The purpose of this blog is to pursue happiness together. My aim is to share my thoughts, thoughts which i have accumulated through the experience of highs and lows in my own life, and thoughts from famous philosophers, thinkers, and humanity at large. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue, and that through discussion of what happiness is, and how we find it, that we can learn to be happy together and to help make the world a better place.

Followers

About Me

My photo
Hello all! Thanks for visiting my blog. I believe that creating and achieving a state of happiness and joy is the primary purpose in life. My mission for this page is to provide uplifting content, inspirational material, and thought provoking ideas; all of which I hope will help you come to a better understanding and experiencing of happiness and joy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tim Ferriss's Tools of Titans: a guidebook to Success and Happiness


 


Today’s post is about “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss, a book that has already had profound impact on my understanding of happiness, and one which from now on I will continuously reference throughout my life. This is perhaps one of the most powerful and profound books that I have read, and it’s utility is rivaled only by that of Ryan Holiday’s “the Daily Stoic”, ironically a book which many interviewees in Tools of Titans have read and recommend.

Tools of Titans doesn’t is best consumed not in a cover-to-cover fashion but by being referenced for specific wisdom or advice, as well as read little-by-little such that the reader has time to ponder and analyze the words on the page. In this way, Tools of Titans, has become not a book that we might pickup and read over the course of several weeks every few years, but instead is a book with certain meaningful passages that we can reach out to on an as needed basis.

To that end, author Tim Ferriss, has wisely subdivided his book into 3 chapters: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise – playing off Benjamin Franklin’s maxim of early to bed and early to rise – though in reality, each of the dozens of interviewees for this book could accurately be described as healthy, wealthy, and wise. Nevertheless, Ferriss has assigned the respective interviewee to that section wherein they are considered MOST well-known, successful, or famous.

Speaking of success, I can reiterate my commonly stated belief that success and happiness are ultimately interchangeable. When we say we want success, we envision ourselves reaching the pinnacle of happiness. When we feel successful, we have realized happiness for ourselves. To that end, I believe that this book is about finding happiness, and that the 3 main sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, all demonstrate a foundation from which we can build up our life of success and happiness.

In his introductions, Ferriss says: “Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.” This book is about collecting the right field-tested beliefs and habits, with Ferriss having done most of the collecting for us, by observing, studying, and speaking with some of the world’s most wholly successful individuals. Each of these individuals demonstrates success and happiness on so many levels. The point of this book is to arm each and every one of us with the wisdom and guidance to go out there and live life on our terms, finding our understanding of success. With these dozens of healthy, athletic, strong, wealthy, successful, smart, wise, kind, caring, and compassionate individuals as our guide, we find ourselves armed with all of the help we might ever need to create a successful and happy life for ourselves. The greatest and meaningful contributions of each of these incredible people live on in these pages and are readily available to us at a moments notice, as if they themselves were serving as our guide through a chaotic world, like Virgil guiding a frightened Dante through the underworld.

After recently finishing this book I am reminded of a powerful quote by Isaac Newton, not contained within these pages, but accurately representing the power of Tools of Titans. The quote is: “If I have seen farther than others it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants.” The obvious meaning here being that Newton, one of the world’s most brilliant minds ever, is giving credit to those who came before him, without whose discoveries he would have had no inspiration or no previous work upon which to expand upon. In the same way, Tools of Titans gives us the ability to stand on the shoulder’s of giants, those giants being the interviewees but perhaps most importantly. I would add the book gives us the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of the author himself, Tim Ferris,  whom I happen to feel is one of the most influential people alive today.

The greatest takeaway from this book is that the idea that we must define success, or in my adaptation, happiness, in our own terms before we can pursue it and well before we can achieve it. If we do not know what our target is, we will not know when we have hit it.

The second important point that I noted from this book is that  we are repeatedly exposed to the idea that success and happiness, for many, begin with a healthy body. Our body is the vessel that houses our thoughts and through which we experience the world. If our body is unhealthy, our thoughts will be unhealthy, our mood will be poor, we will likely have low esteem, and negativity, illness, and unhappiness will permeate every facet of our existence. One of the best ways you can be happy is to take care of your body and your physical health.

