What makes us happy? What makes us healthy? These are the most important questions of the 21st century. That, and how can we defeat ISIS and combat global warming. But I’ll leave those questions to our incredibly talented, competent politicians. Donald Drumpf for 2016!
Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested and attuned to the various ways that improving my health can boost my happiness. And I’m not talking about the standard take your vitamins, don’t eat donuts health talk. Because I adore donuts and I will never stop eating them. Not even if the FDA declares them to be the new tobacco. How dare they?
In my quest to find bliss, I have learned about so many practices and concepts that can improve physical, mental, and emotional health. By my astute observations, however, the vast majority of Americans are either completely unaware of most of these practices or consider them to be liberal, new age blasphemy, like those barefoot running shoes and $10 juice made from dandelions.
What sorts of practices and concepts am I talking about? Sleep, Exercise, Meditation, Love, Diet, Gratitude, Patience, Learning, Mindfulness, Passion, Organization, Positivity, Productivity. Maybe others. Probably a lot more others. Let’s start there though because that’s already such a big list.
Some of these concepts are foreign to me. For instance, I am intensely impatient. I once watched myself hyperventilate in the Post Office because the line was really long and I was missing the prime window to buy a gourmet loaf of rye sunflower bread from my local bakery before it sold out. I have also been known to sidestep elderly pedestrians on crowded New York City sidewalks because, lez be honest, ain’t nobody got time for that. Don’t worry, I already know that there’s a spot waiting for me in hell.
On the other hand, some of these concepts are familiar to me and feel relatively ingrained in my routine. I have been a more-or-less consistent exerciser for the past four or five years. I don’t have a six pack (or any pack) to show for it, but I’ve witnessed how a good sweat sesh can significantly improve my mood and confidence. Seriously, after I do set of squats on the squat rack, I feel like I can saunter into any boardroom in corporate America, say nothing, and just mic drop. And, in the last year or two, I’ve watched how regular meditation has tangibly reduced my feelings of anxiety and stress. I still get stressed out sometimes, just like all of you regular people, but I’m able to handle it better now. Except when I’m hangry. All bets are off the table then.
So I started thinking, if I work really hard on my mindfulness, my diet, my relationships, my productivity, and all that jazz, will I be exponentially happier?
For the record, I would say that I’m a very happy person as it is. But it wasn’t always that way. If you had met me as a young child, you would have thought, Who’s that dour-faced chubby-cheeked girl? Doesn’t she know frowning causes premature onset of wrinkles? How come she doesn’t respond to jokes? This thing is a mute! A few years ago, my aunt confided in me that she thought I was “a very pensive child with a lot on her mind.” Children are not meant to be pensive! They are meant to be gullible and annoying and loud. I was none of those things, and by the perpetual frown on my face, you would have thought I was one of those unfortunate people who are genetically wired to be pessimists.
But fast forward to my 20s (to a time when my cheeks have nicely hollowed out), and what’s not to be happy about? I have an amazing and loving family, a wonderful and supportive partner, a great set of friends who I adore, my health is decentish for a 28-year old, and I don’t have a scarcity of anything (except maybe donuts). But could I be even happier if I made more of an effort? Can I reach bliss-level happiness, the kind of happiness you feel on the very first day of a long-awaited tropical vacation, or the kind of euphoria you feel when you quit your corporate job and never have to look at a Blackberry ever again? Or, is there a certain limit at which happiness maxes out?
As a lawyer whose day job is often quite stressful and demanding, I find that these questions are particularly important to ask myself. For background, I worked as a corporate litigator for two years in BigLaw, an industry notorious for leaving its associates overworked, overstressed, and unhappy. After quitting and going on an epic backpacking trip for six months, I returned to New York City; for the past year, I’ve been working as a housing attorney for low-income Brooklyn residents. Although the work is more fulfilling, the job comes with its own stresses–being entirely responsible for preventing a family’s eviction, navigating the hot mess of housing court in New York City, and feeling unequipped to deal with clients’ everyday problems like crushing poverty, mental illness, domestic violence, and every kind of discrimination you can imagine.
Lest you start to think that I’m some sort of self-important monster, I know I’m not the only person with a stressful job. For full-time professionals, our lives are more fast-paced than ever, and we show no signs of slowing down. We’re relying more on technology than on human relationships to guide and structure our lives. We’re living in an age that’s extremely diet- and exercise- obsessed but we don’t seem to be any healthier or happier for it. In short, a lot of us are feeling a general sense of overwhelming stress and anxiety, and in increasing numbers.
That’s why I’m starting this blog, the Laws of Bliss. To experiment with various practices and techniques, evaluate whether they improve my physical and mental health and overall happiness, and share the results with all of you folks so that you too can live your healthiest, happiest self!
Each month I’ll focus on a certain category or topic, like Sleep or Diet. And each week during that month, I’ll experiment with one practice, like turning off all electronic screens an hour before bed or cutting out all added sugar for one week. I’ll also be posting recipes of healthy(ish) food that I cook at home, and for now, you can check out some recipes I’ve already posted on the Recipes page.
I hope that you feel inspired to learn more about health and happiness with me. I know you’re probably wondering if an impatient, possibly genetically pessimistic, self-proclaimed donut-lover and lawyer is the right person to follow on matters of health, but trust me, I’m right. I always am.
Cuddles and Giggles,