Welcome to part 3 of how to be happy! Previously, we described happiness as an amalgamation of four things - purpose, health, wealth and love. We then examined how finding our purpose and meaning in life contributes towards happiness, and attempted to apply the concepts we learnt in part 1 towards finding our purpose.
Chapters in this guide:
Part 1 - Finding Happiness
Part 2 - The Meaning Of Life
Part 3 - The Most Important Thing In Life
Part 4 - How To Become Wealthy
Part 5 - Learning To Love
Part 6 - Know Yourself First
In this part, we will look at the next component in finding happiness - health. What does it mean to be healthy? What motivates us to be healthy? Let us try to apply the concepts in part 1 while working towards health for a happier life.
The importance of health
Health is probably the most important thing in life. After all, it is life itself. Seriously. No matter how hard you work now, or how much effort you put into happiness, all it takes is one illness to cripple you.
We need to be healthy to enjoy any happiness we can get. Often, being healthy is one of those things we take for granted. We never know how nice it is to be healthy until we are down with a fever or something and are suffering in debilitating pain.
Happiness can't exist without health.
When we say health, most people immediately think of physical health, but this is not the case.
Health consists of physical health and mental health. Only with the two combined can a person be truly healthy to enjoy all that life has to offer.
If you are physically healthy, you are able to do the things you want to do. You can travel, eat well, go out with friends, or even simply lounge around and relax. Being physically healthy gives you the freedom of choice.
It's hard to be happy when you're lying on a hospital bed on life support. It's also hard to be happy when you're constantly in pain. That much is obvious.
If you are mentally healthy, you are motivated to do the things you want to do. You are open to being happy, because you are willing to embrace the vivacity of life. Being mentally healthy frees you up to be able to work towards your happiness.
Both physical and mental health are essential towards happiness.
Our approach towards being healthy
Being physically healthy is obvious - it's measurable. You could get a health checkup, be disease free, be of acceptable weight, have no illnesses and such. But what about mental health?
Being mentally healthy is pretty vague. What is mental health? How do we define mental health?
To some, being mentally healthy might mean being comfortable with who we are and the things we do. It's a congruence of lifestyle, the people around us, and having a fulfilled life.
One might even say that mental health is synonymous with happiness itself. After all, someone who is happy is probably in a pretty good state of mind.
This goal to be mentally healthy is vague and out of reach since mental health cannot be properly defined. Personally, I don't think mental health should even be defined since it varies from person to person.
How I would approach it is in the other direction instead - the intrinsic knowledge and recognition that you might be mentally unhealthy.
Being mentally unhealthy might surface in the form of depression, a general lack of motivation to do anything, or simply apathy towards life and living.
Simply put, it's easier to know if you are dissatisfied with your state of life than to define a goal that you would be satisfied with. After all, you might not even know what would make you happy or mentally healthy.
Our goal here is to recognize that you're mentally unhealthy, and work towards making yourself mentally healthier day by day. In other words, we are not looking at the end goal (mentally healthy), but the process (getting mentally healthier).
At the same time, we want to work towards improving our physical health in our quest towards happiness. This is because mental health and physical health are heavily intertwined, and one cannot exist without the other.
On one hand, you need to be mentally healthy to encourage yourself to exercise and do things that help you become physically healthy. On the other hand, you need to be physically healthy and not in pain to do the things you like in order to be mentally healthy.
Now that we've somewhat established the importance of physical and mental health and how they are interconnected, let's move on to see how we can work towards both at the same time!
The problem with exercise
When we think of improving both our physical and mental health, we probably think of exercise. There are a lot of blogs and videos expounding on the importance of exercise and its effects on alleviating sadness.
We all know the story - exercising releases hormones like endorphins which reduces stress and promotes feelings of accomplishment. In other words, exercise is great for improving our mental health.
It's not the only thing that improves our mental health, nor is it the most effective, but it helps.
And guess what? Exercising also helps you be more physically healthy as you build up muscle tone and lose fats. Regular exercise promotes oxygen circulation in your body as it gets your blood pumping faster, reducing health risks.
Sure, we know that. That's common knowledge. Exercise can only be good for both your physical and mental health.
Here's the problem. Telling someone that exercise is good for them is not going to make someone commit to exercising. For someone that's sad or depressed, this is like knowing something is good for you, but not having the motivation to do it anyway.
From part 1, we understand that working towards any part of happiness requires hope and commitment. For someone that is mentally unhealthy, telling them to just exercise is not giving them the encouragement that they need to commit to it.
Perhaps you finally mustered up enough motivation to go out for a run. You come back, all tired and panting, and you realize that you are not one bit happier.
You then feel unmotivated and never muster up enough motivation to exercise ever again. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it happens.
Exercise, just like a lot of things in life, is not a magical cure-all pill. There is no "get rich quick" thing in this world. Everything requires commitment and a long-term effort to produce results.
