Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

The pursuit of happiness

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Most people think there’s a secret to being happy, much as most people think there’s a secret to staying at their ideal body weight and being fit. But happy, slim people have not been hiding any secrets from you. Let’s take being satisfied with your weight- consuming the right amount of calories, staying active and exercising consistently will basically get you there. For being happy, there’s a plethora of new science and philosophies that speak to how to attain a satisfied state.

When it comes to being happy, there is no shortage of gurus ready to give advice.  A common theme for many is we will not be unhappy or disappointed if we are not attached to certain outcomes or specific expectations. This Buddhist philosophy of detachment  can change the way you view bad situations or outcomes.  let’s say you have a family celebration and you burn the turkey or the younger kids wreak havoc all through the house. Before reacting negatively ask yourself  “Why is this so important to me? Will they think I can’t cook?  Will they think we can’t control our kids?”  Instead, try focusing back on yourself and ask “Why is this outcome upsetting me?” Detach yourself from the idea that the food has to be perfect, and the event has to be orderly. It’s likely that your family is glad you brought them all together and fed them. Most of us are our own worst critics.

Another aspect is mindfulness. There are many things we learned when we were little that have so much application now. Think back to one of your first safety lessons when you had to cross the street- stop, look, then go. PAY ATTENTION! When you stop and slow down, you can use all your senses, and appreciate all the things that are right in front of you.

Contrast provides one of the best ways to become more aware and appreciative. That’s one of the things I love about travel- wherever I go, it’s different from here. Recently, when I was in Arizona, I loved the warm, dry air that had me feeling buoyant and carefree. When I traveled to Morocco, I was enchanted by the sounds, smells, colors and diversity of what I saw. A sister to mindfulness is gratefulness. It’s hard to be grateful when you’re not paying attention to all the riches around you. When you’re grateful, you appreciate the fresh nuances of a new environment.

Aim to decrease distractions. Think about your technology- how often are you interrupted by beeps, tones and alerts on your cell phone or computer? When you’re not distracted and are fully in the moment, your mind and body can focus on the task at hand. This allows all other worries to fall away. Think back to the “flow” state, a subject of my blog a few months ago. Contrary to how most of us operate, our minds weren’t made to focus on many things at once. Our brains and bodies have a need for periods of rest and relaxation that can only come when we’re not distracted or overstimulated. This “full focus” state naturally comes when we’re doing things we enjoy.

Simplify! This idea has slowly become more popular- there’s even a magazine- Real Simple – that highlights ways to diminish clutter of all kinds in your life. Recently there was an article about a man who won the lottery, and at first he bought a luxury car, huge condo, and a lot of expensive furniture. He then realized that he felt bogged down by all his possessions, so he switched to a tiny apartment and got rid of all of his extraneous things. He found himself much happier and less burdened.

So there you have it- a few simple recipes that work for us to be happy-

  • being in the moment and not distracted by extraneous things
  • being grateful for what we have
  • enjoying experiences like theatre, concerts, travel that take us away in mind and body
  • appreciate contrast to enjoy what’s in front of you

Here’s to being detached enough from our daily ups and downs to appreciate all the wonderful things we have right in front of us. We just have to  slow down enough to notice!

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