I find it interesting that there are 7 billion of us walking around out there – each with our own unique lens and view of the world. The difference in the way we see situations and events can be a source of learning or frustration, dialogue or monologue (or silence!) and it can bring us together or cause a rift.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this lately is because I’m currently doing a course at school on mental health and nutrition. 5 years ago if you asked me if I considered stress and anger to be a source of disease and ill-health, my answer would have unequivocally been “no”. Though I was once a naysayer, I’ve totally changed my mind on how I view the connection between mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing. Over and over in my studies, stress and poor emotional wellbeing are listed as a main cause of hundred’s and hundred’s of symptoms. It’s hard to discredit study over study linking poor health with emotional distress. One of my best friends is a psychiatrist and explained it really well when she mental health is a spectrum and we all fall somewhere…that “somewhere” definitely sways depending on what’s going on in our life.
In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explains that the human community has one basic thing in common – that is we’re all working towards happiness and contentment. He goes on to explain that how we perceive our level of contentment is unfortunately very much based on how we compare ourselves to others.
One of the studies discussed in The Art of Happiness was this one – in it researches compared subject’s level of happiness before and after the subjects had viewed pictures of hardship during the turn of the century. They found that happiness increased after the subjects had viewed pictures depicting others struggling. Conversely, in another study, researchers asked subjects to rate their level of happiness before and after repeating two statements. The first was “I’m glad I’m not a….”. The second was “I wish I was a….”. They found that happiness decreased after the second phrase was repeated.
All this to say, we know that being happy relieves stress and having less stress makes us mentally and physically healthier. One simple way to do this is to consider those who are less fortunate than us instead of comparing ourselves to those who have more. Just trying to remember how lucky we are to have friends, family, and health is enough to make us feel pretty good.
I have to say, I’m in to the Dalai Lama (or the DL as I like to call him) these days…and so, I’ll leave you with this quote:
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
– Dalai Lama XIV
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