. Our society has become too self focused; such that we don’t even know our neighbours.

4.Focus on breathing. Feel the breath go in and out of your body, this will help to take your focus of unpleasant thoughts. It will relax and calm you.

5.Developing attention and concentration by focusing on the breath or by visualization; this in fact is meditation. These skill of attention and concentration is important because in those that have wondering attention tend to be sad . Instead of letting our mind wonder into the past memories and future fantasies, good attention and concentration bring the mind back to the reality of the present. This in fact is being mindful. Mindfulness helps deal with emotional problems, it can also make you more efficient,and skillful in anything you undertake, improves your relationships and allows you experience life more fully.

6. Avoid sounds that upset you and surround yourself with the sounds that make you feel good. One of my friend used to get  annoyed with me every time I visited her with my cell phone still on; I changed my ways and both of us felt the peace of not being interrupted  by the sound of my awful cell phone. Until she pointed it out to me I was used to carrying the cell phone with me all the time. I only realized how peaceful it was without it after I turned it off for the whole weekend. I was a blissful time. I have become more sensitive to the noise pollution since then, I try to avoid loud noises of the city , I turn off the tv more often , I am working on avoiding the computer but to date that has been challenging. I am sensitive not to listen to the music that makes me feel sad. This was reinforced when I went to see an opera, the music was beautiful but was very sad and I was already feeling sad before I went to the opera. When I came out I was almost suicidal …only kidding…but quite sad. I now try to surround myself with more nurturing nature sounds, bird sounds, sound of water fountain  or the sound of the wind by the river.

7.Avoid watching bad news on TV or at least limit it, I don’t like senseless violent movies or horror movies either, they just don’t make me feel good.

8. Avoid information overload. Sometimes you end up picking so much irrelevant information your brain doesn’t no what to do with it, and has to sort out what is useful and what to ignore. It is tiring and you always feel as though you are rushing to keep up. So I try to ignore useless information overload.

9. Social isolation can be a major contributor to depression because by default we tend to slip into depressive thoughts and get addicted to ruminating. Good company and social interaction support emotional well being by stopping the depressive  rumination . In the city even though there are lot of people there isn’t much social interaction because people are too focussed on themselves.

10. Cultivate spirituality by practicing your faith, by connecting with nature, by relating to your companion pets, by appreciating art and beauty, by putting others first but not to the point of your own detriment, by practicing empathy and compassion, by practicing forgiveness, by smiling and laughing, by cultivating silence, by choosing the right company and by feeling and expressing gratitude.

11. If, after trying all or most of the above suggestions, you are still feeling sad or not at peace then working with an psychologist maybe worth while. They may be able to  change your pattern of thinking so that it doesn’t give rise to negative feeling and behaviour.

Until the next time, be happy and healthy.

Resources:-

Spontaneous Happiness  ; by Andrew Weil

Mindsight -the new science of personal transformation ;  by Daniel J. Siegel

PS:  I will be posting articles either once or twice a week depending on the time availability.

Maintenance of Physical Health and Living Disease Free.

We are still building a foundation before we get to the topic of  real happiness and health, so today I am going to focus on physical health. It is hard to separate physical health from the emotional health because one effects the other , but I will mainly talk about what we can do to keep ourselves free of disease.  I will emphasize the  general principles and give examples of specifics so you can adopt the principles to your own lifestyle. As the old saying goes “ounce of prevention is worth a pound”, this is true for staying free of disease too.

 

Annual Medical: We are often rushing around just to keep up with doing the essential tasks in our daily lives,  it is important that one of these essential tasks be to have a yearly medical. The annual medical may pick up chronic conditions that are just starting, conditions that may give you no symptoms or  symptoms you may have just got used to, such as mild tendency to be tired or to have mildly low mood ; these symptoms can be caused by low thyroid hormone , diabetes , anemia, Addison’s disease or low testosterone. Blood work done annually may pick up or give clue to these conditions being present. Bowel polyps, which can turn into a cancer should be screened with occult blood test at age 50, those with a family history or with ancestry  of african decent should start prostate cancer  screening around age 45 and the breast cancer screening should start around age 40. If there is a family history of cancer , heart diseases, diabetes  or other condition that runs in the family then the screening and prevention becomes even more crucial and may have to start earlier then the general population. The earlier the chronic conditions are detected the better the long term out come. If you haven’t had a medical for few years, then phone your doctors office and book one today.