Sure, we know that exercise is wonderful, and it seems to be the solution to both our problems at the same time - improving our physical and mental health. Exercise appears to be a wonderful medicine that tackles the health portion of happiness.
The key now is - how do we commit to exercising?
The power of routines
There is a famous saying that goes:
The only constant is change itself.
Honestly, humans aren't that great at change. We are habitual creatures. We like to make a plan and stick with it.
Working towards a goal is like cooking a good dish. If we go into it without a concrete idea or a solid recipe, we are almost bound to fail.
You can't just throw whatever leftover ingredients you find in your fridge and hope to create a good dish. It takes a well-structured plan.
The same concept goes for anything in life. As much as we hate the monotony of routines, we often find ourselves drifting back to a routine over time. We're like ships seeking out the shore, and routines are the lighthouses guiding us in our chaotic life.
Life is too full of possibilities that we are often shackled by it. You begin to think about all the things you can do, the things that you want to do, but feel you're insufficient to do... that you end up not doing anything at all.
If you're unmotivated, or uncertain, there's no better way than a routine to help be your guiding light. Since a routine gives you a series of concrete steps to work on time after time, you will always know what to do next.
No more thinking about what needs to be done, or wondering what you have to do. A routine helps you to just start doing things by giving you checkpoints. And starting is the hardest part to do when you're unmotivated and depressed.
Remember, happiness is a long journey, and it doesn't have to be something immediate. There is no better way than a routine to provide us with the consistency we need to constantly work towards all aspects of happiness in our lives.
The beautiful thing about routines is that you can fit in anything you want to do. Want to learn a new skill like baking? Fit it into your weekly routine to make sure you bake at least once a week on Wednesday. Want to get healthier? Go for a run on Thursday, and do a home workout on Sunday.
Routines are powerful because they give your life structure and purpose. Over time, as you repeat your routines day after day, week after week, you gain familiarity with your routine until they become a habit.
That's when the true value of routines show. Habits allow us to repeat actions that improve ourselves consistently by leading our brain to be familiar with these actions.
You may have heard of the term "bad habits" before. This is when we do something we know is bad, but because we do it too many times, we can't stop ourselves from doing it.
Conversely, we can build "good habits" in the same manner. Add good actions into the routine that you repeat every day. This could be going for a run, waking up early or some other thing you want to try.
Over time, the things that we struggle so much with doing will become second nature to us.
Remember, the hardest part about doing anything is starting, and doing it consistently. Routines help us standardize our lives to do both of these things.
The glue of companionship
Now, we have introduced the concept of how exercise is beneficial to both our physical and mental health. We have also mentioned how routines are invaluable in helping to create some structure in our life.
The logical thing to do now would be to apply routines to our lives to help us exercise consistently (and do other things to achieve happiness as well).
But... reality is not so simple. What ensures that we follow a routine? Who's to say that we won't give up halfway, long before any good habits can form?
For someone that's sad or depressed, being unmotivated is a very scary thing. And the worst part is that lazing around in bed or feeling sorry about yourself is one of the ways to guarantee that you'll never achieve happiness.
Those that want happiness will work for it. But how do we get the motivation to work for it?
In part 1, we mentioned that happiness is not a solo effort. Indeed, the glue that brings routines and exercise together is companionship.
Sticking to a routine by yourself can be difficult. Since you are the sole person in control of your destiny, it is inevitable that there will be days where you feel tired or are in the wrong emotional state of mind.
During these days, it's very easy to give up on your routines and slip back into your bad habits.
To build a consistent routine, we must stick to it. And there's no better method of sticking to a routine than getting outside supervision. Rope in your friends, family, or significant other.
You can even hire a personal trainer or an equivalent if you want to do so. I find that paying money is one of the surest ways that you'll stick to your routine. After all, you're paying for it, so your brain will force you to do it or you won't get your money's worth!
Either way, exercising doesn't have to be a solo effort as well. If you get someone to do it with you, the chances of you repeating that routine increases dramatically.
The more people you get to join in, the higher the chances of you sticking to the routine, as everyone in the group can serve as a source of motivation for the entire group as a whole.
This "glue" of companionship doesn't just apply to exercise. This glue binds anything you can think of as well. Want to do something? Add it to your routine, and get people to hold you responsible and encourage you to do it.
Happiness doesn't have to be a solo effort, and it really shouldn't be. Life is easier when you don't have to face it alone.
Working towards physical health
Physical health requires exercise. There is simply no way around it. You'll need to add it into your life's routine, and muster up some companionship to keep you doing it consistently.
The best way to incorporate exercise into your routine is to follow an exercising routine. You can find many of time on Youtube. Make sure to keep yourself motivated to follow through till the end!
The important thing about working towards things like physical health is to set achievable goals. Don't jump for exercise routines that promise "abs in 2 weeks" or "bubble butt in a week".
