Happiness Part Four: How To Avoid The Hedonic Treadmill And Why Hedonism Is A Great Thing.

A little surprised?

You shouldn’t be. You see, everyone uses hedonism wrong. That’s correct, nobody actually knows the real definition of hedonism.

Hedonism is not mindless self indulgence, and yet most people use it that way. No, that’s called gluttony. In the sexual realm it would be libertinism.

Here’s another shocker, hedonism takes a lot of discipline. Yes, that’s right, you have to have a lot of mindfulness and resiliency to be properly hedonistic.

“You’re not serious, right?”

If I’m lying, I’m dying, because a great deal of my life has been devoted to learning how to be a good hedonist. Don’t get it confused, that doesn’t mean I throw grilled cheese sandwiches down my throat all day long, ruthlessly run through women like sticks of gum or indulge in every drug known to man with reckless abandon.

This is not what hedonism means…

 

 

You know why?

Despite all the temporary highs you feel, the lows are awful. Consistent happiness is the best goal for most of us, including me. What is the definition of hedonism?

The idea that pleasure or happiness is the highest good in life. That’s paraphrased slightly from Merriam-Webster.

Or, take this version from Dictionary.com

“Devotion to pleasure as a way of life.”

Sound like gluttony? It’s tempting to say that, but it’s not. The word itself has gotten a bad rap in our current social environment. When you say someone is a hedonist, you think of an out of control, reckless human being who destroy’s everything in his path,

including himself.

That’s not what it’s all about. True hedonism requires restraint and targeted indulgence, because you can not feel consistent pleasure or consistent empowerment with mindless indulgence.

It’s actually two-fold. Let’s start with the most obvious,

  • Feeling Pleasure- The ability to feel pleasure correlates to the sensitivity of certain neurotransmitters in your brain. Namely, you have dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin as the big three. Adrenaline and norepinephrine can also give pleasure; although, they drive you to act under stress. They are the “fight or flight,” neurotransmitters. This means that consistent physical, emotional and mental pleasure depends on being sensitive to the big three neurotransmitters.

 

  • Feeling Empowered- Yes, the other necessary side of true happiness. Pure fun doesn’t leave any time or energy left for achievement. It leaves no room for purposeful asceticism or overcoming of adversity. Those things are NECCESARY, not optional, for a maximally happy life. I’ve never been truly happy when I wasn’t working hard to overcome some struggle. Likewise, the happiest periods of my life involved stress, a high work-load and some uncertainty.

Here’s a bit more detail.

The Pitfalls Of Pleasure.

Pleasure isn’t just pleasure, as it turns out. You see, pleasure is relative to your ability to experience it.

Your own pleasures are determined by how pleasurable it feels to you. What is intensely pleasurable for one may not be for another.

Your brain releases a certain amount of dopamine or serotonin for most activities that feel good. That’s everything from feeling the sunlight on your face, to getting a nice cool drink of water to talking to that cutie in your classroom.

Those are all natural rewards that your brain goes toward. This means that anything which correlates to surviving and thriving: such as sex, food, water, shelter, community, power, prestige, possessions, words of endearment and anything else related to this releases dopamine.

Dopamine directs you toward those things it believes will be rewarding. In this way, it is not actually released as the reward chemical itself. Rather, it builds up anticipation and excitement for those activities, people and experiences that are generally pleasurable.

Molecules of dopamine act as communicators that relay messages between the synapses (spaces) between neurons in the brain. In order to feel the effects of dopamine fully, you have to have healthy, sensitive receptors.

Cool, but there’s a big problem.

Many people don’t have healthy or sensitive dopamine levels. There’s one primary reason for this. They’ve “fried,” many of the receptors that receive signals from the dopamine molecules. That means the strength of the message they receive is less than it would be otherwise.

You see, certain activities and forms of stimulation release FAR more dopamine than others. A quick conversation with a friend releases a moderate amount, a drink of water if you’re not thirty, only a little, sex with a woman whom you’ve lusted after for awhile release A LOT of dopamine.

Even the dream hottie scenario would be fine, but this is the modern age where we have a little something called internet porn. Internet porn allows a cheap, fast and endlessly novel barrage of every sexual scenario you could ever imagine right at your fingertips.

This constant arousal due to high volume scenes with literally hundreds to thousands of different people doing different things is completely unnatural.

Even alpha male gorilla’s didn’t get the type of action your brain is tricked into thinking it’s getting.

How do I know?

This little guy, right here.

 

Well, unfortunately, I’ve been there. I’ve had days at a time, where basically all I did was masturbate to internet pornography. There’s no need to get into the nitty, gritty details of exactly what that looks like (not pretty, that’s for sure).

Here’s the takeaway, the dopamine release from  constant internet pornography was so overwhelming that it became all I wanted to do. Nothing else in life compared to the thrill of looking for a new, novel scene.

My dopamine receptors became more insensitive. I know this, because the more natural rewards like talking to other girls didn’t seem very appealing.

Actually getting off my ass and making something of myself didn’t matter. No, as long as I had my laptop and endless digital fantasy, it was good enough for me.

That is a personal example I’m familiar with, but countless examples abound. Many of you have known drug addicts, and so have I.

The way a drug addict romantically self-destructs is something you never forget. At the least, the way they escape into their precious numbing agent says it all. It can cost them everything; yet, it’s all they care about.

I personally saw someone close to me do this with weed.

Weed addiction isn’t very common, but this was an undeniable exception. This person HAD to smoke it virtually every day. Worse yet, He knew he had a problem, but it took years before he came to terms with it.

There were other issues in his life that were obvious. Social anxiety and generalized depression plagued him.

The cycle was endless. I’m sure he often thought about improving his habits, and finding a way out of addiction. But just like me with the porn, lighting up was the only thing he had enough desire to do. Everything else more healthy and sustainable seemed flat to him.