Annual Physical Examination

Diet: In recent years there is increasing evidence that the processed or manufactured food maybe associated with a  low grade inflammation mediated by cytokine. This is very harmful. Let me explain. The cytokine mediate an important healing process in our bodies when some part of our body is invaded by foreign agent or is injured , but only if the process stays localized and get turned off after the threat has been dealt with appropriately. If it becomes generalized and chronic as in autoimmune disorders (for example rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma,SLE , ulcerative colitis , crohn’s disease,ankylosing spondylitis, wegener’s disease, polyarteritis nodosa, sarcoidosis and many more) then it starts to damage normal tissues in the body and causes great harm. The autoimmune diseases have have high levels of cytokine ( which means high level of inflammation in the body) and therefore are  associated with higher incident of heart disease, depression, diabetes etc. It is therefore important to keep the  generalized inflammation  in the body low as possible to prevent chronic diseases and maybe even cancer. Our diet can help us reduce the inflammation, this diet is becoming to be known as the ” anti-inflammatory diet”. Dr Andrew Weil is a big advocate for this diet and has some convincing arguments to back up his claim. He goes into details in he is books which I have listed below. Basically recommends avoiding processed food because fat and carbohydrates in them promote inflammation and in addition fail to provide protective nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonuritents ; which comes from fruits and vegetables. He also recommends foods with antioxidants such as olive oil, tea and chocolate ; novel compounds in ginger, turmeric and other spices and herbs; oily fish for special fats. These all goes towards protecting our body tissues  and organs from inappropriate inflammation. If you want more details check his website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other triggers for inflammation are tobacco smoke, chemicals in the house hold products,pollutants in the air , water, and food. These should be avoided as much as possible.

The other  factors that will reduce inflammation are appropriate use of dietary supplements, exercise, stress reduction,  adequate quantity and quality of sleep. You can assess if you are getting enough restful sleep at :- http://psychologytoday.test.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=1329.

Dietary supplement: Dietary supplements should be discussed with your doctor before taking them if you are on medication because there may be interaction with your medication and the supplements.It is generally held opinion by the purists  that if you eat balanced diet, with different coloured fruits and vegetable then one doesn’t need vitamins. However, since the stores are full of manufactured foods and good quality foods are harder to come by especially in winter months; as well  the fruits and vegetables are not properly ripened. So argument can be made for taking multivitamin with minerals tablet, Vitamin D 2000 IU , omega-3 fatty acids in form of fish oil and B- complex vitamins.

Other measure: Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, recreational drugs, and anti-anxiety drugs if possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These recommendation will at least point you in the right direction for staying free of disease. I will try to deal with these topic in greater details in the future post. Until then stay healthy and happy.

Resources: Spontaneous Happiness – by Andrew Weil, MD

The journey begins for real health and happiness.

Where does one begin and start the journey towards real health and happiness? I think the journey needs to start with the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clean environment and water.  Without these one would just struggle to survive and real health and happiness will be just a dream. In Canada we are blessed and most people have these basic needs met.

When the survival is ensured we need to be free of disease and this is what I do in my office most days, try to keep my patients free of disease. I have been thinking for a while that just being free of disease is nowhere near the optimal health and happiness we are capable.

“Optimal health and happiness”, what exactly is it ?  It is probably best to start by stating what it is not.  Optimal health and happiness is not having a fantastic muscular body free of disease and having a smile on your face all the time, rather it is something to do with having enough energy, being able to do things you love without pain or discomfort, being able to make lasting relationships, being able to love and be loved, being able to be free of irrational fears.  It is being content, being able to negotiate through life ethically, compassionately and with ease, it is eating the right foods, it is about keeping active and exercising, it is to be in the right company that will nourish your soul, it is about having right thoughts, it about seeing reality as it is, its about making commitments, its about having good habits, its about being grateful, its about helping, its about accepting help, its about having good concentration, its about being able to see and live with your own thoughts, its about touching and holding your loved ones, its about appreciating nature and beauty , its about feeling beautiful inside even when on the outside things are tough, its about having a beautiful mind, its about connecting , its about being curious, its about listening to your heart and not just your brain, its about being comfortable alone by yourself, its about having enough rest , its about protecting yourself from information overload and noise, it about having spiritual life , its about having faith and about much more..

It seems that the happiness doesn’t come from external goods but rather it is cultivated over lifetime. To look for happiness outside oneself is a useless endeavor. We will talk more about this in the future posts.

Quotes without comment: –

“ We do not acquire or preserve virtue by the help of external goods, but external goods by the help of virtue.”

Aristtotle, Politics, Bk. V11, Ch.1  (4th cent. B.C. )

If you are in good emotional health, you should be able to respond appropriately to whatever situations you encounter: to feel appropriately happy about good forture and appropriately sad about bad, to be able to feel appropriately angry or frustrated about the state of the world and the annoying behavior of others and to let go of these feeling once you’ve acknowledged them. It is important to remember that our moods are supposed to vary through both the positive and the negative regions of the emotional spectrum………..It is near the balance point that you will find resilience, contentment, comfort, and serenity.”

Andrew Weil MD, Spontaneous Happiness  Ch.1 page 19 and 21

Interchange Blog

Interchange Blog

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