Founded by the Secret Society of Happy People in 1999, August 8th was officially named the National Day of Happiness. It was a day created to recognize and express happiness. (I personally think it should involve the sharing of bacon, but some may disagree.) Most people, whether they admit it or not, are searching for happiness. (Most people are searching for bacon, too, . . . but that is for another article.) We hope for happiness, we aim for happiness, and we wish happiness upon our family, friends and neighbors at holidays and birthdays. It appears to be a desired condition of the soul.
In medical school, we learn that the body is almost 80% water. One of my professors intelligently quipped, “if you’re unhappy all day, that means you are essentially a cucumber with anxiety.” For many people, happiness is really hard to find. Money is hard to find . . . but, that’s because it gets wasted by people trying to find happiness
What exactly is happiness? It is a transient condition or state of cheerfulness, contentment, satisfaction or pleasure. Many people mistake meaningfulness as happiness. Meaningfulness to one’s life is more enduring. For example, suddenly having a wind-fall of cash may make you happy for the short term. However, what you actually do with that cash over the next few days, months and years is what brings degrees of meaning to your life.
Basics of Happiness
Happiness is based upon your emotional & spiritual vision, and how living your life aligns with the principles you hold most valuable. You can’t control all of the circumstances of your life. Things both good and challenging will happen to you that you never expected. However, you have control of your own happiness. You and I are the architects of it.
In working with a majority of patients who are over 65 years old, I have found that the older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness. We determine our happiness.
How do we increase our level of happiness? There are 10 Simple Steps to Happiness:
1. Improving Health
As a doctor, I’m a huge advocate of improving your health which plays a dramatic role in happiness. Losing as little as 10 lbs has been shown to improve energy, decrease your risk for major disease, improve sleep, improve sex life, and decrease inflammation. Improvements in any of those areas will reduce stress and anxiety and increase happiness so you can imagine while improvements in ALL of these areas could dramatically change your life.
As an advocate of the ketogenic lifestyle, I’ve found that the majority of my patients are able to lose 5-15 lbs each month for the first three months using this approach. They average 2-5 lbs pf weight reduction each month there-after while following a ketogenic approach over the long term. Understanding that this is one of the long term keys to success in happiness I want to make sure you know that I’ve developed some custom strategies to help with this and will share them with you below. This lifestyle decreases risk for diabetes by 75%, improves mental clarity, and slows the aging process. (Who wouldn’t want those side effects while eating bacon?)
2. Savor Daily Experience
First, savor the daily experiences. We live our lives at such a high speed, we often neglect to take time to enjoy the experiences around us. A recent trip in down town Amarillo, Texas, brought me to the front doors of a restaurant that served cream-cheese & sausage stuffed, bacon wrapped, jalapenos (try saying that 5 times fast). I had a bit of time and decided to try them. It was the first time in 3-4 days that I actually had the chance to slow down and savor the place around me, the flavors of the food, and the atmosphere of the restaurant.
Just taking a bit of time to savor these things made this experience a very memorable and happy experience that I probably won’t soon forget.
Take 3-5 minutes today to just think about where you are. Savor the smell of a rose, the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds or the sight of a bird. These sensory images can, and will, leave indelible memories and release dopamine and serotonin naturally in the brain. Savoring the daily experiences of life can be part of the process of meditation we will talk about below.
Get involved and volunteer in meaningful activities around your neighborhood, church & community. Research shows that voluntarily giving of time increases happiness in the giver. It also allows one to see, participate with and help those around you who may be less fortunate. Volunteering your time and energy regularly increases your gratitude we will discuss further below.
4. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude daily has been shown to dramatically increase your sense of well-being and happiness. Expressing gratitude requires awareness. It requires you to take inventory of everything around you (something you will already be doing if you are savoring your daily experiences). Gratitude can be expressed in a journal, through prayer & meditation, or directly to those around you. However, expressing gratitude requires effort.
In the Judaeo-Christian view, expressing gratitude is actually a method of expressing faith. The 17th chapter of Luke holds a biblical example of this concept. When the leper returned to express his thanks to Jesus Christ for being healed, he wasn’t told “Your gratitude made you whole.” Christ told him, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” He implied that the act of expressing gratitude is a demonstration of faith, a necessary and essential process in human development.
5. Recognition of Personal Value
I’m not talking about your bank statement or personal financial statement. I’m talking about recognizing the value of your soul. The only successful non-medication based program to help people overcome addiction is the 12-Step Program through Alcoholics Anonymous. The essential second step of the twelve is recognition that a power greater than ours is involved in our lives. Whether, you believe in God or a greater universal power, recognition of your value is an essential perspective to gaining happiness. This has been demonstrated thousands of times through the 12-Step Programs.