Instead of finding another way, he just used weed as his crutch, all the while frying his dopamine sensitivity even further.

People say you can’t get addicted to either porn or weed. That’s bullshit on both counts. You can get addicted to anything which has a sharp enough dopamine spike.

Why else do people become compulsive shoppers (for clothes they don’t need) or compulsive kleptomaniacs?

Because there is a rush of dopamine in the activity that’s great enough to induce dependency.

Dependency is addiction, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if the mechanism in the brain isn’t quite the same.

Addicted to rush of dopamine from activity= addiction, period.

So as you can see, managing dopamine release is CRITICALLY important.

Am I saying you can’t ever smoke weed or look at an explicit video?

Not necessarily.

It all depends on the way you use it. If it only means a small vice from time to time, you’re fine.

But do you need it every single week, twice a week, every single day?

You gotta problem, buddy. In those cases, you owe it to yourself to stop it completely. Don’t ever do it again, because your brain has a permanent fixation to it.

It’s okay though. You simply need strategies and ways to get yourself out of the hole.

If you’re already out, or you were never there in the first place, you need strategies to navigate the many pitfalls of endless indulgence.

That’s what I’m here for. The friendly friend who wants you to enjoy life, all the time.

Not just when you’re in the throes of a chemical dungeon. So, with some of that negativity out of the way. Here are eight ways to manage dopamine with a short explanation.

  1. Avoid super processed and ultra decadent food (most of the time)- A burger or fries here and there is fine. An occasional milkshake is cool. litres of cola every day? Stop in the name of your waste line and your sanity.
  2. Don’t drink calories- Water, tea and coffee 90% of the time. An alcoholic beverage or soda is fine, in moderation. Don’t make it a regular habit.
  3. Take key vitamins- Vitamin D3, Magnesium (citrate, not oxide or sulfate), Omega-3’s in fish oil are the big three. Other useful vitamins include: NAC, Vitamins B-6 and B-12, and vitamin K2 are other good choices as well.
  4. Avoid excessive masturbation and pornography- Masturbation isn’t unhealthy, but an excessive amount is very taxing on the nervous system and also overloads the reward system a bit. Pornography is especially dangerous in this regard. Avoid completely if you are prone to overusing anything. Keep it to once a month (yes, a month) if you’re not.
  5. Regularly fantasize about a cool lifestyle you are moving toward- Also, have goals you think about everyday. This kind of fantasizing produces a healthy dose of dopamine on demand. Try it today.
  6. Exercise intensely on a regular basis- That means enough exercise that your body gets used to the process without becoming injured or burned out. 3x a week to 4x a week has become the standard for a reason, it works. Do resistance training and cardio.
  7. Get regular physical exercise through movement- This means don’t stay still too long. Also, quit sitting all day if you can. If not, get up frequently and move around a bit. Find times to take walks, work in the garden, take the stairs etc.
  8. Regular social interaction- Make it a point to have both regular social interaction with loved ones (GF, BF, family, friends) and acquaintances and strangers. You may be an introvert, and so this is not natural. Start with only a tiny bit more than you do now and work up slowly.

 

I’ve found those are the most basic ways to ensure that you get both a healthy amount of dopamine, and that your receptors are fresh enough so you feel good when you do these things.

Again, there is some individual experimentation required. For example, an honorable mention for me is music. I have to have some amount of music in my life to remain happy (addicted, hmmm?).

It’s true though. If I don’t focus properly, my creativity is off, and I don’t socialize well if I go too long without listening to music. Music is a very pleasurable activity in and of itself, and it definitely hits all the dopamine receptors.

Take time to explore all different types of hobbies and see what seems to make you feel good.

For example, I had no idea that I loved House music and Reggaeton, but I do. The high energy vibes always make me feel better.

Again, you never know what makes you tick until you try it. So don’t be afraid to experiment!

But what about dopamine’s chill cousin serotonin. Don’t worry, papa bird’s gonna feed ya.

Now, here are five ways that help manage your serotonin levels:

  1. Sunlight- It’s obvious, but so is everything that’s effective. There’s a reason Seattle produced grunge bands. You don’t feel as calm and collected when you lack sunlight. Seasonal Depressive Disorder is a huge issue many of you suffer from. I did too, until I discovered supplementing with vitamin d3. That helps, but to get the full gooey serotonin effect, you have to get sunlight, just don’t burn! a few minutes is all you need for profound effects.
  2. Limit sugar and excessive carbohydrates- Too much sugar and refined carbs causes a dependency on these foods to maintain healthy serotonin levels. There’s a complicated physiological reason why this is, that’s beyond the scope of this article. But trust me, you feel depressed and moody until you have that little something sweet. Eat carbs, but eat a moderate amount (between 50 grams and 150 grams a day) and you’ll be good.
  3. Eat enough Fat, Protein, Fiber and veggies- Yes, fat is not bad. In fact, it’s good. There are still some debates about the exact type and amount of fat to eat. But, just know that the fat scare of the 80’s took it way over the top. Eat your avocadoes, nuts, and olive oil. And yes, eat some amount of saturated fat. It turns out you need some dietary cholesterol to produce proper sex hormones (i.e. testeosterone) that are important for both sexes. Fiber produces serotonin in the gut track of your digestive system.
  4. Touch someone- Only with their full permission, of course. Any type of physical touch works, from the gentle to the erotic. If you don’t have people you can touch in your life, I’d work on that. You can also go to a massage parlor once a month if you have the cash. Then you kill two birds with one stone. You loosen your body up, and you get that nice boost in serotonin. Can you say twofer?
  5. Meditate and practice mindfulness- This is more than sitting in an uncomfortable position for an hour. The exact position isn’t as important as the basic idea. Put yourself in a calm setting, such as a bedroom or quite study area, and begin to get into your body. You can be seated or standing, but make sure you’re not so comfortable you risk falling asleep (happened to me, whoops!). Start by simply observing your thoughts, the way they come and go, how they appear, then disappear. You gain a sense of acceptance for your monkey brain.

