Seriously Good Motivation: Happiness

For many of us, the main goal in life is to find happiness. Here’s my thoughts on a documentary pertaining to this topic.
Facts in this article were supplied from Happy– a documentary available on Netflix!

Have you ever done everything in your power to achieve happiness, and still find yourself feeling unfulfilled? Like when you get the job you wanted with salary you wanted, but you still felt like you deserved more money, or the workplace was not what you expected. Maybe you eat healthy and exercise, but you still don’t feel better, or simply remain unhappy with your appearance? Perhaps you finally purchase your dream home, but you feel more isolated, lonely, and stressed than before being a homeowner? Sometimes it feels like nothing we want, or work to get is ever enough, it never provides the long-term satisfaction we hoped for. Sometimes the things we strive to own, or dreams we work to achieve just aren’t enough to make us “happy”. As it turns out, scientists who have studied “happiness” have found that there’s more to a state of overall contentment than attaining goals, buying things, or lifestyle choices.

For one, it was found genetics play a role. By studying groups of twins, it was discovered that 50% of our happiness levels are pre-determined by our genes— what the scientists defined as our “genetic set point”. Additionally, only 10% of happiness comes from our individual circumstances- job, health, financial state, lifestyle and so forth.  This leaves the additional 40% unaccounted for. Ultimately, this was measured as our intentional behavior, such as, our hobbies, relationships with family, friends and romantic ones, as well. So, if we think about these findings, perhaps we should consider that we shouldn’t solely rely on our work and attaining financial success to make us “happy”. The idea that, “once I get that job, house, car, or take that vacation, I will finally have it all” can potentially deter a path to reaching overall satisfaction in life. According to these findings, it seems that it’s not necessarily what we do, but how we do it. Our job, health and financial standing only account for a small percentage of what makes us happy meaning it’s not necessarily the circumstances in our life. We most certainly have control over the choices we make and how we choose to live our life.

I’m not here to say that from this information I suddenly know how to achieve the ultimate happiness, I’m just saying the people who are considered experts and took the time to study came to some interesting conclusions. I still set goals and find that achieving them are crucial to not only happiness, but fulfillment in my life. I do think, however, if we take these findings into consideration it can help us in those times of self-doubt. Sometimes our happiness, or contentment maybe has nothing to do with what we have done, or failed to do, but may be pre-determined by genetics. In this case, its possible self-love and acceptance can keep us motivated to finding what it is that makes us, and keeps us happy. Also, by keeping this in mind, we can better understand, support and accept others for who they are.

Not to say we should use the “genetic set-point” theory as an excuse and brush off being shitty towards people because it’s just “who we are”. We should still take responsibility for our choices and how those choices impact those around us. More than anything, I look at these findings as an opportunity for empowerment. We can take steps, or make choices to manage our behavior and better understand our own emotions. Maybe, trying new things and keeping life exciting, or meeting new people and breaking out of the routine makes you happy. Or maybe stability and alone time is good for you. Personally, I need a little bit of both. I’m an extroverted introvert of sorts.

Additionally, the Spice Girls seemed to have it right when they sang “people of the world spice up your life, every boy and every girl, spice up your life”. (Yes, I quoted the Spice Girls and for good reason.) Some studies suggest that dopamine, a chemical in our brains that is tied to pleasure and happiness begins to slowly decrease from our teenage years and on. So it’s important to seek out experiences that release dopamine, such as exercise. Additionally, it’s even better if we change up our routine. So maybe if you’re a runner, try running on a different path every so often. OR take a run like Pheobe Buffay in one of my favorite Friend’s moments. If you don’t know that episode, lucky for you I attached the clip below for your inspiration! Based on this, expressing the childlike desires within us, like playfulness and excitement will release dopamine.  So really you don’t have to abuse substances to set the chemicals in your brain off. Just get a natural high on life and find joy in trying something new. The best part is, you can be creative and not have to spend a dime! Who doesn’t like free stuff?

Realistically, happiness is a complicated emotion that seems so simple, but life isn’t like that. As we grow and circumstances change, especially those beyond our control, it’s just not possible to be happy all the time, every moment of every day. Obviously, not everyone’s circumstances will make feeling happy as easy as it may sound. However, if we understand that we have the power to take control, even if that means asking for help, we can turn our failures into successes and our self-doubt into confidence. We’re alive. We’re breathing. That’s a lot to be happy about.

This One Time I Felt Fat

As a child who struggled with being overweight, I had some negative experiences with body shaming from other children and even adults. This is a story when I was made to feel insecure in my body by an grown woman,

5th grade choir picture
Lisa, Tara, Krystal, Me, Catie

In elementary school (5th grade, I think) a bunch of my friends and I joined the choir.  One day when rehearsing for a school performance to be held at a high school auditorium (the big stage!), my friend Krystal and I volunteered for a song that required two students to dance in a bug and bear costume because it doesn’t get much better than dancing in costume in front of a big audience.  I wanted to be the bear, so I chose the bear.  I say I don’t know why I chose the bear, but I’m sure I had some reason.

Krystal and I were close friends.  We still try to keep in touch, but she lives across the country and we’re both moms now so that’s just life.

When we drove from Cali to Miami together circa 2008

Krystal was one of those friends you were guaranteed to have a good time with. She was open for new experiences, never afraid to be herself and valued our friendship (which you know … doesn’t always happen at that age).  We always had a blast together and I remember just constantly laughing together. Like this one time our friend Blake tried to save a skunk.