Often, the feeling we have of our personal worth is based on the love and interest we receive from those around us. Yet, this love is sometimes lacking. The love of men is often imperfect, incomplete, or selfish. What if you looked at yourself with the same benevolence, love, and confidence that God does? Imagine the impact it would have on your life to understand your eternal potential as God understands it. If you could view yourself through His eyes, what influence would that have on your life? Recognition of this principle is essential to making any lasting change.
6. Become Who You Are
The celebrated Greek poet, Pindar, said, “Become who you are.” Isn’t this a paradox? How does one become who they already are?
Many of my and the younger generations grew up to the sounds and images of The Lion King. You probably remember the scene where Simba receives a visit from his father, Mufasa, the deceased king. After his father died, Simba fled from the kingdom because the guilt he felt about his father’s death. He wanted to escape his responsibility as heir to the throne.
His father appears to him and warns him: “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.” Then this invitation is repeated several times: “Remember who you are. … Remember who you are.”
Simba, completely shaken by this experience, decides to accept his destiny. He confides in his friend, the shaman monkey, that it “looks like the winds are changing.”
The monkey replies, “Change is good.”
And Simba says: “But it’s not easy. I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.”
“Where are you going?” the monkey asks him.
“I’m going back!” cries Simba.
(This is also a great movie because of the “bacon references:”)
Admit it. You smiled didn’t you!
Meditation and prayer have been shown to actually change areas of the brain that relate to stress management and mood regulation. People who meditate regularly over long periods of time have better ability to find and maintain positive states like joy and compassion. Richard Davidson and his colleagues found that meditation increases brain activity in areas related to happiness as well.
Happiness has been linked to quality relationships as well. Robert Wallinger, psychiatrist at Harvard University, conducted a 75 year multi-generational study on happiness. He found that the quality of the relationships was powerfully connected to happiness. Lonely people were less happy and had poorer health. People with higher-quality relationship or social ties were the happiest.
However, it wasn’t just having a relationship, but having one with a stable and consistently caring person that made the difference. Having lots of acquaintances or being in a relationship with an unreliable or abusive partner did not make people happier. Amazingly, listening (savoring shared experiences) and complimenting (expressing gratitude) improve the quality of relationships. (Sharing your bacon improves relationships as well.)
A number of studies have demonstrated that a ketogenic diet increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key neuro-hormone signaling satiety and pleasure, in the brain. GABA increases sensations of happiness and euphoria. (Yes, this is why eating bacon makes you and I happier. It’s probably why the thought of bacon in the video above made you smile.) Shifting into a ketogenic state at least periodically has the effect of increasing your sense of happiness throughout the day. It is actually the ketone that does this. Whether you get into ketosis through diet alone, or through the use of exogenous ketones, both methods are effective in aiding you in your quest for happiness.
10. Allow Others to Help
I know you are probably familiar with the term it is better to give than receive but did you know there is evidence to support the reverse is true too? That happiness also comes from allowing others to help? Think about it. When you are helping others, especially when they appreciate it, you feel happiness or joy. Others experience those same feelings when they are able to help you. Think of a child that wants to make you a meal. No matter what it looks like when it gets to you, you smile and feel happy at the effort, the child smiles back proud at their success. There is happiness in giving and receiving.
So today’s your chance to receive. As a doctor, I find myself shying away from sharing this information with you directly because I never want anyone to feel like my efforts are about me. I’ve spent years learning and understanding the benefits of a Ketogenic lifestyle and spent additional years researching products that work and my local patients are experiencing tremendous results! A friend told me that not sharing this information with people directly was actually being selfish. (Ouch!) “When you know someone has a problem that you can solve, shouldn’t you share it and let them make their own decisions?”
Although that was painful to hear, it helped me commit to being more direct about how I can help all of you to feel better. If you are ready to change the way you feel and want to live a happier, healthier life, the time is NOW. Put these 10 steps in action and enjoy the benefits of a KetoLifestyle. If you want to know more about what I do, keep reading my blog, join my weekly newsletter and watch me Live Stream every week on Facebook Live & Periscope giving you free tips and tricks to stay healthier. If you know you are ready for a change, and you want to see how I can help, check out the variety of Ketogenic programs I offer to help you find the Happiness inside You! Because we all love gifts and they make us Happy, in honor of #NationalHappinessDay, you should see a pop up here for something special! ] Be sure to click here to go to the Keto Kart and cash in on better health!
However you decide to approach your day today, choose to be happy. It really is up to you.