Third takeway: that happiness and success are a state of mind, and that they are largely independent of where we are, and what we own. Happiness does not come from possessions and money. Happiness comes from confidence in yourself, understanding, compassion for yourself and others, and a contentment with the life you live. This is a state that can be achieved regardless of how much money you can make, and has been reached by poor and rich alike, just as rich and poor alike have found themselves lacking this state of happiness, with their material wealth having ultimately very little impact.

Fourth takeaway: wealth, is not measured in money but in relationships, time, a lack of worry, and most importantly freedom. By that definition, wealth should be something we all strive to acquire. Luckily for us, Tim Ferriss has shown us how here in this book.

I will close this discussion with a few quotes from the book. Perhaps my favorite, and I have tons of quotations I love here, from the entire book is “ultimately, to be properly successful is to be at peace.” Whatever your personalized concept of success is, I would wager that somewhere, either overtly or beneath the surface, it is defined by a state of peace. If not, I would ask you why not.

Lastly, a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger: “the worst thing you can do is stop learning. Never stop learning. Ever.” All the information you could ever need is out there, such is the beauty of the age of information and technology that we live in. Some of the best advice you can learn from is right here in Tim Ferris’s book. Read this book, learn from it, then get busy living, and learn from that, and repeat. Happiness awaits.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 30, 2021


 


"Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure." - Tony Robbins. 

I heard this while listening to one of Tony Robbins's motivational speeches on youtube. He went on to elaborate that often times when we fail we realize our discontentment and can use our experience to learn. The ultimate failure however, is to get exactly what you wanted, or thought you wanted, and to still be miserable. 

Goal's require sacrifice, and sacrifice often means the delay of happiness for a future state. Before making that sacrifice, make sure that what you are chasing will bring you fulfillment. This is perhaps the most acceptable time for when one is wise to delay happiness and gratification - for the bringing of fulfillment. But if your goals do not bring fulfillment, they are not worth pursuing. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 28, 2021


 "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. Its about learning to dance in the rain." - Vivian Greene

We can't control the weather. So if we spend our whole life waiting for the storm to pass, for conditions to be ideal, we will miss our chance to dance. Instead, learn to make the most of what happens and embrace whatever comes our way. 

This quote is an embodiment of the ideal of to focus only on that which you can control. We can't control the weather anymore than we can control hundreds of other factors of life. All we can control is our mind and how we will treat such things that may happen for us. 

Learn to dance in the rain. 




Friday, August 27, 2021

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 27, 2021


 "A man is really alive only when he delights in the goodwill of others." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This idea from Goethe reminds me of the deep-seeded ideas of compassion for others as the path to enlightenment and happiness that we see so often in Buddhism. There is actually a Buddhist meditation that I have used before wherein one imagines a person in their life, with the whole practice focusing on the practitioner imagining happiness for that person. Think of this person, concentrate on them, and imagine them being happy, and how that might look or feel for them. This is a surprisingly powerful meditation, with my own experience being that I always walk away feeling better for having taken the time. 

Whether he was building off of ancient Buddhist ideas or not, Goethe's idea here resonates strongly with me. True happiness is found when we wish for and delight in the happiness of others, particularly those we care about. 

In order to experience this type of joy be on the lookout for how you can be a force for happiness in the lives of others. 



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 26, 2021


 "Ultimately, to be properly successful is to be at peace." - Alain de Botton

Michael de Botton is a modern day philosopher from Switzerland who has published a number of books that apply philosophical concepts reminiscent of the stoics to modern day scenarios. 

In my blog I often write about people who are successful, borrowing their thoughts and strategies for achieving success and adopting them such that the same methods can be applied to discover happiness. 

I would say that the highest form of success is happiness, which like de Botton, I believe can accurately be described as a state of peace and contentment. 

True success is realized when we arrive at a mental state wherein we have no cravings, desires, overwhelming fears, and no anxieties. The best part about this is that it does not require obscene amounts of wealth or shiny possessions. It may look like that to some, but that very same notion of success or happiness is readily available to anyone who can reign in control of their own mind. 



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 23, 2021 (2)


 Seeing as today was the day I decided to introduce a Happiness thought for the day, and because I really wanted to share yesterday's musings without coming at the expense of today, I will be doing a double dose of Happiness Thought for the Day (this will likely not be the last time this happens.)


