Fear limits destroy: face it – have I gone mental?

Raj Persaud wrote in his book Staying Sane that you should know your limits, and then destroy them. He writes about mental health, as you probably deduced from the title of the book. Most of us, supposedly, know how to look after our physical health, you know… exercise… eat right… that kind of thing (although you’ll agree that knowing is not necessarily doing 🙂 ). But we do not necessarily know how to take care of our mental health. Says Persaud.

Our natural response to stress is to withdraw. It makes sense to try and avoid something if we’re anxious about it. But we are obviously not facing our fears if we operate in this manner. And we’re definitely not being open to what life has to offer…

Facing your fear means feeling scared, frazzled, dishevelled… you get the idea? But you feel worse only in the short run and once you’ve faced the fear, you feel better in the long run. Facing your fear is better for your mental health. Because it also does wonders for your sense of achievement. And it motivates you to try other scary things as well. And then you feel happy.

Although Persaud claims this is not happiness, but pleasure. He believes happiness is a long-lasting, overall contentedness often confused with pleasure, a temporary sensation which results from a good thing happening in your life. But hey, a rose by any other name…

So, the big indicator of how mentally tough you are, lies not in your reaction to the good life. No, that would be too easy. It lies in your response to bad/negative events.

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one minute to the next – Mignon McLaughlin

Even heroes feel scared. But they become heroes because the fear doesn’t stop them from acting. Acting in spite of fear… Acting in spite of negative thoughts… acting in spite of negative self-talk…

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The road to happiness is paved with … pen and paper?

I love Richard Wiseman’s book :59 seconds Think a little Change a lot. This book is great in providing bite-size chunks of self-help advice AND he gives me permission to be a control freak! He says that even the smallest loss of perceived control can have dramatic effects on people’s confidence, happiness and lifespan. Those who do not feel in control of their lives are less successful, and less psychologically and physically healthy, than those who do feel in control. I knew there was reason for my madness! Following the post on Punset’s The Happiness Trip, here’s some ideas from Wiseman’s book.

Happiness is …

– more money… NOT!
When people can afford the necessities in life, an increase in income does not result in a significantly happier life.

– acting and thinking differently.
Wiseman says the same as Punset: Research shows that about 50 per cent of your overall sense of happiness is genetically determined, and so cannot be altered. But he paints a slightly brighter picture: Another 10 per cent is due to general circumstances like educational level, income and whether you’re single, or not. The remaining 40 per cent is derived from your day-to-day behaviour and how you think about yourself and others.

– writing.
Writing about how thankful you are (like in a gratitude journal – Oprah was right!), about how much your loved ones mean to you (“affectionate writing”) and about your perfect future have been scientifically proven to work as an instant fix for everyday happiness … and all they require is a pen, a piece of paper and a few moments of your time.

– doing new things/old things differently.
Humans derive a great deal of enjoyment from any new kind of positive experience. But if we keep on doing that new thing, we get used to it and it does not provide us with the same level of enjoyment. Intentional changes (like starting a new hobby, joining an organization, meeting new people) help the brain by feeding it ever-changing positive experiences so that you can stay happier for longer.

Tidbits on the road to happiness, or: According to my fingers I’m male!

Just finished reading The Happiness Trip by Eduardo Punset. It offers a scientific journey into various aspects related to happiness (or the lack thereof!) and ends with Punset offering a mathematical equation for happiness. I found the book academic but maybe it’s because I really wanted the search for happiness to be much less complex 🙂 than portrayed. However, there were some interesting facts and tidbits along the way:

Whatever you think, your brain believes. Humans only need to imagine having a bad time to actually trigger the same emotions as when they really experience bad times (p. 57)!

I do and I don’t! Unlike animals, humans can have mixed emotions. We can love and hate at the same time (p. 30).

Blame it on the set point. Everyone is supposedly born with a certain set point or window for their height, their level of happiness and, wait for it….. weight! The reality is that genetics prevails over diets in an overwhelmingly high percentage of cases, and over happiness in approximately 50 percent of cases (p. 76). Isn’t that comforting to know? 🙂 If a fetus is deprived of certain nutrients in the third trimester of gestation, its metabolism changes forever. This is called “metabolic programming/imprinting” and can be used to predict obesity, diabetes and hypertension later in life (p. 102).

Why competition is good for you. When a herd of antelope flees from a lioness, the main adversary of the slowest animal is not the lioness, but the faster antelope (p. 80). So that is why our society is so focused on competition. We have to be prepared for that lioness.

The past is alive and kicking!  The rate of cardiovascular incidents and rheumatism is higher among the poor than the rich. Even after the poor have grown rich! (p. 92) This simple test is apparently a more reliable health indicator than your actual socioeconomic status: It’s not so much a case of being poor, but of feeling poor (p. 99). An echo of poverty remains in place even two generations after a family has put poverty behind them. It lives on in their attitudes, anxieties, and insecurities that arose due to a feeling of unprotectedness (p. 102).

You have to clean out the rubbish bin. Unlearning is important. It is not what you don’t know that makes you unhappy but, to paraphrase Mark Twain, what you know for sure that just is not so (p. 132).

According to my fingers I’m male! The index finger tends to be shorter than the ring finger in men while the two fingers tend to be the same in women due to hormone fluxes during the fetal period (p. 59). A, you see why I need to get in touch with my feminine side.

 So what do I take away from this book about happiness? This simple truth: happiness is the absence of fear (p. 145). Maybe I should reread Feel the fear and do it anyway (Susan Jeffers, was it?). Surely I’ll improve my happiness then… Oh, unless my happiness set point objects…