 

Oxytocin is easy to achieve, hug someone. That’s all there is to that one. Regular affectionate touch is all you need. So yes, you should hug your Mom when you see her.

Those are some of the best ways I personally manage my serotonin and dopamine, and oxytocin. The future posts in this series will get into more specific ways you apply some of these principales to your life. It takes time, because you’re not designed to go toward sustainable levels of anything.

You’re designed to survive and procreate, fight off intruders and not fall off cliffs.

The proof of that is in how we human beings continue to act. Think about how many people act day to day.

Does it look like most people carefully consider how to manage their behavior.

If they’re considering it, they’re not doing a good job.

Obviously, you need a totally new game plan for the 21ist century. That’s why I do what I do.

Because nobody ever teaches you any of this stuff.

There were never any classes in thinking to increase pleasure or happiness.

Your parents never swatted your hand and told you to mind your dopamine levels.

There was never a standardized test on serotonin in school. Nope, instead you learned Shakespearean sonnets.

I’m guessing you don’t remember it now.

No, this is stuff we all have to learn the hard way, so to speak. Thank God for the internet, huh?

Better men than me have already begun great work similar to this information. Take a look at them if you want to learn more. They are idols to me, and they’ve been a God send for folks such as me.

It may seem like a weird place to start, but it’s necessary. You can’t begin to live a happier, productive life without this knowledge as a base. When in doubt, always come back to these principals. They’ll never lead you wrong. That’s after years of trail and effort on my part.

That’s all for today,

Keep on Keeping on!

-Michael.

P.S. Next up on the schedule, we’ll talk more in depth about slow, gentle movement and hard training. It’ll include different methods for achieving differing results. Everything from what time of day to work out, how long and hard to workout, and how to listen to your body. Fun stuff!

P.S.S. Here’s a secret weapon to take your happiness game up a notch or two. It’s a little compound called Phenibut. Think alcohol without all the stumbling around like an idiot and splitting headaches. It’s like a secret weapon for days when you’re struggling, or when you want to feel like a calm, collected Don Juan. You’ll be smoother than a babies bottom with the chicas, Or chicos for that matter, works for ladies too.

 

 

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Happiness Part Three: The Pit Of Comfort, And Why You Need To Live Again.

Depression is feeling empty and lost.

And there’s an epidemic of it in modern times.

I too, used to feel empty inside for no reason.

And it didn’t change based on my life either.

I would feel empty in a relationship, despite it being “good,” for me.

I would feel empty chasing after money first before purpose (rookie mistake).

I even felt empty doing all the “fun,” things like, socializing, hooking up, and smoking weed.

So my vices and victories had nothing to do with it.

The emptiness and void I felt never left.

No matter how much pleasure I experienced or how well I did in school, that feeling stayed.

Some of it was purely physical.

But it was also psychological and spiritual in a way I’m only beginning to understand.

You see friends, a lot of these empty feelings were due to the level of comfort and complacency I grew up in. Life is simply a little too good for our own good, so to speak.

History tells us why.

Your grandpapa didn’t feel lost.

I’m about 90% sure..

Scratch that, I’m completely sure.

Your great grandparents generation was dealing with a great depression, a dust bowl and a life that required constant action and struggle.

Normal day to day living was time-consuming and exhausting until the 1950’s.

That’s when everything changed for those of us born in the west. Suddenly, it wasn’t a struggle to cook your food, clean your clothes or stay in good health.

That’s when suburbia became the norm, and white picket fences sprung up everywhere.

In fact, “leisure,” as we know it is completely modern.

There have always been festivals and celebrations since man has come together in communities.

But normal, regular leisure wasn’t a thing, and it sure as hell wasn’t an expectation.

Staying alive was still the M.O.

Work was seasonal, and you had times you did nothing, but that was still punctuated by the stress of having to stay alive.

When it’s freezing outside, and you have no central heat, staying warm keeps you engaged and alert.

Again, this isn’t ideal, and we do live in a better world now. Anybody who even begins to suggest otherwise has a very limited perspective. The way an average person can create a very comfortable life for themselves now is beyond comprehension.

kings of past ages would be envious at the selection of food available to you at any given grocery store. They wouldn’t believe that any average commoner walking the street has a tool that can connect them with every service known to man. your grandparents would be amazed to know that you can use this magic square you carry in your pocket to order any food to any place at any time.

No more raising livestock (unless that’s your profession as a farmer/rancher). Even then, those types of agricultural jobs are more streamlined than they used to be.

No more beating out the dirt in your clothes with a rod.

And no more long, cold winters when you had to break your back chopping wood to keep that fire in your house going.

Starting with the 1950’s, you had cars that took you anywhere you wanted to go.

They required minimal skill, muscle, money or time to use and operate.

You had T.V.’s that broadcast entertainment at will inside a little box. You didn’t have to dance at the community harvest for fun.

The 1980’s saw more technology increase general pleasure, ease of living or novelty. You had microwaves for fast cooking, radios that broadcast music, and video games that provided stimulating digital challenges.

Suddenly, the world seemed a little less about surviving and a little more about enjoying. Consumer expectations began to change along with that. It’s no coincidence that exercise wasn’t a large field of marketing until the 1950’s/1960’s. People didn’t need to “exercise.”

Life was exercise.

But it all changed. Now life didn’t require that much physical struggle or toil at all. It also didn’t require the same degree of psychological strength that it once did.

Children didn’t die as much, people didn’t go hungry, disease became less of a death sentence, and there wasn’t the same level of poverty for a much greater swath of people.

On paper that sounds like utopia, but reality is always more complicated than black and white ideals of good and bad.