"To me, success is the ongoing process of striving to become more. It is the opportunity to continually grow emotionally, socially, spiritually, physiologically, intellectually, and financially while contributing in some positive way to others. The road to success is always under construction. It is a progressive course, not an end to be reached." Tony Robbins

As often, I think that we can substitute the word "success" used by Tony Robbins, and put in "happiness" instead. The two words are often interchangeable. If you asked most people: "what would it take for you to feel successful," their answer would likely be the same as if you had asked: "what would it take for you to feel happy." 

For me, my definition of success is a life of happiness, and I bet the same is true for most of us. 

Remember that is not an overnight process, it is a constant striving. While much of happiness comes by way of contentment, and peace of mind, I believe it also comes from constant growth and progress, a road that, as Tony says, should always be under construction. 

Happiness Thought for the Day: August 23, 2021


 I recently had the idea for creating a Happiness Thought for the Day that I would post in between days where I publish my normal content. The idea being to give readers more content in an effort to provoke thought and encourage happiness more frequently than I currently do. These thoughts will mirror those on my instagram (@happy_together_blog) and twitter (@happytogetherB1) which I update more frequently than I do my main blog. 

This blog page remains my primary focus but I have come to the realization that I am unable to write more than 2-4 of my normal full-length posts weekly. That said, it is no great effort to provide briefer thoughts on a daily or near daily basis. As such, I will now be sharing the majority of my twitter and instagram content here on the main blog, using the heading "Happiness Thought for the Day: Today's Date". 

I hope you all enjoy the additional thoughts!

Without further ado: here is today's thought. 




"Your level of happiness is inversely related to the amount of things you let bother you." 

I find it highly unlikely that I am the first person to ever use that phrase, although after running a search online I received 0 hits, so it is possible that yours truly may be responsible for that phrase. 

Regardless, the above thought is highly influenced by a number of ideas I have come across since beginning this blog on happiness. The stoics in particular remind us that happiness lies in our ability to be unconcerned with things outside of our control. 

Likewise our happiness will be difficult to maintain if we allow ourselves to be bothered by too much. In the era of social media and mass media that we live in, any or all of hundreds of things could bother us and throw us into a depression. This week alone we have an earthquake and a devastating storm in Haiti, there is a violent coup with hundreds of thousands trying to escape in Afghanistan, meanwhile ocean levels continue to rise threatening the life of every living man, woman and child. 

It is extremely easy to let such stories give us anxiety and depression thereby ruining our happiness. In order to remain happy, you must remain steadfast in your mind and not let such things bother you. That does not mean to be self-centered and callous towards others. It means understanding that most of these events lies outside our control. Focus on controlling your own response to such events. If you feel compelled to act: donate to charities that may help Haitians or Afghans, research what you can do to lessen your carbon footprint or that of your community. These little things are what you can do now without completely losing your mind in a feeling of helplessness. 

One last thought to leave you with: the world is changed by your example, not your opinion. Being distraught over things will only cause damage to your psyche and contribute nothing to the problem. Do what little you can and hope that others take notice. 



Monday, August 23, 2021

Go Workout. Advice on Happiness



Go workout.

This short phrase is perhaps one of the most simple bits of advice I can give to anyone who wants to become happier. Health, wellness, and happiness are complex subjects dependent and influenced by a multitude of factors from socio-economic status to biochemistry, from childhood trauma to career satisfaction. It may be overidealizing and unrealistic to expect that one simple act can reverse the spiral of unhappiness and depression that your life may have become, and put you back on track to happiness, but if ever there was such a phrase did exist, “go workout” would surely be one of them, at least in so much as my own life experiences are concerned.

We live in a chaotic and confusing world and our self-esteem and happiness are equally confusing and chaotic ideas. In such a tumultuous existence, where every thought or ever decision can be second guessed, we should take comfort in realizing that sometimes the answer to one of life’s most complicated questions: how do I experience happiness? Has such a simple solution as “go workout.”

“Go workout” is not a complicated phrase. Anybody could come up with it. But the ramifications of understanding this advice have dramatic results. I came across this phrase, in the context for which I am writing about it today, in Tim Ferriss’s podcast with Navy Seal turned Author, Jocko Willink, of whom I have written several times before. Tim had asked Jocko what his advice would be to anyone who is feeling depressed. The answer was given in typical Jocko style: “go workout.”

