Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy people take care of their bodies

Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the University of California, as well as a research psychologist. In her studies, she has discovered 12 things that happy people have in common.

I am happy. Even when I'm feeling crappy, I am a happy person. People are forever asking me how I reached this place. It wasn't because I prayed enough, or took a magic pill, or held my mouth just right while dancing on one foot, or was just born happy (um ... NO ... you can ask my mom about that first year). Yet, I have discovered that self disciplines, even the ones which result in fun, have radically changed my life. These are things I learned through my own therapy and medicinal treatment for depression and anxiety. If you realize the concepts in this series are simply not enough, seek help. Insist on it. Find your own personal level of healing, which is different for everyone. Sometimes I speak "happy" with an accent, because I still dance with depression and anxiety - and that is okay.

I thought I'd focus my Mondays on each of the 12 common factors. It makes sense, because Mondays can totally slurp on the happiness meter.


Today is the last post in my Happy People Series. Holy crap!

We are ending with something we all know is true, yet we loathe this truth: if you don't take care of yourself, you will be sicker and more miserable than you have to be. This is true, even when our "best" does not look like someone else's "best."

I was once sicker and more miserable than I had to be (had to say it again for all the grammar whores - I try to make their eyebrows twitch at least twice a week). I have watched my life and my body literally change as I became mindful of me. I have watched my children's lives and bodies literally change as I became mindful of them.

I once weighed 200 lbs. It was not baby weight, although I did try to blame it on the not-quite six pound infant that exited my body.

I was depressed. I was so clinically depressed. I don't know that it ever leaves you. Perhaps I'm a recovering depressed person? I have a handle on it. I still feel it and recognize it. Taking care of my body has had a profound effect, not on making it all go away, but on taking back the power and control it had over me.

I actually started to run. I had no desire to run. I hit a 5K. Then I hit a 10K. Then my husband started to run, and this summer we ran his first four miles together. Then I stopped. I drizzled a little run here and there. Just recently I knocked out my first 5K again, since mid-July. I got back in there. I became mindful of me again.

I have radically changed the way I eat. It has been slow and steady. When I know better, I do better. Slowly. I still eat everything in moderation. Yet, I also know that many of us use "eat in moderation" as an excuse for tipping the pendulum in the wrong direction and hanging out there until our habits change yet again. I fight that natural desire. This one is still really hard for me. I love food. I like food to be my medicine, but sometimes I just want it to be my drug to suppress my big feelings.

I protect my sleep. It is my friend. It is more important than a clean house or a full schedule. Sleep heals our bodies and minds. Literally. We process the good and the bad while we sleep. EMDR is not only a highly praised and amazingly effective therapy, but it is thought to mimic our REM sleep cycle. Those Zzzz's can be a very effective and free RX.

Let's not forget that just five years ago I didn't even know what "vegan" meant. I had no idea the power of a plant-based diet. I still had white flour and sugar in my cabinet. Ten years ago I had heard the term "steamed vegetables," but had no idea how one might go about, ya' know, steaming them. I was convinced I was never meant to run anywhere ... ever! I was just learning the power of sleep, but still had more anxiety over my house being messy than feeling like crap. I was finally allowing a professional to help me.

It has been bit by bit.

Slow and moderately steady.

And I find I'm not the same person I was. It was a part of finding my happy.


Quacken said...

Damnit! I really needed to read this... and now I REALLY need to take better care of ME! Totally hate it when you're right... :)

Lisa Igo said...

I am with you on these but still find running hard. Gone vegetarian this summer. Really need to work on the sleep, but our 4 year old still wakes, so I take an afternoon nap. Napping should be made law. I love your blog. x

Brenda Nelson, PLMHP said...

Great post Christine! I agree 120 per cent! And completed the c25k program after you and Ali talked about it. Now working on 8 weeks to a 10k! Running is now my drug of choice....not that I had a previous drug. But if I did, it would be replaced with running! : )

Eileen said...

I think I need to run, but don't want to, really, so, I want to want to run. I told someone I was going to run a 5k this July. Guess I better get on it.

Janet Oberholtzer said...

Because I don't have the parenting trauma you do, I tend to follow your blog loosely (sorry) but so glad that I saw this post. You are right on! Taking care of one's body has a big part to do with being happy!

After almost losing my leg and my life in an accident in 2004, I spent 4 years having ongoing surgeries and for about 2 of those years, I was on couch angry and depressed, not caring what I ate and never exercising at all, because I couldn't do the runs I'd done pre-accident.

With time, counselors and mentors (yes, both are plural, I needed all the help I could get) I realized that "life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I respond to it" (Holtz) I began doing what I could with what I had ... I ate well, I walked as much as I could each day and I got enough sleep.

Slowly but surely I recovered... not only recovered, but recovered well beyond what the doctors had anticipated. They weren't sure if I would walk again and I've returned to running, which had been vital to my life pre-accident. In the past year I've completed 3 half-marathons and have a few more on my future schedule.

So cheers to happiness through health!

(now off to read the other posts in the series... aren't you scared I'll leave a post this long on each of them)

Christine said...

Janet, bring it! What beautiful things you have to add!

Emma said...

You are all so inspirational! I actually put off starting to run because I don't have a smart phone to use the Couch to 5k on. For a while. Not cutting it any longer as an excuse though!

Brenda Nelson, PLMHP said...

Emma I do not have an iPhone. There are mp3 downloads free on the site as well. In fact there are several choices so you can pick the music that you like best.

Baggage said...

I want to be you when I grow up. Seriously.