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Happiness Is Not A Riddle

Or is it? It’s certainly not as easy as we’d like it to be. In fact, in searching for a solid definition of “happiness”, you could come across several different interpretations depending on personal beliefs, economic status, educational background, and so on. So what makes “happiness” so tricky?

Let’s Start Here– What Does It Mean?

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment”. But that’s not the only word on the subject. It can also be defined as “when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Or, if you’re a Beatles fan, “Happiness is a warm gun”. Or, if you watch late night infomercials, happiness comes from being able to make juice out of anything or being able to remove scratches from your car or stains from your laundry.

Ha Ha, Okay, What Does It REALLY Mean?

Even psychologists are hard pressed to define what happiness truly is and what is required to obtain it. It’s also more profound than a momentary burst of joy induced by making your whites whiter and your brights brighter. Because everyone interprets everything uniquely to them, it’s not as if the positive response one person has to an image of unicorns and rainbows means that images of unicorns and rainbows will make the entire world happy. (If that were the case, World Peace would have be accomplished a long time ago, and we would have had an overdose of happiness in the 80s with cartoons like Care Bears and Rainbow Brite.)

Let’s revisit the first two interpretations of Happiness.

A State Of Well-Being And Contentment

The key is to be balanced at every level

This definition comes from Merriam Webster, and is broad enough to cover a number of factors. If we look at this in old-school psychological terms, this can be well represented in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (See picture at right). Happiness can happen when many if not all needs are being met consistently. Obviously, a pyramid is the most appropriate shape, since a steady base is needed to support everything on top of it. When something as fundamental as your quality of food or the security of your income is in question, it can seep into every other part of life.

Now, if you’ve been wondering how chiropractic can bring out Happiness, look back to the “well-being” portion of the definition. Well-being is not just the absence of pain or symptoms– it’s an expression of life being lived to its fullest potential. Chiropractic has been proven to improve the output of good information throughout the nervous system and level the chemistry in the brain, making it easier for your body to maintain the right balance to stay “happy”. And of course, the standard preventative health measures like getting good sleep, eating a variety of healthy food, regular exercise (all of which are at the base level of Needs, which means they’re not really negotiable for a happy life) all play a strong role in keeping that balance. But what about maintaining mental health, and by extension, happiness? What about the top of that pyramid? We’ll get to that in a moment…

When What You Think, What You Say, And What You Do Are In Harmony

We’re now journeying into the philosophical part of Happiness. Everyone from poets and philosophers to authors and musicians have offered their interpretations, and while he certainly doesn’t have the final word on the subject, Mahatma Gandhi’s* approach to Happiness suggests a balance of a different kind. This balance is more than making sure you’re taking the right supplements and sleeping 8 hours a night– it’s about being honest, and not only with others, but with yourself. It’s about asking Yourself where you’re holding back, where you’re suppressing something that needs to be released, and where you can improve. With this definition, Happiness means that you are comfortable with who You are, faults and all, and you’re willing to share them with others rather than lie about or hide your true self. Think of how much effort it takes to maintain a non-truth. Imagine that everything you dislike about You and wanted to hide (from others or from yourself) were an over-inflated beach ball that you were trying to keep underwater. How much time and effort are you spending suppressing that which is universal in life– that we’re not perfect— and what could that time and effort go to instead that would make life easier? Is all that pain and suffering worth it? What would happen if what you think is a fault is shown to others once in a while?

It’s in this interpretation of Happiness that we find more reasons to address the mental, emotional, and spiritual portions of well-being. While staying on top of your physical health makes a world of difference, you cannot take your mind and heart for granted– moods cause significant chemical changes in the body, just like food and water do. Staying in a compromised emotional state will force your body to behave differently because of what signals your brain is sending. If you’re constantly feeling, say, anxious, you’re body will naturally pump up more adrenaline, keeping you anxious. There are legitimate times that supplements and medication are necessary to break that cycle. However, like we tell our patients, if the root of the problem isn’t addressed, the symptoms will keep coming back. “What’s this root,” you ask? That’s for you to discover! What are you suppressing? What’s causing all this emotional upheaval? These are questions that are best addressed by someone with training to help you take action and correct the problem. Professionals like therapists, counselors, life coaches, and even spiritual figures (priests, monks, rabbis, etc.) are all able to help you navigate the sometimes twisted and darker paths of your mind. Sometimes, all you need is someone to listen to your insecurities, doubts, frustrations, without passing judgement or making you feel worse. If this seems daunting at first, try a more unconventional approach to venting:

  1. if you have pets, talk to them. They can’t talk back… unless you have a pet parrot, in which case, it may be wiser to talk to someone else
  2. keep a regular journal. Treat it as a compartment in your brain, only outside of your body. Here, you can keep the junk you don’t want or need separate, and create extra room for good things
  3. write the things that are causing you consistent frustration down onto a piece of paper and (safely) burn it with the idea that these things are now detached from you, no longer have influence over you, and will no longer afflict you in the same way.
  4. if you have plants, talk to them. It may sound more ridiculous than talking to your pets, but consider this: they don’t talk back either, and the carbon dioxide you expel is what plants thrive on. Your venting is doing both you AND the plant good!
  5. when all else fails, dance and sing. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re bouncing around your house like an idiot, singing into a hairbrush and dancing like you’re on “Soul Train”.

And please remember, there is no shame in admitting you need help. People are supposed to rely on each other. That’s how we get by. Like every morality tail from Odysseus and Oedipus to Star Wars and Harry Potter will tell you, it is by having friends and family that we keep our sanity and feel connected to Life.

*And if you need something to make you smile (on the off chance that dancing kitties weren’t enough), here’s what someone once said about the wise Mahatma Gandhi:

  • He walked barefoot everywhere, making the skin on his feet tough
  • He would engage in frequent fasts and hunger strikes for personal or political reasons
  • He was devoutly spiritual
  • He had a relatively poor diet, resulting in bad breath

With all that, you could say he was a Super-Calloused Fragile Mystic Hexed by Halitosis! (Ba-dum-chink)

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