This isn’t just some meathead’s response to any possible question one could ask. Jocko is so much more than that. While he himself may be the anthropomorphized version of the word “tough” Jocko has a level of compassion, empathy, and understanding which belies his harsh exterior. This is a man who has served in combat operations, written children’s books, much more in between, and routinely gives quality life advice to his listeners on his own podcast.

Elaborating on his response, Jocko explains that so much of depression and anxiety, or a general lack of happiness, is that we are spending too much time in our own heads, either dwelling on the past, bemoaning the present, or living in fear of the future. The perfect solution to this, is to go workout, with Jocko accurately stating that it is very difficult to live in your own head when you are focusing on a strenuous workout. Nay, not even a strenuous workout, go do any form of physical activity or movement and you will experience, at least for a little while, an absence of anxiety and depression, and a moment of happiness.

I have written about the benefits of exercise and its effects on happiness several times. In one post I discussed scientific studies that linked increases in both short-term and long-term happiness with those who participated in regular (3-5x weekly) exercise. Additionally, I have helped document the negative impact of poor posture and its effect on mood and happiness, discussing the need for regular activity, exercise, and movement, to combat chronic movement patterns associated with modern life and linked to unhappiness.

Jocko’s statement, “go workout” is yet another notch in the column of ever-growing evidence and support for physical exercise augmenting happiness and mood. What I appreciate about this response is its’ straightforwardness. I recognize that happiness, mental-health, and wellness are immensely complicated matters that become influenced by numerous variables and for many people can take years of therapy, meditation, lifestyle change, reading, self-understanding and more before any meaningful progress is made. That is precisely why this statement resonates with me, Jocko’s advice to “go workout”, because in a world of chaos and complexity, it is quality advice given simply and in an easy to digest format. It is also one of the easiest things you can do today to improve your happiness. Resolving past traumas may take years working with a licensed professional. Working out is something you can do today. Yes, you should absolutely put in the time with the therapist, this is essential to you ever realizing true happiness, but it will take time. Working out, today, will make you happy, today, at least for a little while. Do this thing over and over, and it will start to have a more lasting impact.

I don’t intend to write about the scientific behind the benefit working out has on our mental health, or how making lifestyle changes around increasing your physical fitness will ultimately generate greater feelings of self-esteem. All I mean to do is iterate that there is a simple solution to creating happiness for yourself, a solution that you can implement today. It will not be an overnight fix, but if you workout today, whether it be a walk, a run, swim, bike ride, weightlifting session, pick-up basketball – it doesn’t matter, I guarantee you will provide yourself at least a few moments out of your own head, and enjoying your life, being happy. As Jocko said, you will find it very busy to spend time being unhappy or depressed in your own head, if you are too busy working out.

Take it from me, someone who has struggled with what at times was horrendous anxiety and depression. Go workout. You will feel better immediately. It will not be a permanent fix. But tomorrow again when those demons come knocking, go workout again. Eventually you will triumph for good.



Friday, August 20, 2021

Control Your Desire to Maintain Control Over Your Happiness



Today I want to talk about desire. Not lustful, sexual, or romantic desire – although sex and happiness is a subject I would like to study and discuss in the near future.  What I am referring to is desire for certain outcomes, whether it be status, fame, achievement, wealth, recognition, possessions etc.

Desire is good. Desire is what motivates us. It is what calls us to action. It is what inspires us to improve. It is what moves us to learn. It gives us our reason for being and adds meaning to our existence.

Desire is also bad. Desire is wanting something that we do not have. Desire is a sense of longing or emptiness. Desire is a postponement of gratification and happiness for a future state. What we desire may never be ours, and in so desiring, we commit ourselves to a perpetual state of misery.

This post is a discussion of desire and its effect on happiness. I can neither categorize desire as either entirely good nor entirely bad. Instead, I will simply discuss both the positive and negative outcomes and states of desire, beginning with the negative.

 When we desire something, we believe that the attainment or realization of that desire will make us happy. That is not to say that we are unhappy right now but indicates a belief that whenever our desire is fulfilled then we will become happier. In looking to the future and desiring something that we do not currently possess, I would remind readers of Dr. Dan Gilbert’s podcast, covered earlier in my blog (here), where his research showed that most people overestimate the happiness they would derive from a certain outcome. In the case of Dr. Gilbert’s research, he looked at winning the lottery, something that many people would admit to desiring. Lottery winners found that winning the lottery did not bring them as much happiness as they initially thought it would. Many of them rather reported being less happy several years after having won the lottery than they were before winning the lottery.

