Happy and healthy

Happy, happy, joy, joy

Are you a happy person? Is being positive important to you? I visualize some readers nodding their heads. I also visualize some shrugging their shoulders with an “I dunno.” In keeping with the core value series, I want to share my first value. If you haven’t guessed, it’s maintaining a positive outlook on life. Today, we’ll see why that’s so important, how it impacts many facets of your life, and what you can do to improve your HQ (happiness quotient).

In my most recent Wilson Post article, I shared the story of how I scared a client’s son. During a session, she informed me that her son was intimidated by me. Thinking of myself as a generally happy person, I was shocked. She told me he was afraid to talk to me because I never smiled, I always looked so serious. I suddenly realized that even though I thought I was a happy person, I was spending too much time in my head because my expression clearly didn’t match my emotional state. Something had to change.

Hakuna Ma-squat-a

When I was first informed of my too-serious demeanor, it made me aware. Being aware is a powerful tool, but only if you use it to take further action. If you’ve noticed there’s an 800-pound gorilla coming at you, merely pointing a finger as you say, “Look, a gorilla,” as you sit on your rear isn’t improving your chance of survival much. You have to act. That’s where I failed at first.

I would feel great when I finished my workout and floated on the ensuing endorphin rush for an hour or two. But when the feel-good hormones went away, I’d return to my involuntary stoicism. I would then realize I wasn’t smiling. So I’d smile. But soon, I’d be back to straight-faced and intimidating (I use that word lightly, at 6’1″ and between 180-190, I’m not a scary guy). What’s worse, if I had a bad day or was particularly tired, it would show. I may still feel positive, but the physical state didn’t express it.

I wish this was an inspirational tale of immediate change, but this is real life, not a Disney movie. My change took time. That initial realization stuck with me for months but the tiny bit of action I took didn’t stick around for long. In fact, it wasn’t until I started listening to and reading business materials, along with enrolling in the Precision Nutrition Level 2 coaching course that I finally understood the importance of identifying core values. The difference a few simple written exercises have made in my life is amazing.

Come on, get happy

I first came across the Identity, Values, and Goals chart as part of my coursework in the PNL2 course. And I quickly filled it out without a bit of trouble. Riiiiiight. If you believe that, watch out, that gorilla is sneaking up behind you. It took time. It was tough. I’m a “get it done and turn it in” kinda guy, so I was frustrated when that didn’t happen. But I could immediately see the difference that being aware of my identity and values made:

  • It made my goals clearer, more defined.
  • It made each day more purposeful.
  • I cut out distractions that didn’t match them.
  • It gave me a clear sense of being.
  • I felt more focused.
  • I felt I had a leg up on the competition.

Shortly after completing that assignment, I came across an episode of the Barbell Business podcast about core values. While the podcast is aimed at gym owners and fitness entrepreneurs, the message of finding your core values can benefit everyone with a pulse. In the episode, they shared their own values, as well as those of companies like Zappos. Reading through those, you can clearly see how a company like that would be an awesome place to work.

With the proper inspiration in place, I sat down and identified my 8 core values. I’ll be sharing them all in upcoming posts, but without an ounce of doubt, the first one is the most important to me. It is the driving force behind everything I do. It dictates who I want to work with, who I take on as clients, who I have as friends, and who I care about. The #1 core value of having a positive outlook on life is there to remind me that every day I spend breathing is a day to be enjoyed to the fullest.

Always look on the bright side of life

I took each core value and broke them down, outline style. This allowed me to briefly expand upon and describe each one. I felt I wanted to diffuse any potential confusion before it had a chance to gather. After all, what good would it be to share my utmost important values if everybody just got them confused?

I felt it was important to clarify that having a positive outlook on life doesn’t mean to be irrationally happy. If your house is on fire and you’re sitting on the curb with a smile as you sing “Kumbaya My Lord,” then we’ve got bigger fish to fry than your core values. I get it, life happens to all of us. Bad things happen to good people. But maintaining a positive – yet rational – outlook on it all can keep things in perspective.

This means to accept things as they come. If something bad happens to you and you feel sad, then feel sad. But don’t swim in it. If your best friend or coworker pulls a jerk move, get pissed off about it. It’s ok. But don’t let that anger eat at you. Let’s look at an example of this in action.

