There are certainly many different ways to achieve the physical and mental results that we look for in life. If we are searching for examples of physical perfection, can we really choose between the Olympic athlete, or the healthy living yoga teacher?
If we look at wise people who deserve our respect, is the Nobel prize-winning physicist wiser than the pure intentioned community leader who has been helper and guide to families and individuals in times of hardship?
Finding that balance between results, and happiness
We measure results, but what we really want is to be happy. Happiness can’t be measured.
There are many different paths towards happiness, which is the answer that most people are really looking for when they think about what they really want in life. Being the strongest, fittest, smartest, richest or most famous has its attraction.
But would you swap these things if you knew that a different path would make you more happy?
What I am trying to get at, is that in life, there are the tangible achievements, and the intangible ones. It is the tangible achievements that we chase, but it is the intangible ones that we really want.
So, how do we measure something that cannot be measured?
That is a tough question…
But there are tactics that can be adopted and followed to increase the incidence of happiness in out lives.
Here is one that I have recently figured out:
Try to avoid actions that involve a recovery period
This might seem obvious in some situations, or in some cases it might seem completely wrong. I think that this is irrefutable and right on different levels and in different ways.
It is correct in relation to physical activities and actions, as well as mental ones.
The best way of explaining my hypothesis is to give different examples:
No pain no gain
We have learned to push ourselves hard in the gym or in any sports activity. The premise is that you keep pushing your boundaries of fitness… Then your performance keeps increasing.
We are now starting to understand the damage that can be done by over training, stress hormones, inflammation and so on.
I remember periods of being in permanent pain as a direct result of weight training where I would move around punishing different body parts day by day. Many runners or sports people suffer from over training, osteoporosis and recurrent injuries as a result of the “no pain no gain” philosophy.
Some great work is being done in discovering a “minimum effective dose” in order to stimulate the body to release growth hormones needed for muscle growth and repair.
There is now plenty of evidence to suggest that similar results can be seen in the gym with far fewer hours put in. There is a growing awareness that perhaps it is better to leave the gym feeling energized and refreshed, rather than worn out and nauseous.
Under this title we can include junk food, alcohol, drugs, and excess time watching TV or playing computer games. The logic of not filling our bodies with a mother lode of poison is self-explanatory.
Bingeing on worthless activities also creates issues that need to be recovered from. For example excess time playing computer games and video games will cause eye strain, mental exhaustion and bad sleep. Have you ever gone to bed, closed your eyes and seen replays of different levels of your computer games?
Then later you might dream about it as well. Sleep should be a time or replenishment and relaxation.
Your sub conscious mind should not be killing zombies.
Have you ever bought a series box set and watched 5 episodes back to back? I have. Afterwards I feel like I have wasted a day. Inertia is setting in.
Each day we are either moving towards fulfilling goals, drifting away from them, or stalled.
Each state involves conscious decisions and effort.
If you make decisions that affect your close relationships, hurt others, or yourself there is fallout. For example, If you cheat on your partner, or beat your child, the consequences can last for days, weeks, months or even years. Even if the partner does not find out, or your child forgives and still loves you, the stain is there in your psyche.
We know that the mind/body is completely interconnected and you can’t really hurt your mind without hurting your body and vice versa.
The guilt of cheating might be suppressed, but the background stress and anxiety will surface in other ways.
Stress is possibly the worst thing for our health, more so than bad food or a sedentary lifestyle. When other people create stress for us, if we are in tune with reality, we can make changes to remove the stressor somehow.
If we create our own stress by “being bad” then we cannot escape, the pain travels with us. There is no alternative to the recovery period after our mistakes. We recover either by making amends, forgiving ourselves, or allowing time to do its work as the issue fades.
These are 3 of the most common examples of situations that require either a physical or mental recovery period. Since mental stress gives physical symptoms, and physical stress can affect the mind, these are one and the same thing.
I bet that any recovery period that you can think of will fit into this model. Even the apparent exceptions.
You might ask, what about body builders or elite sports people? How can you say that no pain no gain applies?
This article is about health and happiness, not about competing at the Olympics.
(Are YOU a professional athlete? Perhaps you could tell me… I would appreciate your opinion in the comments section at the end…)
I am doubtful that really pushing our bodies or minds to their absolute limits on a regular basis really creates any long-term gains.
For example female athletes often lose fertility. Their menstrual cycle stops. Isn’t fertility a sign of health?
Champion Body Builders achieve impressive feats, but they are putting tremendous strain on their internal organs. Many also use stimulants, steroids, diuretics and other health affecting supplements. Whilst Body Builders are great examples of the awesome power and potential of the human body, the are hardly adverts for health, vitality and happiness.
What about recovery periods after hospitalization? Surely these are good?
If you make the assumption that sickness is a random occurrence, then yes, a recovery period is important. However, a vast majority of people who get sick do so because of the choices they make. The biggest killers in the western world are “lifestyle diseases” such as heart disease and diabetes.
So, living in a way that you avoid lifestyle disease is in fact avoiding “something that you need to recover from”.
There probably are exceptions to the philosophy of not doing things that you need to recover from. Of course not every illness and ailment is caused or exacerbated by the lifestyle decisions that we make. Some mistakes are only obvious in hindsight or are out of our control. The mistakes of others can cause us stress or sickness.
But as a rule to live by, I think that this is a good one. I am going to renew my efforts into not doing anything that I need to recover from. I will start with some vegetable shopping and a light run this afternoon.
I will choose vegetables instead of pastries, I will choose a light run rather than pushing myself to my limits.
What do you think?
I am not a professional health care practitioner, I am not qualified to advise anyone on physical or mental health. I am just a partly broken guy trying to fix himself whilst sharing thoughts and discoveries.
I am certainly not an expert on these things, but I am aware that I am now “middle aged” and these types of questions seem to keep coming to me. Subtly demanding an answer.
Have I missed something? Are there any good exceptions to the rule?
Please comment below if you have any insights or objections to what I have discussed…