Based on evidence such as Dr. Gilbert’s research, I would speculate that the reason having our desires met does not bring the expected level of happiness is because true happiness is not in having any sort of tangible attainment that can be met or required. Happiness is a state of being intentionally cultivated with thoughts and actions over time rather than an accomplishment, a feat, or an object that can be realized, purchased, or otherwise earned.


Further thoughts on desire as a negative influence exist when we consider its effect in the present. To be in a state of desire indicates a state of discontentment. Whatever it is that you desire, it reflects a lack of full satisfaction and happiness. I am not sure that this is a state that can be fully conquered, as on some level there will always be something that we all desire such as shelter or food. I don’t suggest that you completely eradicate all desire from your psyche but merely recommend that you deeply consider what you desire, thinking about why you have that desire, and why you feel that realization of that desire will make you happy, lastly considering just how happy that will make you. Quoting Seneca, as I have before: “no person has the power to have everything they want, but it is within their power not to want what they don’t have.”

Let us shift focus now to the good side of desire. While it is all well and good to say that enlightenment is found in a state of complete inner peace and absence of any sort of wanting, I find that this level of zen-like wisdom is difficult to attain and perhaps not very practical to the average person who desires a state of greater happiness. Most of us who don’t envision an existence of solitude spent meditating on a lonely mountaintop will always wrestle with some aspects of desire.

The positive of desire is that our desire is our motivation. Desire is our motive force to be a better person, to work hard, to strive for progress, and to uplift ourselves and others. Desire is an acknowledgement of imperfection and a commitment improvement, not with the expectation or hope that perfection is ever attained but with the knowledge that any movement forward is a progress. I think of desire as a positive force when it is harnessed to push us to action in self-improvement or improving the world around us. Remember, self-improvement is not selfish, as Paulo Coelho would tell us, we are all part of the world, so when we uplift ourselves, we improve the soul of the entire world. We may also desire to make the world a better place. The desire to end starvation, as an example, is a noble goal that must begin with the admission that there is suffering. Some would say that desire is evidence of discontentment, but I do not believe that this recognition diminishes our state of happiness in the present, but rather indicates our recognition of a problem and an acknowledgement of our desire to lessen suffering for others. This is good desire. Even the desire to have a fancy car is not inherently bad, although I would caution one against excessive coveting of material possessions. Presumably if you work hard enough to earn such a car, you must be providing a service of sorts that at some level is providing value to others. To that end I would echo the words of the Buddha in saying that what you achieve isn’t as important as what you gave up to achieve it.

In summary I close by saying that desire is both good and bad, but that if we are going to be moved by desire, we must ensure that what we desire noble in aim, improving either ourselves or others in its attainment, otherwise it is merely selfish and indicates a lack of control over ourselves and a lack our ability to feel happiness and gratitude. Living a life of little desire or of only desiring to better ourselves, not because we must be perfect but because we believe we can do more, indicates one of the highest levels of freedom we can achieve.  Closing with yet another Stoic quote, this one from Epictetus: “freedom isn’t secured by filling up your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.”

 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Thoughts on Happiness Following a Weekend with Friends



This past weekend I had the privilege of catching up with one of my dearest friends and his wife, who having met my friend mere months after myself, also quickly became one of my best friends. The weekend was filled with happiness and joy that included: enjoying some beautiful weather and activity outdoors; a few too many indulgent meals and beverages; much reminiscing; loads of catching up; and most importantly – lots of laughter and good feelings. During my admittedly all-to-brief trip several thoughts on happiness popped into my head which brings me to today, where I will attempt to pen (or type) those thoughts here. 

