Human beings learn through observation and experience. It is in this way that important traits, learned behaviors, necessary evolutions, and knowledge for us to thrive and survive has been passed down from generation to generation. This learning is generally passed on to future generations either in the form of DNA adaptations, writing, history, parenting, upbringing, observation and more. One of the beautiful things about the technological state in which we currently live is that we now have access to knowledge the world over. Books can be translated from hundreds of languages and downloaded instantly, the world is abound with networking mechanisms that can allow people anywhere to interface and share ideas and nearly anyone with anything to say or discuss has a platform for doing so. We have the ability to leverage the insight, experiences, and even failures of others to serve as roadmaps as we navigate our way through life.
Since making the decision to focus on my own happiness, wellness, growth, and development and since beginning this blog I have used technology to study happy and successful individuals. Happiness and success look different to each of us but l the happiest and most successful people tend to share two habits that I have come to believe are fundamental in leading to happiness. There is without question far more to happiness than just these two traits I want to discuss but for the time being I thought it wise to focus on two simple habits that I think can improve happiness in each of us. No matter the age, gender, status, position, career, or goals of these people, nearly every single one of them do the following: they prioritize both their mental and physical health; and they read avidly. This post is a discussion of why those two habits matter and how they can lead to the realization of happiness.
The body is the vessel through which we experience life and all the happiness, sorrows, and everything in between. The mind is the software that creates, processes, and feels our thoughts, memories, emotions and more. Without a healthy mind and body, it becomes difficult to fully experience happiness. If your body is weak, injured, sick, or otherwise limited in its ability it can create pain and limitations that inhibit happiness. If the mind is ill or weak it can become ravaged by anxiety, worry, depression, or the inability to either experience or remember happy memories and feelings. Without question there are ways in life wherein one becomes incapacitated in mind or in body by means outside of their control such as unpreventable illness, injury, trauma, abuse and more. But to a great extent we as humans are able to ensure the health and wellbeing of our bodies and our minds with proper habits, lifestyles, and conditioning.
The happiest of people all focus on consuming a healthy diet, which for the most part tends to consist of high amounts of vegetables, whole, natural foods, and an avoidance of processed goods which would more accurately be called food-like substances rather than actual food. By providing our bodies with proper nutrition we allow our bodies to function at the optimal level, reducing inflammation, expediting cellular repair, and more. The happiest of people all put a great deal of thought and effort into ensuring that they eat healthy and nutritious foods in order to care for their bodies. This is something that I believe anyone must do if they wish to experience happiness.
The happiest people do more than just properly feed their bodies. They also tend to stick to a disciplined workout and training program. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all superhuman athletes capable of extraordinary feats, but they do challenge their bodies on a regular basis by subjecting themselves to any number of stimuli including but not limited to resistance training, cardiovascular activity, yoga, martial arts, and more. Regularly engaging in such exercise brings happiness not just because it is a pleasing reward to experience the beauty and wonder of what a healthy, highly functioning body, can accomplish, but also because it keeps the billions of cells contained within us healthy, and allows all the various bodily processes that maintain our existence operating at the highest level possible. Exercise, sports, and general fitness do not need to be your primary focus in life, but if you want to be truly happy, I believe that you must regularly engage in some type of physically challenging or demanding activity that will keep your body healthy.
Not only do happy people focus on their body, but they also focus a great deal of effort and energy on improving their mental health. This takes the form of meditation, therapy, journaling, prayer and more. Whatever their preferred or desired form of mental improvement may be, happy people are deliberate in their pursuit thereof. They are not passive in their pursuit of mental happiness. They are willing to out in the work to hone in their meditation techniques day after day until they learn to master their own minds and prevent the onset of unhappy thoughts. They are wiling to have difficult discussions about their past, choosing to reveal their traumas not necessarily to the public but with at least some people, often their therapists or close family and friends. The whole point is that they are brave enough to allow themselves to be vulnerable and tackle their issues or traumas head on rather than suppress them or run from the confrontation of those painful memories. This focus on mental health wills these happy people to that very state of happiness and is precisely the reason they come across as confident, unbothered, content, and radiant beings. If you want to be happy, focus on your mental health and be deliberate about making progress.
|The Paul Barret Jr. Library at Rhodes College
where I probably should have spent more time
as an undergraduate student.
The second trait of happy people is that they all appear to be avid readers. The very reason I began this post with a discussion about how easy it is to share ideas, beliefs, news, habits, and more is because we are blessed with the opportunity that anybody can be a teacher or role model to us. This comes with the obvious caveat that you must be careful just what you believe and whom you trust, but thanks to the rate at which information can be shared, we have almost limitless opportunities for growth and learning. Happy people take full advantage of this, commonly by reading, which they use to build their own knowledge and serve as a guidebook of sorts on how to live and how to be happy. We are provided the opportunity to learn from the lives of others, discerning from their experiences what may lead to happiness, what leads to disaster, what is a good idea, and what isn’t without having to make the same mistakes ourselves or without having to encounter countless trials and errors. Ultimately of course life is to be lived not read and we must get out in the arena, as Brene Brown or Theodore Roosevelt would have said, but we at least are able to arm ourselves with the knowledge gleaned from the lives of others. Happy people are avid readers, with large amounts of both fiction and non-fiction alike. And they use their reading to inspire themselves, to create ideas, expand their minds, and appease their curiosity. I believe that reading is a critical tool in developing our minds and in pointing us towards the path to happiness.