I like to read self-help books. Last year I spent way too much at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. A good number of these books are either totally about happiness, such as "Happier," by Tal Ben Shahar and the relatively new "Thrive," by Dan Buettner, or they have a good portion devoted to concepts, notions and advice about how to be more self-fulfilled or authentic to your inner self, such as "Flow," by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly or "A New Earth," by Eckhart Tolle.
These books, along with my life’s pathways, have formed my views about what constitutes some semblance of happiness, for I do believe that it is impossible to be completely happy. There has to be the opposite of happiness, so to speak, without getting too deep here.
Basically I have concluded that there are four pathways in life that everyone needs to walk down in order to become more self-fulfilled and happier. They are, quite simply, Healthy, Self-Sufficient, Purposeful and Loving – not exactly an Earth- shattering discovery.
Obviously, most human beings want to be healthy, self-sufficient, have a higher purpose in life beyond ourselves and be loved and give love. My goal here is to acknowledge and synthesize what many of the experts have to say about these things - and include some of my own relative experiences. By simply synthesizing what the experts have to say, I can continue to get a broader understanding of the many options available to me to set my life’s momentum forward in a more positive direction along each of these four pathways.
Plus, my personal experiences are very real, and, I believe, very common examples of someone who continues to struggle with becoming healthier, more self-sufficient, more purposeful and increasingly loving of all my fellow human beings. None of these four pathways are easy to walk down. Unfortunately, there are too many of us who are unhealthy, unable to effectively support ourselves and our families, work at meaningless jobs that are not fulfilling, are involved in harmful relationships and pretty much treat others in disrespectful and selfish ways. The obvious question is what are we going to do about these horrible and debilitating aspects of our lives? Let’s begin with the first pathway, Healthy.
On Being Healthy
What do you put inside your body and how much do you exercise? That pretty much sums up what needs to be asked about being healthy. It’s amazing how providing information about diet, proper body and mind maintenance and exercise has become a multi-billion dollar industry when all you really need to know is eat right, don’t drink bad stuff in excess, don’t smoke anything, don’t ingest nasty drugs and make sure you get enough proper exercise and rest.
Let’s start with eating right. I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to not eating properly. For many people, lunch typically consists mostly of alcoholic liquids in nice glasses with ice cubes. When they do eat actual food, it is usually saturated with fat, fried, and/or sugar-laden. Many have already had their gallbladders removed and are teetering on severe liver and pancreatic problems in the not-too-distant future – not to mention heart disease. About ½ million American each year have their gallbladders removed, and an estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with heart failure, with 670,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
When it comes to eating, I think many of us are buffoons either frequently or on-occasion – that is, of course, unless your name is Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” and the “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Here is somebody who knows food. His “Eater’s Manifesto” begins with the following simple advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s his short answer to what he calls an “incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.” He writes at great length about how our Western diet and agricultural soil have some very harmful effects. He tells us to eat organically – sounds like a solid plan if you can do it. In short, Michael Pollan makes a lot of sense.
We should all eat like Michael Pollan, but we don’t. You can either eat like Michael Pollan (which is kind of an extreme health concept that is very difficult to practice) or like the numerous food experts out there who all have great suggestions for how to eat right, or you can start paying closer attention to and practicing what the Department of Agriculture has to say about eating. In particular, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines website is a great place to start.
There’s lots more to report on health issues, as well as the other three pathways of self-sufficiency, purpose and love, that are being covered in more depth in future posts (see below).