My first thought is that perhaps one of the best ways to be happy is to be genuinely happy for others. I was first exposed to this concept when reading about Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. I believe it was in “The Art of Happiness” where the Dalai Lama described a traditional Buddhist mediation for happiness, wherein the practitioner becomes happy by spending some time thinking of others and genuinely wishing them happiness. You can put yourself in the mind of whomever you may be thinking about and wish for an easing from the burden of their suffering or to understand their wants and desires and to wish them into existence such that that person may be happy. I have done this meditation many times and can confirm that after every time I have walked away with a profound feeling of content, happiness, and joy. 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to experience that same feeling, but was able to experience it more organically by physically being present to witness the happiness of others rather than having to imagine it via a meditative state. I was full of happiness as I was able to witness the happiness of my friends, Jon and Allyson, as they rejoiced in the life they have built for themselves. In the past year they have purchased a house, adopted a dog, received at least one promotion at work, and welcomes the birth of their first child: a girl named Lily. All of the above are worth celebrating and the whole weekend felt like a celebration of all the wonderful changes in their life. It filled me with happiness to see how amazing they have been in their new role as parents, how much joy they get from their dog willow, how safe and content they seem in their new home, and all the other joy that is in their lives. They are two of my favorite people and it makes my heart swell to see them so happy. All that is to serve as a reminder that if you want to be happy: be genuinely happy over the happiness of others; and if possible do what you can to contribute to that happiness. 


Thought number two is on the brevity of life. At one point during the trip Jon and I were looking at the stars and marveling at the vastness of the universe, noting how insignificant it can make one feel. Knowing that our lives will occupy the most minute fraction of time in this universe can make one feel almost worthless. Admittedly this notion can frighten and depress me a bit but since reading on Stoicism and in particular “On the Shortness of Life” by Seneca, I am instead filled with gratitude and happiness. In moments of fear I think of Seneca’s quote: “It’s not at all that we have too short a time to live, but that we squander a great deal of it. Life is long enough, and it’s given in sufficient measure to do many great things if we spend it well.” I think of this quote to remind myself that while our lives can seem insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe, that they are actually quite significant indeed. To have this blessing of life at all is a miracle and it beats the alternative of never having existed at all. 

As Seneca says, life isn’t short, we simply waste too much of it. What is it that we waste our life on? I believe that what we waste the majority of our time on is on looking forward to the future both with anxiety and excitement. I include both positive states and negative states of looking to the future because I believe that an excess of either one is a bad thing. We are all surely familiar with feelings of anxiety, stressing ourselves out over a future state that worries us. How often does that which we fear come to fruition? Hardly ever. And if it does, how often is it as bad as we thought? Rarely. I include also future states of excitement as potential detriments to our happiness in the present. If your thoughts always lie in the future, and you find yourself postponing joy and happiness for some future time, then you run the risk of never actually experiencing happiness, as it will constantly be pushed into the future, and you will put your life into fast forward mode as you find yourself unable to pause and enjoy the present. To live a happy life you must be willing to move forward from the past, and while it is wise to plan and prepare for the future, if you seek happiness you must live in the present. 


This is precisely the mindset that I adopted for as much of this past weekend as I could. Just as life itself can seem short, so too can fun and exciting visits with friends. I had all of 3 days with my friends and made every effort to enjoy as much of it as possible. At multiple moments I found myself taking “mental pictures” as Brene Brown once discussed, where I would clear my mind of all irrelevant thoughts and instead tried to remember as many details as possible about where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with at those exact moments. Several of those moments included kayaking on Lake Bde Maka Ska, watching the MNUFC game, and reading to Lily. Over time I will likely forget many of the extraneous details, focusing instead on whom I was with and how I felt. In each such case that feeling was completely at ease, content, and happy. It is by focusing on those moments such as these in the present, now already my past, that I will be able to build and remember a long and happy life for myself. 

Finally, I am reminded how lucky it is to be loved. This lesson was learned two-fold for me over the weekend. First: we all know the saying that home is where the heart is. Upon being welcomes to Minnesota it was clear that a piece of my heart is there and is held by my dear friends. This feeling was confirmed to me as I acknowledged the complete sense of peace and absence of worry that I felt for the duration of my stay. Secondly, I was reminded of the joy of loving and being loved upon my return to my home in Atlanta. Previously, when I was a single man, the end of such trips would leave me feeling depressed, as I would walk away from some of my favorite people not knowing when exactly I would see them again. I would return to my solitary life, alone, and sad. While I still feel a twinge of pain as I depart, I am now lucky to return to a home where I am loved both by a very large and excited bloodhound named Floyd and my girlfriend Ashley. I have said before and I will say again, travelling is great but coming home is even better. I am grateful to the two of them for giving me a home to which I can return. 