This is no different. Everything has a price, and this new “automated life,” came with it’s own high price.

It skyrocketed the level of pointlessness people feel about life in general. It would be easy to say that people just have bad attitudes.

And yes, that is true in and of itself.

The harsher truth is that we were not designed to live a life so relatively comfortable, safe and without momentary difficulty. Our operating systems are still primed to live by any means necessary. They’re not designed to take excessive comfort and build off of that. This is why people have so many opportunities and resources but do so little with them.

Some of you live outside of the west.

I can’t speak for you, and I have immense sympathy if your situation is much more difficult than this day to day.

Those of you born in the west know exactly what I mean. Sometimes the act of living in this age can feel surreal, because of how little you “have,” to do to get by. So it’s not a matter of laziness or not. It’s also not only a difference of a bad attitude versus a good one.

Those are important, but it’s more that modern day life doesn’t require much from you.

You have the necessities easily and regularly.

The consequence is that you can feel good, but lost and empty at the exact same time.

I used to think that all the time. There were times I would literally think,

“My life is good, but I feel empty.” “I feel disconnected most of the time.”

I thought it was because I had a chemical imbalance.

That’s always a tempting answer, but life changed a lot through the years.

Many of my habits changed, and so did my relationships, body and possessions.

The emptiness never completely left.

The highest highs didn’t make it go away either. No, the thrill of sex wore off, the buzz from weed went away, and the fun stopped being so fun.

Nothing ever took the place of proper purpose. It’ll always be that way.

A life without a proper sense of purpose leaves you empty, plain and simple.

A depressing way to talk about happiness, but it’s something you have to come to terms with.

The Construction Worker And The Student.

Have you ever seen a hard working construction worker who looked surprisingly happy? Many times, these construction workers are foreign born, and speak little English (We have many Hispanic immigrants in the U.S.). Yet, they always seem to be making okay. I’ve walked by I don’t know how many Hispanic men working in construction zones that didn’t look defeated.

If anybody would look and act defeated, beaten down or overwhelmed, it would be them. But that’s never what I see. Usually, they’re locked in to their job, working hard, sweating it out.

Many times they are laughing and goofing off with their coworkers. These guys work extremely hard in 90 degree heat without many thanks for their work, and they struggle with a language barrier. But they seem happier than the average American to me.

I can’t tell you how many stone faced students walked into every single class I ever had during my time at college. They always had a dead expression on their face, and their body language reflected the same. There were times where I didn’t like college, and it had nothing to do with the classes, instructors or general scenery.

It was the kids. I felt sympathetic, and I know that you never know everybody’s story.

Still, I would think,

“You don’t HAVE to be here.” “Is it that Damned hard to drag your dead ass to a class twice a week for 75 minutes?”

Remember, those construction workers work HARD, at least 8 hours five days a week. Typically, they work a lot more than that.

The normal (for the immigrant workers especially) is 12 hour days and 6-7 days a week. Or, they have another job on the side to pay all the expenses.

But again, they were normally in far higher spirits than the kids I went to class with. Both of these groups of people have lives with various highs and lows outside of work or school.

So, it’s not a case where one group has a perfect life overall.

Everybody has medical, financial, emotional, relational, familial, mental, and even spiritual issues they deal with.

Clearly, there is something else going on here.

Something about a sense of urgency and purpose is very different between these two groups of people.

They say you shouldn’t assume things.

Well, I’m about to be a bad, bad boy then.

I’m going to assume that those immigrant workers have to work for their families, and so there’s no time to be sad, depressed or any of the various modern diseases.

I’m sure the average college kid doesn’t have that type of urgency to their college experience. If we’re being honest, the university is mostly a super expensive amusement park.

About 20% take it ultra seriously, get top marks in hard degrees, and have a lot to show for their time.

The other 80% goes through the motions (I was one of them) and wait for it to end. And that’s the ratio of those who actually graduate in a reasonable amount of time.

I don’t even count 6+ year graduation. Limping through like that means you were never meant to be there in the first place. It was a pointless exercise in mental masturbation to finish at all.

The whole time, they move from one indulgent experience to the next, just waiting out the clock. That’s not how you maintain happiness.

Yeah, it’s fun to get drunk sometimes. I’m the first one to admit that. It’s even fun to have a one night stand. But endless libertinism, gluttony and general excess doesn’t make you happy.

I know from experience. Eventually, that voice and gnawing pain in the pit of your stomach comes back. It keeps hounding you as long as you live like this.

Listen, I’m a hedonistic dude at the end of the day. But even a guy like me needs a certain outpouring of love, value and effort towards the rest of the world.

At least, this is non-negotiable for my own selfish sense of happiness. It’s safe to say it’s true for others too. Funny how that works, huh?

Struggle is also necessary for happiness. The most interesting, happy and valuable people I’ve ever known have all been through something.

They all had unique stories. They all had specific incidents that defined them. They all had a special yearning to help others in a similar type of situation.

Or, they had another vision they wanted to fulfill, because they felt like it wasn’t being fulfilled properly.

There’s one central theme between these two different types of people. It’s something that all the best people I’ve ever known have shared.

They live to serve others.

This is true for the best parents out there.

They live to serve the legacy of their children. It’s undoubtedly true for my parents. If people only knew the half of what my parents have sacrificed for my family, they wouldn’t believe it.

They would think I was joking. But that’s how it works. Everyone I’ve ever known that was unhappy didn’t have a sense of service to something bigger than their own life.

They were lazy, and they constantly felt entitled to everything. I’m sure they felt like they had genuine brain abnormalities, conditions, or issues that no one understands.

That’s true in many cases.

But you know what’s also true? They never once talked of what they had to offer. They never showed immense gratitude for all they had the means to do. They never once thought about how they could leverage their unique situation into a vehicle to help others.

