Do What Science Says Makes Us Happy
Although dysregulated eaters seek happiness in food, it won’t give them what they’re looking for. Not that it’s a mystery how to become happy, with a gazillion books and articles on the subject. I’ve written a dozen-plus blogs on it myself. (see my blog archives). Here’s the latest on some of what science says from “Happiness in Hard Times” by Sari Harrar (AARP, The Magazine, June/July 2020, pp 57-59)
Guidelines for happiness don’t change much, except that they may be more difficult to practice in times of crisis, for example, during this pandemic. “The happiness that helps in great difficulty is realistic. It recognizes fears and anxieties. It looks for meaning. It nourishes and sustains us, says psychologist Maria Sirois.” Does an ice cream sundae or a bag of Doritos address any of these issues?
Sirois advises us to “Let yourself feel what you’re really feeling.” This doesn’t mean to make a study of or dwell on it. A simple acknowledgement will suffice, such as, “Boy, I’m feeling lonely today” or “I feel rejected and am hurt.” Then ask yourself if food will give you relief from this feeling in the long term. That’s any easy question to remember and consider whenever you’re food seeking and not hungry. She also recommends connecting with your values such as health.
Remember that, though the world may feel as if it’s spinning out of control, you still are in charge of your life. “When you pay attention to how you shape your life right now, you won’t feel victimized by what’s going on,” Sirois says. Narrow your focus to your life and choices, not the news or the mess that’s going on in your family or your neighborhood.
This suggestion may be old hat, but we can never hear it too often: Stop comparing yourself to others. Doing so is nothing but a nasty habit, though it is somewhat hard-wired into humans. If someone wears a smaller size than you do, so what; if they just snagged the promotion you hoped you get, register the thought, then move on.
Three areas that are recommended for increasing happiness are:
- Make connections only to healthy relationships. You need to choose between them: happiness or an unhealthy relationship. You can’t have both.
- Use physical activity to decrease stress. It will not only reduce body tension, but it will increase self-pride and maybe even give you some jolts of dopamine.
- Stop and enjoy the moment. Even in the midst of the most awful times, there are moments of joy, grace, and peace. Look for them and they’ll be there for you.