Happiness: what is it, and how do I find it?
I've posted often on the science of happiness. I know what you're thinking, scoffers, but believe me, the science of happiness is real -- and it's spectacular. ;-)
We've all heard that life as we know it is made up of the mind, the body and the spirit. As I understand it, our aim should be to nurture each one of these aspects -- and then, if we're lucky, we experience moments when they flow together in perfect balance -- one elegant organism of life.
OK, we know about the mind, body and spirit. Now what?
I love to analyze things and to come up with guidelines to help me attain any goals I might have. In thinking about the mind/body/spirit thing, one day it dawned on me: what if I figured out a scientific way to analyze and calculate where I am on the mind/body/spirit continuum?
The next step I took was to see that every action I take on any given day affects either the mind, the body or the spirit positively or negatively. Many actions affect more than one of the three. But every action we takes affects our mind/body/spirit in some way.
So I started looking at very general and obvious actions.
Let's take something obviously good, like running.
As every runner knows, running clears the mind, strengthens the body and makes your soul soar.
So, if we applied a score for running as an activity, it would be +1 for the mind, +1 for the body and +1 for the spirit. That's 3 points total.
Now, let's look at something negative, like smoking. Smoking is -1 for the body, and I suppose neutral for the mind and spirit. So that's a total of -1.
There are lots of things that are good for either the mind, body and spirit. Any physical or mental activity gives you a +1 in that area.
So OK, OK, I guess I have to admit that even a video game like Candy Crush Saga is good for the mind (well, it's good for the brain, anyway), as experts agree that video games can and do prevent Alzheimer's disease. So you can give yourself a +1 there. But I might argue that excessive video game playing would give you a -1 for the soul...(there's a healthy debate to be had there, I'm sure). It's also neutral for the body. So adding up the total of the three, it adds up to a "neutral."
And if you eat a dozen donuts in one sitting, I think we can all agree that would be bad for the mind, body and spirit. That's a -3.
Donuts = BAD. (This is not a comment on Chris Christie, by the way. I put in "eating donuts" on the Google search engine and he popped up, I swear.)
Even something passive like watching TV gets a score. If I watch an astronomy documentary on the Science Channel, that definitely gives me a +1 in the "mind" department (but I suppose it's neutral in the body and spirit categories -- unless, that is, I'm eating a dozen donuts while I'm watching).
On the rare occasion that I indulge in a Real Housewives or Kardashians program, I'd give that a "neutral" in the mind department (watching these shows may not be GOOD for your brain, but science has yet to prove that they literally fry your neurons). However, it might be a -1 in the spirit department, as increasingly I'm finding watching the behavior of these women upsetting and even a bit depressing.
Kardashians = BAD for the spirit
If you're a parent, obviously just spending time reading a book to your child gives you a big +2 points (one for mind, one for spirit).
Reading to your kids: it's a no-brainer!
And of course, for Chris and I, playing music is another big +2 point activity (1+ mind, 1+ spirit).
Music: it's a 1-2 punch!
The point of this whole exercise for me was to make me aware of the affect my daily activities have on my body, mind and spirit. Obviously if you add up all of the activities of the day, you would hope to be in the mostly positive column. If you're way in the negative, then some soul searching might be indicated.
Mostly, it's about thinking about what we're doing. Being present. Accountable. Life is short...