They only talked about what they couldn’t do, what they couldn’t take part in, how it was too hard for them, etc.

Their life was already stupidly easy, and yet they only complained about their general dissatisfaction.

The truth at the end of the day is that living isn’t that hard.

Again, this might not be true if you live in Dubai building a high rise for an oil sheik. If you’re reading this right now, I have nothing but empathy for your situation. I hope that you can find a way out of that. If not, I at least hope you are doing that for your family.

But for most of you who live in the west, your life is stupidly easy. So, don’t act like your depression, listlessness or lack of subjective energy has anything to do with circumstance. It has everything to do with your sense of purpose in life.

There are a rare few of you that truly need hormonal intervention or intense psychotherapy due to trauma.

Everyone else needs a spiritual re-adjustment, and that’s about it. This post is simply setting the stage for the more straightforward posts coming soon.

It’s a quick disclaimer post of sorts. It’s reminding everyone that a certain car, a perfect body, the perfect place to live etc will not ensure your happiness.

The only thing that can do that is a sense of purpose or service to others.

This was a spiritually based post. Next up, we’ll talk a little bit about how to set the stage for feeling good hormonally.

Until next time, be the best version of yourself.

-Michael.

P.S. This series will get a bit brighter, don’t worry. If you stay with it, you’ll get what you expect out of it and more.

 

 

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Happiness Part Two: Creating Your Guide To Happiness.

To become a happy person, you have to take steps to be happy as much as possible.

You also have to have a positive attitude and the right knowledge to get there.

That might sound stupidly obvious….

 

But then again, it isn’t always so obvious, is it?

After all, 90% of people don’t practice self-improvement.

They practice self-decay.

Thousands of people shuffle to get fast food day in and day out.

Then complain about needing to lose a few lb’s.

Folks never take a walk or feel sunlight.

Hopefully, this isn’t you.

Then wonder why they always feel so low-energy, anxious and depressed.

People drink 3x a week, because they hate their job.

Yet, they don’t do anything productive to get out of that job,

Except more drinking of course…

And I say this all with empathy, but reality is reality.

So, there’s a gap between people’s understanding and their behavior day to day.

Now, you might say they can’t “help it.”

Maybe they don’t know how bad this or that thing is for them.

Some say people are chemically addicted to food or drugs.

Other say that it’s too expensive to eat healthy, to use a common excuse.

It takes too much time to exercise is another favorite.

Others say that habits are always hard to break.

While some of the above are true enough, it’s b.s. to think you can’t change them. It’s possible with enough effort and consistency. Of course, helping yourself is never exactly easy, but people are surprisingly resilient when they have to be.

Personal growth ALWAYS happens when you face enough adversity.

And yet, we often fail to be happy despite the burning desire to do so.

So the hardship of overcoming inertia isn’t the only thing going on here. There’s a central conflict that makes people willfully do things that hurt themselves every. single. day.

It’s instant gratification vs delayed gratification.

Let’s take the food example for a moment,

Sure, a big mac is tasty and satisfying when you eat it. Give it two hours and you feel like a grizzly bear that’s been shot in the gut.

You just want to go into hibernation, which isn’t exactly a good feeling to have at 2:30 in the afternoon.

The pizza has a similar effect. Your taste buds become overwhelmed by the intense combo of fat, sugar and salt, only for your body to shut down right after.

That’s frustrating, but it begs the question…

“Why would someone voluntarily do that to themselves.”

“They know they’ll feel like crap afterward.”

Well, my friend, this is where a person has two very different desires. Two separate parts of the brain each control these competing desires.

There’s the more rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex

And, there’s the more primitive “monkey,” part of the brain.

The more primitive part is not equipped to properly tell you what’s truly best for you.

It can’t tell you with reliable accuracy what you need in order to thrive.

It exists to have you survive.

And procreate, whatever is the bigger issue at that moment.

You see, this part of the brain is BILLIONS of years old, so filing your tax returns isn’t too big of a deal to it.

Despite the fact that not filing your tax returns has some VERY BAD consequences.

No, it’s only goals are consumption of tasty food, staying alive and bedding of hot mates.

It doesn’t understand the whole polite, civilized society thing.

It doesn’t get that you can’t just mate with anything you want/see.

It doesn’t get that you don’t need that tub of ice cream to survive.

To it, you might as well still be swinging from trees in the jungle, just trying to stay alive day to day.

Therefore, it does send you toward pleasure, but in a way that’s unsustainable for our modern lives. You’re guaranteed to be massively obese if you only listen to the monkey brain.

It doesn’t know there’s food around every corner. It thinks any tasty treat could be it’s last, so it’s loading up for the long haul.

And so binge eating is programmed into ALL of us.

I won’t even get into the trouble your monkey brain can cause in relation to people, but it’s not pretty to say the least.

Thankfully, your prefrontal cortex does understand this modern day context. But it’s always in a knock out, drag out fight with the monkey part. It has it’s ability to stop the monkey part and say,

PFC: “No, you don’t need that entire box of krispy kream donuts.” “In fact, you don’t really need any at all.”

PFC: “You’ll look and feel worse later.”

PFC: “Why can’t you just have a salad?” “You’ll get a more nutritious food that’ll makes you feel way better overall.”

That of course is met with,

Monkey: “MUST EAT, WILL STARVE, SUGAR TASTY!!!”

“So it goes,” as Kurt Vonnegut once said.

So there’s always this battle between the monkey living in your brain and the human part. The monkey only wants the most direct route it thinks will help you survive and procreate.

Feeling consistently good is not it’s goal. It only cares about leading you into more surviving and procreating, at all costs.

Only the PFC understands that there are many pitfalls to blindly chasing those things which ensure survival and procreation. It alone understands that one can thrive, not just survive and reproduce, in the modern context.

But, there’s one last issue to consider…

Your monkey part is way faster than the PFC.