You’re driving down the road, in a rush because you’re late for work. Some maniac pulls out right in front of you and almost causes you to crash. Here’s where things get interesting, do you:

  • Scream at the driver, show the only bit of sign language you’re fluent in, and mumble profanities under your breath for the next 20 minutes?
  • Tell everybody at work who will listen to you about the moron who almost caused you to wreck?
  • Smile cheerfully as you crash into oncoming traffic?
  • Have a moment of anxiety, realize nobody is hurt, it was probably a mistake, and you’re still alive?

Only one of the above is going to do you any good. In the first two scenarios, the offending driver is going about his day while you’re still suffering from your own emotional state. How silly is it to let a moment of misjudgment stay with you and ruin your entire day? The third scenario is hopefully only happening if you’re on strong drugs. But that fourth scenario is looking pretty good, isn’t it? That’s the definition of having a positive outlook on life, while not being irrationally happy.

I’m giving off good vibrations

Do you want to know a really cool thing about maintaining a positive outlook on life? People notice it. You’ll attract other positive people. You’ll appear more energetic and more attractive to everyone you meet. You’ll make an impact and they’ll remember it. After all, people seldom remember what you do, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel, right?

You’ll also notice your good vibrations are in direct conflict with those negative Nancys and droopy Daves. You’ll no longer allow their self-pity and boohooing to invade your mindset because you know there are better conversations you could be having. There are better ways to spend your time than complaining about things without taking action.

Again, this doesn’t mean when something bad happens that you shut your eyes and chant, “Happy face happy face happy face,” hoping it will all be ok. When life demands you deal with some doo-doo, then you get your shovel out. But you won’t waste your emotional currency complaining about it. You’ll handle it, allow any immediate emotions to run their course, and get back to smiling.

I feel good

How does one go about becoming happier? 5 simple letters are a great start: S-M-I-L-E. I covered this in the Wilson Post article, but our facial muscles have direct control over our emotions. Make a face like that gorilla is back and charging at you atop a raging hippo. The eyebrows go up, the nostrils flare, the mouth may even open, and your brain thinks it better start pumping out some adrenaline to get ready to run. Except, there’s no gorilla (hopefully). Same thing with smiling. You smile and your brain gets the signal to start pumping out the feel-good hormones.

At first, you’ll have no idea why you’re smiling. But shortly after your brain will start supplying images and thoughts that fit your emotional state. This will then feed into the desire to smile more. Try it today. Set aside a few minutes to simply smile. I promise you that you’ll feel better. Even if you only manage 15 seconds of a smile. But just imagine the difference that 5 minutes of “smile practice” could make if you did it every day. Yes, it really can be that simple.

Another great practice is gratitude meditation. Set aside 5-10 minutes, more if you’d like, to focus on what you’re grateful for in your life. People don’t realize that our emotional states are just like a muscle, meaning the ones we practice more often become stronger than those we neglect. If you practice being grateful and happy, you’ll feel them more often. If you’re stuck in despair or frustration, you’re probably going to have a bad day, every day.

I get it, I’ve dealt with the depths of depression. I’ve been on the verge many times. It’s tough to turn it around. But check your pulse. Is your heart beating? Then it’s possible. Start small. Think about the life you want and feel grateful for it, even though you don’t have it yet. Don’t beat yourself up if anger, fear, sadness or any others sneak in. Let them pass, and keep positive as your default state. It will take time and consistent practice, but with both, things will improve drastically.

Because I’m happy

Maintaining a positive outlook on life does not mean being irrationally happy. It doesn’t mean avoiding bad things. To me, it simply means embracing and understanding the belief that life will always work out and the universe will always deliver. We live in an amazing time and what a pity it is for us to get caught up in semantics, poor emotional states, or poor experiences. When what you want doesn’t show up, you’ll be ok. You’re still breathing, you’re still alive, and that means that tomorrow the sun will come up and you’ll get another chance. 

If you’re alive, which I’m assuming all readers are, then you’ve got life on your side. You can grow. You can learn. You can improve yourself to improve your chances of success. You can smile to feel better. You can change whatever you want to change. Some things take more time or bigger efforts than others, but everything we need is within us. Keep your head high. Stay positive and determined. Focus on what you want and be thankful for it. Life will treat you well. And it all started with a smile.

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