To Be Happy Just Use Your Brain!

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My 3 year old son has trouble managing his emotions. He’s made considerable gains since he was 2, but still has a long way to go (of course, I’m kidding). When he begins to show the signs of a temper tantrum, I say, “…be happy or you get a time out.” It occurred to me recently that I’m actually commanding my son to “be happy.” Is this possible? Can we just make ourselves be happy? It could depend on the consequences, after all, who wants a time-out?
Recent research has revealed that we can do just that. As a matter of fact, if you make the decision to live a Pollyanna type life, you will not only be happier, but decrease your chances of having a heart attack!
Julie Boehm, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, reviewed over 200 published studies and found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of such factors as a persona’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight. The review found that the risk of having an initial cardiovascular event was approximately 50% lower in the most optimistic people than in those who were less optimistic.
The times when I feel the most stressed is when I have to wait for an answer. Let’s say I’m negotiating a new contract, I send it over, they receive it and…I get the ”we’ll get back to you.” I sit there and I play out every possible scenario in my head. Should I have changed the proposal? Did I include everything or did I miss something? I mull it over and worry about it when in reality, there’s nothing else I can do—nothing, but wait.
When it’s completely out of your control, why not think about something else! For example, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers studied 214 people who suffered from chronic face and jaw pain and found that chronic pain sufferers who dwelt less on their issues were likely to sleep better and experience less day to day pain. Lead study author Luis F. Buenaver, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences said, “We have found that people who ruminate about their pain and have more negative thoughts about their pain don’t sleep as well, and the result is they feel more pain. If cognitive behavioral therapy can help people change the way they think about their pain, they might end that vicious cycle and feel better without sleeping pill or pain medicine.”
The truth is, in most situations, we do have the power to change our attitudes and feelings. I’m not talking about real life trauma or PTSD, just your day to day worries that take up needless time and energy in our schedule. It becomes more of an exercise and a habit.
As a personal trainer, part of why people hire me is not only to design an exercise program, but to inspire and motivate them to do it. If you are waiting for me for a 5:30 am session and I drag myself in where you have to cheer me up, I’m fired! I make the decision that when I walk in, I’m going to pump you full of energy and motivate you to have an awesome workout for you to achieve your goals! My clients count on me for that. That’s a decision I’ve made and it has carried into my personal life as well.
Think of it as fitness for you brain. To train for a 5K for example, you condition your heart, lungs and muscles to work together for a 5 kilometers. For some of you, just completing the distance is your goal. For others, you want to do it faster and faster. Each program requires a different approach.
As the study concludes, if you just practice being an optimistic person, it will eventually become part of you. So go ahead and try it. Give people the benefit of the doubt, not everyone is bent on making your life miserable. You know that person you are screaming at that cut you off in the freeway? They can’t hear you. They don’t even know you. Chances are you will never see them again in your life…but it sure feels good to scream at them.



About the Author:

Pedro began his fitness career as a Professional Fitness trainer at San Diego State University and is certified through the American Council on Exercise. After thousands of personal training sessions with a myriad of clienele, Pedro set his sights on the corporate level by managing corporate fitness centers throughout San Diego. Through his network of trainers, Pedro works with the best in the industry. Yoga instructors, bootcamp, strength coaches and personal trainers, Pedro is able to meet the needs of any individual and organization.

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