That’s right, so you generally feel cravings for food or lust for people intensely and upon sight (in both cases).

It takes a second of patience and thought to let the PFC do it’s thing and explain it’s perspective. But many people don’t necessarily wait for the PFC to have it’s time to explain, and so many people engage in behaviors which do not make them feel good, day to day.

This also relates to many other areas, but food was the easiest example to illustrate.

So the first step in evaluating what you need to do is consider who’s talkin’

The dumb monkey part, or the evolved cultured part that understands long-term effects.

It’s not going to always be easy, and I’ll explain why in a moment. Sometimes the line is blurred between what is best right now and for the future.

Some activities feel good now, but they have harmful effects later. Other activities feel uncomfortable now, but they have benefits later.

Some are good both now and in the future, depending on how they’re done. So unfortunately, it’s not as simple as categorizing all activities in only one area.

You’re going to have to learn to evaluate all things you do and whether or not they make sense.

You’re going to have to tame the monkey brain as well as you can.

You’re going to have to take steps to be happy again.

Here’s how you get the ball rolling….

The Two Keys:

In all their glory.

You’ve got to take every activity you do, and make a large list. The list should contain three columns (vertical lines).

This list contains everything you do on a regular basis. You can include rare activities like traveling or vacations, but it’s not necessary.

In the first column, put a number from -5 to 5 which tells you how much pleasure that activity gives you. That is, how “good,” “bad,” does this activity make you feel?

-5 is insufferable physical pain or pure emotional misery. 5 is pure joyful hysteria or a spiritual level of pure pleasure and peace.

In the second column, put a number from -5 to 5 which indicates how empowered this activity makes you feel.

-5 is complete helplessness, like you’ve been kidnapped. 5 is you feel god-like, or like you have complete control of everything around you.

A quick recap of empowerment from earlier:

It’s the feeling of an increase in the amount of power you hold.

It can be power over places, people, negative feelings, problems or yourself.

Hopefully it doesn’t involve dominating anyone.

As stated earlier, ruthless domination is bad for consistent happiness.

But, respectful authority over others, such as a good boss, is fine as a form of power over others.

Now, you’ll have your two sets of numbers for each activity. You can clearly see where certain activities sit on the differing levels of pleasure and empowerment.

Look to see which numbers are high (five or above) on both the empowerment and pleasure scale.

Those are the activities that you want to encourage yourself to do often.

Or at least, those are the activities you use as the biggest motivators and rewards for yourself.

Certain activities may be high on both numbers, such as sex, and yet not realistic to do all the time.

That’s just fine. In that case, have sex as a sort of underlying inspirational background noise to what you do.

No, that doesn’t mean be controlled by your sex drive. Use that immense sexual energy that builds up in your body as fuel for building something.

Building what?

Anything you’d like. Anything which empowers you my dear reader.

It could be your body, business, or a relationship.

It could be a toolshed to house your boat.

Whatever you want it to be.

What’s that mean in practice?

There are no exact rules, but here are a few tips:

1). Consider monogamy- When you engage in strict monogamy, you have one person whom you love deeply that you have sex with. This means your sexual energy is intertwined with love, compassion and admiration. When you have this potent combination, you’ll feel internally motivated to do more to enhance the quality of the relationship overall, not just in the bedroom. There’s one other major benefit many people don’t understand. When you’re limited to one person, you have no other options to consider. You don’t waste any time, effort or money on other potential romantic or sexual partners (assuming you’re loyal).

2). Limit or eliminate pornography- This is something that is often swept under the rug, but let’s be frank. Many people look at far too much porn. It has side effects for both men and women, but it’s extremely harmful to men. Contrary to popular belief, many men who look at porn frequently don’t have the highest libidos, and aren’t the most sexual. That is because they unknowingly spill all their sexual energy(chi) into a napkin. When young and developing, this isn’t as noticeable. As you age, it begins to take a toll.

The loss of so much sexual energy results in a loss of the zest and fire necessary for getting after it in life. You may still be going through the motions, but you won’t be striving to do your best. Read this to get the perspective of a man who knows EXACTLY what it means to live life with fire.

3). Make your mission Idyllic- This means that you glorify whatever it is that you are working toward. If it’s that shed for your boat, it’s the best damn shed that’ll ever be built. People will stare, jaws dropped to the floor, in amazement at your magnificent creation. OBSESS over how amazing it’s paint job is going to be, how perfectly it’ll protect your precious boat, and how no other shed will ever compare to it. The more extreme, clear details you can think of, the better the visualization will work. Get all your senses into the act as well. Imagine the rustic wood smell if you can.

You can smell it now!

 

Little weird huh?

That’s okay. It’s for you and you only. You’re the only one who has to understand it. But, when you constantly remind yourself of your goal’s value, you can’t help but stay focused. The thought of attaining the goal becomes so pleasurable in and of itself that you HAVE to keep working toward it, not matter what gets in your way.

The goal itself may be a bit anti-climatic.

If it is, simply focus your sights on something new. You’ll never have nearly enough time to even start to do everything you’ve ever thought of doing. So trust me, you won’t run out of new interests to pursue, goals to attain, and idyllic visions to create.

On the other hand, maybe getting your first ten dollars online is life-altering. You now know that making money online is real, and so you vow to never work a regular job again. Then your life takes an entirely different path than what it would have without getting those first ten bucks.

Other sources of emotional energy, such as honor, community, compassion, altruism, and spirituality can be channeled into your goals as well. Although, many of these areas require a great deal of personal sacrifice, they have immense potential to give empowerment.

And like the shed example, merely thinking and daydreaming how good it feels to engage in something like charity is it’s own intensely pleasurable activity.