Instead, first aim to be minimally healthy. This can include aerobic and anaerobic exercises to build up your stamina and strength. Aim to be in the acceptable weight range, aim to be able to run at least 5 kilometres without walking, and so on.
We're not a health blog, so I'll leave the exercising routines to the professionals.
Just remember, exercising doesn't have to be overdone. Overdoing exercise can tire you out and make it hard to keep your routine going. Rest is important too!
Sleeping and eating healthily
When people think of physical health, they usually think of exercising, but exercise is just a small part of that.
When losing weight, diet is as important as exercising. Sleeping early and eating healthily in proper portions helps to keep your body in a good condition to approach other goals in life.
Again, work your sleeping and waking hours into your routine, and get a friend or two to help you stick with it. Sure, you can treat yourself to a sweet treat every now and then, but don't gorge on oily fried food every day!
If you want to learn how to cook, that's even better! You don't have to cook everyday as that's tiring, but cooking every so often ensures that you get to control what you eat, all while learning a useful life skill. Add it to your routine for a day or two in a week!
Take up a sport
One of the ways to motivate yourself to exercise is by taking up a sport. By adding a sport into your routine, you get to meet other people doing the same sport, helping you to cajole each other into exercising.
Sports are a fun way to exercise since more of the focus is on the game itself, rather than the pain that comes with exercising. By meeting and playing with other people, you also boost your mental health by having more interaction.
Working towards mental health
Earlier, we mentioned that mental health is a vague concept. Mental health encompasses all aspects of happiness within it and more.
Our goal here is to improve our mental state every day, instead of thinking about what end goal we are trying to achieve. This seems more practical, doesn't it?
In the previous part, we explored how finding purpose and one's meaning in life is important towards achieving mental health. Having a purpose gives you the conviction and hope to wake up in the morning and do something.
Hopefully, since the previous part, you have been thinking about what you really want in life. What do you want to do? What aspects of life interests you? Next, you'll want to dedicate an hour or two in a week to working towards this purpose.
If you love baking, you'll want to add baking on Sundays to your routine, for example. If you love travelling, start planning a trip somewhere in your routine!
In other words, use the routine to your advantage. If you haven't found your purpose yet, you'll want to add some time for introspection and/or trying out new things into your routine.
Improve your mental health every day by working towards all aspects of happiness (purpose, health, wealth and love) and adding small achievable goals towards these tasks in your routine. Then, get someone to supervise you and make sure you do them!
Introspection and meditation
An important part about mental health is knowing yourself. Life is always a struggle about finding your place - finding your purpose, for example.
Remember, life is only as meaningful as you want it to be. You need to first understand yourself to know what will give you happiness.
What are your values? What do you stand by? What kind of personality do you have? What are your favourite things? What kind of people do you like?
Knowing these things and more about yourself allows you to be more adamant about the thing you should say "yes" and "no" to in life. I would suggest trying out an MBTI test to find out what personality you have.
Only by understanding your clear likes and dislikes can you know which direction in life you want to work towards. Instead of trying out all sorts of random things and getting burnt over and over again, first understand yourself and then seek out the things that matter the most to you.
Note that this time is not for you to regret over things that you could have or should have done. Instead, this is a time for things that you should do better in the future.
Focus on the weaknesses of your personality and lifestyle, and add improvements into your routine to improve them! Set aside some time for introspection into your routine.
In this part, we introduced the concept of routines and how they can be helpful in guiding you forward in your daily life. Routines can give you structure, allowing you to be consistent in doing things to improve your life.
However, we also talked about how it can be difficult to uphold a routine by yourself. Happiness isn't a solo effort, so make sure you get people to hold you to your routine! This is paramount if you want to work on it consistently.
We also touched on the topics of purpose and health in relation to happiness. By working towards your purpose and physical health through small achievable tasks in your routines, you cultivate good habits that will help you improve your mental health overall.
From now, what you should do is to introspect and think about what you want to do, and then create a routine to do them. From there, find a few friends to do it along with you.
A routine doesn't have to be extremely specific, and your friends don't have to follow the exact same routine. Instead, collaborate on small parts of a larger routine.
For example, it could be as simple as saying "I want to run every Tuesday", and getting a friend to run with you on Tuesday.
If you want to wake up early, you could also get a friend to run with you at 9am, or a family member to wake you up by that time. Either way, you should help them with their routines, and they should help you with yours!
Add in good habits that you want to cultivate into your routine, and then find people to make you do them. Along the way, don't stop thinking about your purpose and what you want to do in life, and add small goals towards your purpose into your routine.
Of course, you don't want to add too much into your routine at one go. You'll get demotivated if you're constantly unable to meet your routine's specifications. Take your time and slowly add things one by one.
If you have any comments or thoughts on working towards happiness, I would love to hear them below!
In part 4 of this how to be happy guide, we will explore another part of happiness - wealth, and how it contributes towards happiness, as well as several lifelong concepts and mindsets that you should learn.
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