Flash forward from fifth grade to sometime after high school. This one summer night Krystal, Blake and I we’re pulling up to Blake’s house in my car when we noticed a skunk  that had a McDonald’s Mcflurry cup stuck to its head, but the cup had the lid still attached and the skinny part of the lid was squeezed over the skunk’s neck. The skunk was either going to suffocate or choke. So naturally, we wanted to help it, but we didn’t want to get sprayed or bitten. After some strategizing, Krystal and I still didn’t want to risk it. So, Blake decided he was going to try.

Long story short, Krystal and I watched from afar as he tried to rescue what I can only assume he hoped would become his new furry friend. We watched as Blake reached down and got the cup off. He and the skunk made eye contact. It was a magicial, yet fleeting moment because suddenly the skunk hissed at him and launched his spray all over Blake. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever smelled, but one of the most hysterical things I’ve ever witnessed! Blake recently told me people don’t believe him when he tells this story, but Krystal and I can attest to the truth of this tale.

All that to say, I shared some of the most hilarious and exciting moments of my life, like this one, with Krystal.  And on this particular day of our blossoming friendship in 5th grade, I learned about how supportive she was too.

The day had come for us to try on our costumes, her the bug and me the bear. The mom who made them took us to the bathroom. She handed Krystal hers and turned to hand me mine, but before she handed it over she looked at me from head to toe and made a comment about my size. Now, I can’t remember exactly what she said, but the message was sent: I don’t know if this is going to fit you, but I guess you can try. There wasn’t much concern expressed in her demeanor, just an unnecessary comment. Maybe she was worried that she’d made it too small, but her crunchy face was screaming “I don’t knowwww.” Anxiety and embarrassment flooded over me.

I took the costume out of her hand and reluctantly closed the bathroom stall. I was so nervous I was sweating. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to perform after all. I was so excited before walking into that bathroom, but in the stall I was in near tears just praying the costume would fit. I stepped in, pulled it up, reached around the front and zipped it. It fit perfectly. I exhaled.

I came out and showed the mom and Krystal. Nobody commented on what had just happened. She checked the costumes and we changed back into our clothes. At that point I didn’t care about the comment, I was just happy the costume fit.

On our way back to class, Krystal pointed out how rude the mom was to have said what she said. I was kind of surprised that she noticed, but relieved at the same time. I was grateful to have had my friend with me, because even though those words hurt my feelings, Krystal was there to cheer me up and remind me of my worth. These are the type of friends who pick you up when you’re down to give you the strength to keep it movin’. Shout out to you Krystal!

Growing up “chubby” was hard enough. This woman really had no business making a comment like that. She probably should have waited until I tried it on and then dealt with it not fitting if it didn’t, because making a child feel self conscious is probably not good for their developement. I definitely experienced body image issues–but I can’t just blame this lady. We all endure struggles and I’m pretty sure there is no way around that. However, there are instances where, as adults, we can be more mindful of our words and actions with children because we can impact their self-image, confidence etc… But hey, she wasn’t perfect and neither am I. This is just my personal recollection of the scenario.

I was 11 years old, in elementary school and I felt fat. Am I over having had frequent experiences like this as a child? Probably not. Am I gonna let it get me down or hold me back? Hell no!

My “Why” 

I’ve never been interested in dropping my kids in the play room at the gym, so I started getting up at 4:30 am to get work outs in. For one, I like to exercise when group classes are offered. So that limits my time. It’s what I enjoy doing most. Even if they are hard, I really do have fun. Also, I prefer to get workouts done when the kids are asleep, or when Matios is at work. I don’t enjoy compromising family time for gym time if I don’t have to. I want to soak up all the time we have all together when we get it. So I always want to work around this as best as possible.

So, when the stars don’t perfectly align and I can’t get to the gym before the sun rises, I have been getting frustrated. I started feeling like I couldn’t go to the gym at all if I missed the morning classes. I do home work outs, but it’s not the same for me. I don’t consistently feel like I can get as solid of a work out in at home compared to the classes. As an added challenege, it’s hard to maintain motivation and really give it my all when 1 kid is climbing on my back, one is tugging on my shirt and one is chanting “mommy” 1,000 times like I’m Lois and he’s Stewie from family guy…

I recently realized that wasn’t wise and I was doing myself a disservice. I was only adding unnecessary strain on this process when the solution was there–just drop them off in the kids room for a bit. With Matios’ support, I convinced myself to give it a try. It’s just for one hour and I’m right there if they need me. However, I struggle with allowing people I don’t know to watch our kids. It makes me nervous, but they are growing up and will be starting school soon. So, it’s bound to happen and it’s good for them to learn to be around different people. Now, I’m not going to go hire a babysitter I don’t really know that well to come to my house, but the brief gym drop off is working for me right now!

So far, they’ve enjoyed it and they’re looking forward to going to the gym to play with the other kids and toys. Plus, they are feeling included in my routine. Which is also going to help them learn the gym and exercise is not only good for you, but can be fun! It’s normalizing a healthy lifestyle and I love that!

Today, I had a conversation with one of my favorite instructors, Olivia, and she finally got to meet my kiddos. She gestured towards them and said, “so, this is your why”, and it opened my eyes to all of this. That’s exactly it. My family, my babies are why I get up and moving in order to make the effort in keeping my body healthy. Having my “why” there with me during my classes motivates me even more. Despite their tantrums, fights, broken things and food on the floor everyday, they light the fire inside me and push me to be stronger.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated in anything, find your reason, your why, and focus on that. It will power you through the tough moments.