Most activities then fall into one of three categories when looked at moment to moment:

1).”Fun,” activities- These are activities that score high on the pleasure meter, are easy to do in the moment, but can be harmful when done too much. They can also score high on empowerment, but typically do not. They also do not typically build much of anything. But, visualizing the end of what you are building is usually a very fun activity which is also a building activity.

2).”Power,” activities- These are activities that score high on the empowerment scale, but aren’t necessarily going toward any lofty or difficult goal. They can be either pleasurable in the moment or carry both pleasure and discomfort at different times. Intense exercise is an example for many people. While not the most pleasurable activity, it tends to make you feel very powerful as you do it. It gives an afterglow of empowerment, which is also quite pleasurable. As you can see, this is an art more than a science.

3).”Building,” activities- These activities are usually not high on either the pleasure or empowerment scale. They usually cause a lot of mild to moderate discomfort or helplessness moment to moment. They are what is done to ensure a greater deal of pleasure or empowerment later. They can become more pleasurable or empowering with practice, skill, achievement and visualization, as mentioned earlier. Thankfully, these feelings tend to be short lived, and they become mildly pleasurable and empowering again.

To be fair, all three areas overlap. For example, hard exercise is intensely pleasurable for some and so might be a fun activity for one individual. Or, someone may have a goal of becoming an amateur bodybuilder, and so it’s also a building activity.

An activity can be only one for one person and all three for another. Also, an activity may only be one at first, and then later become two or all three.

So, yes you do have some work to do to figure it out.

But now, you have a way to categorize literally every single thing you do at all moments of your life. I mean that. You may have to use a bit of creativity, but everything can be grouped into one of these three areas.

That includes all your thought processes, behavior patterns, social activities, solitary activities, and anything else. They can categorized. To be maximally happy you need a proper balance of all three of these. The exact proportions and amount of each vary widely as you might imagine.

But don’t go anywhere, I’ll keep churning these out, and you’ll learn how to move toward happiness, one step at a time.

P.S. That newsletter is real, I really, really promise. It’s coming y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happiness Part One: What It Is, And The One Thing You HAVE To Do To Be Happy.

In Our Last Post…

The intro post told you why happiness is THE most important thing in life. Everything everybody does is in an effort to feel better.

Feeling better is feeling happier because that’s what we all want deep down.

All human beings move toward pleasure and away from pain. The only reason we willingly endure pain is to empower ourselves.

Empowering yourself is the other side of what makes you happy.

What is Happiness?

Happiness is the level of pleasure or empowerment you feel at any given moment of your life.

This includes sleep because sleep contains dreams which can be pleasurable.

Psychedelic, spiritual, or religious out-of-body experiences are included as well.

We don’t understand what’s happening, or if they’re “real,” or not.

But every second you feel something, you have a certain level of happiness.

 Even when you’re miserable or in intense pain, you don’t think so, but it’s there.

Existing carries some degree of empowerment which automatically means happiness.

It’s just a tiny amount, and you don’t think of it as happiness.

You say you’re happy when you’re more happy than unhappy. You are experiencing more pleasure than pain.

Or, when you experience more empowerment than helplessness.

So again, happiness is anything which gives you pleasure or empowerment.

“Why not just pleasure?”

I’m so glad you asked that fellow kick-ass wellness enthusiasts.

Think of a time when your life was a little too easy, ever had a time like that?

No, well I have.

I had a short period of time right after graduating from university(last year) where I was lost.

I had no idea what to do with my life next. I was living at home with my parents, and they took care of everything for me. That meant I NEVER had to worry about food, water, electricity, or any basic necessities of life.

I didn’t even have to work to indulge or live comfortably.

It was a big air-conditioned house with TV’s, home cooked meals, free internet(for me) and lots of cozy furniture.

Was I Happy?

Yes and no.

I had an immense amount of pleasure guaranteed to me because my parents provided everything for me. I’ll always appreciate that. Some folks have to struggle to live from the time they are teenagers. But that kind of comfort made me lazy, depressed and without any real desire to get out of bed in the morning.

My habits went to shit as well.

Let’s just say there was far too much junk food, internet porn and mindless entertainment and no real work. Again, there was TONS of pleasure available to me at all times. There was nothing that took any amount of work or effort.

Nothing “bad,” would happen no matter how much sloth and gluttony I lived in.

There was nothing that made me struggle and stretch my abilities to get it.

Nothing made me feel impressive, capable, or powerful.

I felt pathetic, which is the antithesis of power.

What then, is empowerment?

Empowerment is…

  1. Feeling capable of power.

  2. Becoming more powerful.

  3. Changing something with that power.

 

This is the definition of empowerment.

No, this isn’t ruthless, sociopathic domination. Most of us don’t want to ruthlessly take whatever we want, no matter the consequences. Whatever you gain would be hollow, as you realize what you’ve done to another human being.

Again, you can NOT be truly happy destroying another’s happiness or livelihood.

Most of us don’t even like ordering waiters or waitresses around. The power is the ability to have an impact on the world. The ability to change things, hopefully for the better.

Now, think of a time when you overcame a challenge that at first felt literally impossible.

I’ll always remember my journey as a fat, out of shape fourteen-year-old who decided to play football.

The first conditioning session I went to, I barely made it through the warm-ups.

I had the stamina of an obese 102-year-old asthmatic smoker. Needless to say, there were times I wondered how I would last through something this physically difficult.

My Mom even said I had to quit, out of concern. It was hard, but I never seriously considered quitting. Some desire deep inside me kept me going.

Fast forward to about eight months later, and I finished a full season of high school football. I reflected on everything I went through, all the doubts, all the struggles, after the season.

I became indescribably joyful and happy. It was one of the most profoundly happy periods I ever experienced. I overcame something I didn’t think was even possible.

All throughout the season, I had those doubts, yet I made it.

Those tough periods of life are necessary to feel this way.

You feel empowered. You feel like you “leveled up,” in the game of life.

