Monday, 16 June 2014

Mike Wright Guest Blog: ‘Happiness Runs’! Or, How I Keep Mentally Fit

Mike Wright shares some thoughts on maintaining personal well-being

Mike Wright

One way that I try to keep myself mentally fit is to keep physically fit. I don’t say that to suggest that you have to be physically fit to be happy: in fact, some of the most jovial personages are often represented as rich-living, portly, ruddy faced, bon vivant-type characters (I’m thinking Santa Claus, Buddha… and, of course, Brian Blessed!).
But - for me at least - a bit of physical exercise helps to get the endorphins flowing (whatever they are), plus gets me out the house and away from distractions for a little while. For me, running is a form of meditation. It helps me to shift the focus from my senses and thoughts and settle into a rhythm that allows me to direct my attention inwards. The result is I find myself aware and present, without forming any analytical judgements about my environment, the past, or the future. What is left: a sense of stillness and peace? I suspect this is what encouraged Forrest Gump in the famous 1990s movie to take up jogging and stop himself from dwelling over when he and his lady love would be ‘like peas and carrots again’.
Actually, if the words ‘I’m drunk’ are substituted for ‘I run’ (perhaps both a literal and figurative suggestion?), the following lyrics of Bob Dylan are quite fitting: Well, ask me why I’m drunk alla time/It levels my head and eases my mind. It seems that in fact most of us use some method of adjustment to reach a happy state.
However, I find it’s not really practical or possible to always be running - nor do I feel it to be positive to become addicted to practices that keep me from functioning and living in every day terms. So I have found other means of recalibrating myself towards happiness. I personally find that reading a poem, reciting certain song lyrics, or even just stopping and observing life happening, without interpreting it, can help. Like Tolstoy says, ‘In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you’ – the old procrastinator!
Perrhaps try this: S.T.O.P....
There is an attitude expressed in Zen Buddhism I often remind myself of, as I feel it conveys a wholesome approach towards well-being. It upholds the practical wisdom that when we are hungry, we eat, when we are sleepy, we lay ourselves down - that our minds live harmoniously with necessary actions.
Obvious, right? Probably, but it isn’t always easy. I have experienced mornings when the alarm clock has seemingly beckoned an overwhelming task, as though I am Sisyphus, having to face rolling the proverbial boulder up a hill all Eternity, without knowing why.
But if instead of despairing, I perhaps invoke the gentle and simple spirit of Donovan’s lyrics and sing, Happiness runs in a circular motion. Thought is like a little boat upon the sea. Everybody is a part of everything anyway. You can have everything if you let yourself be’, well, then I find the day starts to unfold a little more easily.
Worth a try in your case? I think it may well be.

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