Monday, August 9, 2021

Doing Nothing to restore Happiness: my reflections on a week spent in the mountains of Utah


 

Photos, or at least those taken by me, will never fully capture the beauty of Utah

I have plenty of happiness in my life and plenty to share although it may be admittedly less profound or deep than some of my usual content. As those of you who may happen to regularly follow this blog have probably noticed, I haven’t posted as often as usual. Nothing is wrong, I simply have found myself busy and practicing what several people, namely my therapist and my girlfriend, have recommended I do, which is to do nothing.

Myself, and many others like me, understand what it is like to feel as if we must always be doing something. I find it very difficult to switch off my brain and be comfortable doing nothing. Whether it is studying languages, (I am currently learning 4 – Mandarin, French, Spanish, and German), exercise, reading, or working, I always find myself busy. This isn’t inherently bad. All of the aforementioned activities bring me immense joy not just as I see myself progressing at whatever I am doing, but in the moment as well I find myself happy and fulfilled. However, the far end of the spectrum is that I can tend to put large amounts of pressure on myself. If I miss a day of studying language, I may beat myself up for it. If I skip a workout because I wasn’t feeling well or because I had a late night the previous evening, I will feel as if I missed an opportunity to improve. In a sense this may be true but ultimately, so what? One of the things I must remind myself is that life is to be enjoyed, and even while I may find purpose in certain activities or meaning in certain causes, I, and anyone else who feels similarly, should remember, in the words of Richard Carlson, not to sweat the small stuff; and to remember that in life, it’s all small stuff.

All that is to say that I put similar pressures on myself when it comes to writing this blog. My lack of content of late is not a loss of interest or that I am quitting, rather quite the opposite. I admittedly had felt a bit burned out of late and rather than crush myself under the self-imposed pressure of turning out 4-6 posts per week, I decided to take a step back, relax, gather some ideas, and come back with renewed vigor when I felt ready. This equates to taking one step backwards in order to take two steps forwards. I remain highly invested in the success of this blog, particularly in the sense that I want to provide a happy medium that enriches and brightens my reader’s lives. That will never change, but from time to time I must recognize that I am responsible first and foremost from myself, and that if I feel burned out I should take a step back.


Thus, here I am. I am back, with renewed vigor at least if not with new ideas. Thus far I have rambled about burnout, and made excuses for my less-than-normal content output. Much of the reason was that I spent the majority of last week enjoying a company reward’s trip which I and a number of colleagues were lucky enough to experience as incentive for exceeding our goals last year. I was able to travel  with one of my oldest friends as my guest, my girlfriend being unable to attend, where we spent an incredible several days amongst my colleagues in beautiful Park City Utah. If you have never had the chance to enjoy Utah and the Rocky mountains, whether you are from here in the United States or from abroad, I highly recommend you do it. The weather alone was reason to enjoy it as we were blessed with 3 days of barely a cloud in the sky, high temperatures in the low 80’s Fahrenheit and low temperatures in the upper 50’s. Thus we were able to enjoy many a good hour at the pool where I practiced doing nothing. I barely even cracked a book, deciding instead to give myself a break and connect with the people around me, and more importantly relax!

True to form however I did a little more than simply relax and do nothing. I had to do a little bit of activity. The highlights of the adventure portion of our trip included getting to watch a number of current, past, and hopeful-future Olympic skiers perform some of their training routine; a 5 mile hike to a pristine waterfall with some of the coldest water I have felt (you know I had to get in – didn’t hike all that way for nothing); and perhaps most excitingly: a run down the Olympic bobsled course – we survived. In between these insanely fun activities and ample time spent doing nothing I enjoyed many laughs and exquisite meals. I even had more than a handful of drinks. I typically abstain from drinking, I generally don’t like the feeling of being drunk, especially the inevitable hangover the following day, and I take pride in my ability to abstain. That said, I wanted to enjoy myself, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some relaxing beverages in a nice setting with awesome people, so that is exactly what I did. For me the best part was perhaps the fact that I actually let myself just be there and have fun. I didn’t stress myself out over reading my standard 30 minutes a day or about being diligent with my exercise – I only saw the gym once; I didn’t feel guilty about the food or alcohol being consumed. To put it simply, I just enjoyed the moment. And I feel so happy for it. I look forward to being back and enjoying the habits and activities that bring me such joy and make me who I am, but I am grateful for a week well-spent and for the relaxation both mental and physical that it afforded.