Some of the happiest events in life contain a great deal of both pleasure and empowerment.

You might have a goal to travel to a Caribbean island and work as a freelancer from there. That would take many different stages of hard work and patience to make it a reality.

Let’s say it comes into being. You arrive at your destination, enough money in the bank, established as a freelancer.

The feeling that comes over you is one of both pleasure and empowerment. Traveling is a pleasurable experience in and of itself.

But you also feel immensely empowered as you achieved a difficult goal. You acted on your reality in a big way. You moved and shaped your reality against resistance. The resistance is that of staying the same, inertia as it’s typically called.

Staying in the same place, staying with the same people, staying with the same body, mind or spirit. All of these are examples.

In every case, you have to use concentrated effort to overcome this inertia and craft a new reality.

So remember kids, happiness is BOTH pleasure and empowerment.

You can derive happiness from pleasure.

You can also derive happiness from something that’s temporarily uncomfortable or painful if it empowers you.

Now, Let’s talk about how to consistently move toward maximum happiness in our day to day lives.

How To Be Happy.

Now that you know what happiness is, what’s the best way to move toward it?

First, you make a decision to be a happy, positive person.

That’s no different than the millions of people who actively choose to be unhappy.

They made their decision just like you can.

“Why does someone choose to be unhappy?”

It’s easy, in fact….

Being unhappy is easier than being happy.

That’s a crazy idea, I know. It’s a strange World we live in where that’s the truth. Regardless, more people choose to be unhappy than happy, because that’s the harder choice in today’s world. So the decision to be happy comes with an immense amount of patience and effort. It won’t happen overnight if you’re used to being a negative person.

Unless you come from a great environment, happiness may seem almost undesirable.

It may seem corny or stupid to be happy.

You can even get shamed for choosing to be happy. You can hear them now…

“We’re governed by a sociopath.” “You can’t afford to NOT be informed.”

“You don’t respect other people’s hardships or problems.”

“You know, not everybody can just be happy like that. Check your wealth privilege.”

So on and so forth. They’ll also say that some folks lives are too hard to feel good. They may even bring up very specific examples, and use that as evidence that we all shouldn’t be happy or positive.

That’s a logical fallacy if I ever saw one.

One person’s misery does not command me to live in misery too.

For example, you can bring up poor sweatshop workers in China, and the dehumanization of those working conditions. It’s horrible, and I have the utmost sympathy for those people and their families.

I also thank God every day I don’t live in those conditions. Gratitude is something we all need for those born in much harsher conditions.

Take time each day to remember all your blessings!

But, I’m not going to sit there and make myself feel terrible because some people have it that bad.

If you want to feel a bit better about those situations, you can take small steps.

you can refuse to buy any clothing from major department chains that outsource labor to those countries(easier said than done).

you can petition the government to put stricter limits on corporations ability to outsource labor.

you can also have the vision to start my own clothing store that promises to always treat all workers ethically(best option IMHO).

The key is that those are all actions which move toward a goal that improves the situations.

The first two are not nearly as effective, unfortunately,

The third is the most likely option to make a difference someday.

So, if this is an issue you truly care about, take action to have a small but meaningful impact.

That will make you happy.

You know what won’t?

  • Sitting around and thinking.
  • Ranting and raving to strangers.
  • Being outraged.

Those all make you unhappy, and they all take less effort than what makes you happy.

That’s what makes happiness harder than unhappiness. Happiness takes constant action, and effort. It takes commitment and integrity.

You always have to move forward past unhappiness. Some adults will make you think happiness is a childish goal.

They’ll say it’s immature to have it as the top priority.

No, you need to fulfill certain obligations, tasks and other responsibilities for society.

Women have to be mothers of five and not go out into the world. God forbid if they party or have a fling or too. I mean, How will society manage if a few women don’t act perfectly feminine or want to settle down?

On the other hand, don’t you know the “new,” woman chases a career like a frenzied badger, ruining her health and sanity? All the while, avoiding motherhood when that’s what that particular woman actually wants?

“Let women live their own independent lives, as long as that’s an ideal ‘modern,’ one.”

Men get their own versions. You just have to “man up,” through everything in life.

Remember to quietly repress emotion. Don’t tell anybody about your problems. Men don’t ask for help.

Better marry that girl who disrespects you and treats you like a glorified farm animal. You’re a man which means eating shit and liking it.

“Yeah, no thanks, man.”

See how it works? Doesn’t really matter what perspective you hear. The problem is that you’re always being sold an idealized dream.

Make no mistake. That’s what it is. It’s a fantasy, a facade. It’s all done to help promote something to enrich someone’s pockets or sustain someone else’s empire.

Burn this into your brain,

You are being sold a fantasy.

A fantasy that’s only true if you buy into their dreams.

But it can’t ever be true if you buy into your own dream.

All their dreams are now false, forget about them.

Only ever believe in your own vision for life.

That’s the only one that will ever matter because no one experiences anything the way you do.

Nobody interprets existence like you either.

It’s your only chance to live life as yourself.

Never forget that. Do everything based on your dream.

That’s the first step on the road to happiness.

Reject anyone else’s dream for you.

Believe In YOUR DREAM.

Now and forever.

Stay Tuned, you’ll learn a lot more about how to be a Jedi master at happiness, including:

  • How to be a coach, teacher, and best friend to yourself, all at once.
  • How to tell the difference between society’s shaming and your conscious.
  • How to reframe everything in your life by minding your words and perspective.

richardwellness.

P.S. Because happiness is a lifelong endeavor, I’m going to start a newsletter on the topic very soon. You’ll want all the goodies you’ll find in there.

P.S.S. This post was a little tense. I apologize. I want to make y’all happier. The following posts will be much more light-hearted and fun. I had to be serious upfront. I want everybody to feel they have the power to change their life.

You know, empowerment.

 

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