Yesterday, I climbed aboard the historic and haunted Queen Mary in the Long Beach harbor. I was asked to join a panel about well-being specifically entitled, “How to Live a Happy and Balanced Life”. I was very excited to join the other panelists, both doctors in their respective fields, to talk about a subject I feel very strongly about.
I started with an introduction to what I feel will bring a happy and balanced life which was part minimalism/part “be happy with what you’ve got”. I’m not a minimalist, by any means, but I am a major proponent of living with less. As I said at the conference, our world (media especially, but also peers, colleagues and family) tell us we need stuff (be it gardening equipment or the new iPad2) and once we have this stuff, we’ll feel satisfied and fulfilled. Of course, once you get the stuff they told you to get, there will be more stuff you don’t have that you suddenly need. The truth is, you’ll never reach fulfillment through owning things. True balance and happiness must come from within. You are probably reading this and nodding your head, but in the back of your mind are still thinking about how to get that Louis Vuitton wallet you like so much. I lived in Israel for two and a half years. I just recently heard that the standard of living in Israel is 33% lower than in the United States. I mention this because it was apparent to me when I returned that America has just about everything and people always want more and more. For two and a half years, I learned to live with a lot less and find happiness without stuff. Sometimes stuff makes life easier, and I have stuff that I really like. For this reason, I’m not a minimalist. It’s the derivation of happiness from the stuff that is a myth. You will not be happy with more stuff. Happiness and balance comes from within. Accept that, and you’re on the road to finding what it is that you need. When you are getting what you need, you will be happy. But, if you have unrealistic ideas for what you need, you will never get it and you won’t ever be happy. You are ultimately in control.
I also talked about putting good things into your body, and it was rather off the cuff because while it’s something I’ve thought about, I’ve never written about it before. It’s one thing to know that putting processed foods and sugars in our bodies is bad for us, and then choosing to eat them anyway. The bad food we put into our bodies does come out in one form or another whether it be weight gain, headaches or the onset of diseases like diabetes.
The same principle can be applied to what we allow into our minds, our hearts, our souls. If we fill these precious and sensitive vessels with The Kardashians, Eminem and Saw IV, somewhere in our conscious or subconscious these negative vibes are festering and waiting for the moment when they can spring out of us manifested as internalized ill.
Lastly, I spoke about changing habits: one of my favorite topics. I think most of us have at least one wish per day that we were different in some way, be it physical, mental or spiritual. Yet, how we work on change, if we do at all, is radically different from an effective way to make true and lasting change. A few highlights included: choose one habit to change at a time, do it every day and outline what success is so when you reach the end of the month, you can decide whether or not you were successful, modify or repeat. I really believe in making changes to your life, even if just to keep from being stagnant, but mostly because if we’re always reaching and striving to be the best version of our self, we will inevitably stumble across revelations about ourselves and life in general that we never would have if we had kept pushing the status quo. For more information on changing habits, read my Manual on Changing Habits.
I sensed a real resonance in the room of people who were truly seeking well being and a happy, balanced life. I hope what I’ve said reached them in a way that inspires them to seek honest and true change. I, too, was inspired by the other panelists to seek new ways of balance that I haven’t sought before. In the end, the panel concluded that happiness and balance must be found from within, by truly confronting our selves and finding healthy and pragmatic ways to solve the underlying issues which cause us pain, unhappiness and imbalance within.