 

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Olympics: Competition, Fun, Mental-Health, and Happiness


 


For today’s post I want to talk about the Olympic games and in particular discuss the mental health of the athletes. Before I get into my main point I just wanted to state how glad I am that we are able to have the Olympic games at all. With the world still reeling from covid and perhaps even declining with the increase in the delta variant, this was an Olympiad that many of us weren’t sure we would get to see. It was already delayed a year and I am sure there were times were the Japanese and IOC officials strongly considered cancelling the games outright. While heavy precautions were taken that included the prohibition of specators, and disqualification of athletes who tested positive, the games continued and I am grateful for it.

One of the things I love about sports is that they provide a much needed relief from what is often a tumultuous and chaotic world. No, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and watch sports to the detriment of understanding the world around us. But sometimes it is nice to simply turn on the tv and watch some amazingly talented teams and individuals perform incredible feats of skill and athleticism in the culmination of what has been a lifetime of preparation on their part. It makes me happy to imagine that the whole world is coming together to watch and cheer for the athletes from their home countries, and for once to be divided only by whom we cheer for in a match, game, or competition, rather than the plethora of more concerning issues that usually divide us.

As I laid out in my introduction, what I really wanted to discuss was mental health in the Olympics. This year, more than any that I can remember in my lifetime, mental health has been a central topic of discussion. Most notably the issue has been raised by Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, of the United States. Sadly, Simone Biles opted out of the majority of her events at this particular Olympiad, sighting mental health concerns.

The backlash that Simone faced for her decision is appalling and disheartening to me. She has been called any number of insults ranging from coward and traitor to wimp and less PG variations of the same. These people seem to lack the understanding of just how challenging what Simone, and any other elite level athlete must endure. As public figures their entire life is under scrutiny, with any notion of privacy long since forgotten. To lack the empathy to understand why Simone would want to back out of competition, to fail to recognize that any error in her competition could quite literally cost her life, is dumbfounding.

As loud as the voices of disapproval were to this news, I take comfort and joy in the fact that the overwhelming majority seem to be congratulating Simone for her courage, sharing their love and support with her through what must be a challenging and disappointing time, and praising her for bringing attention to mental health concerns, which as a society we suffer from tremendously but are often still reluctant to discuss publicly.

I for one congratulate Simone Biles for being brave enough to even give a reason for dropping out of the games, a reason she didn’t owe any of us. And I applaud her for publicly discussing mental health issues. She is by now perhaps one of the most publicly outspoken advocate for mental health in the world.

My hope is that with examples of such as hers, that not just athletes but all people will become more comfortable discussing issues in their mental health. The issue goes largely unmentioned because there is a stigma of shame against anyone who admits to feeling less than stellar all the time. There is a fear that if we reveal ourselves to be afraid, anxious, unhappy, or more that we are weak and invalid as a human. As an athlete, this is likely even worse as they are idealized as the epitomine of physical and mental fortitude, resilience, and strength. But at the end of the day we are all human, and all humans struggle in varying capacities with such issues. Only by shedding the stigma of vulnerability as a weakness, and only by being brave enough to bring these issues to attention will we be able to change the perception. It is athletes like Simone Biles who make this possible. I praise her for using her platform to bring progress to the world.

It isn’t just Simone Biles, and it isn’t just the Olympics, where we see mental health being more commonly discussed. Prior to the Olympics Naomi Osaka, the world #1 in tennis, withdrew from a major tournament siting mental health reasons. Michael Phelps, emboldened by Simone Biles, and though no longer competing in organized swimming himself, discussed his own struggles with anxiety and depression both as an athlete and in his current life today. Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA’s biggest names, has been vocal about mental health lately as well.

 These individuals are all perfect examples of celebrities using their influence to make the world a better place. We will always love sports because of the wow factor, because of the joy we get in seeing people do things previously thought impossible, and because we love to root for our home team. But perhaps more importantly we use sports to send a message. We have traditionally instilled in our youth through sport, the importance of teamwork, accountability, sportsmanship, and hard work. It seems that now we are beginning to send the message that it is ok to not be ok, that its ok to be afraid, scared, anxious, or unhappy, and that these are completely normal, but more importantly to know that the community is behind you and we see you for who you are and support each other throughout.