Here in this article are a collection of algorithms. An algorithm is a sequence of steps for accomplishing something; it’s a rule of thumb, a strategy, a formula, a recipe. How do you get the volume of a cube? Multiply the height times the width times the length. That’s an algorithm. You don’t need to know why an algorithm works for it to work.
This is a collection of practical methods for feeling good.
This is a working handbook of sorts. It started out as a small booklet to carry around in my pocket, so I could pull it out when I needed it — because it doesn’t matter that I “know” the ideas or even the reasoning behind them if I forget all about it the minute I feel bad (which is what tends to happen because when you feel bad, your memory and reasoning faculties don’t work as well).
These principles are ways to feel the least discomfort in your life, ways to feel the most pleasure and satisfaction and happiness. You may think that’s odd. Wouldn’t it be more pleasurable to indulge in sex, drugs and rock and roll? The answer is no. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs bypass the natural avenues evolution has designed and they give you the pleasure without the work. They give you the high without doing the life-enhancing things the pleasure centers of your brain have evolved to reward you for.
With the life-enhancing methods you'll find here, you will never reach the highs you can reach with drugs. You aren’t supposed to. Your brain is full of chemicals in balance. They work together. Drugs ruin this delicate balance. Your brain has ways of preventing you from getting too high because it isn’t good for you. Drugs work by skirting around these natural preventions — but at a cost.
So this is about how to get as high as you can with the fewest side-effects (including bad feelings).
This collection of principles or methods of feeling good were distilled from a much larger list. There are literally hundreds of ways to feel good; some of them are bad for your health, so I dropped those. Some are too difficult or complicated and only a bored person with too much time on his hands would bother doing them, so out they went. Some don’t make very much difference, so they were scratched off the list.
What we have left are seven things you can do that are easy and practical — things that do, in fact, make you feel good, or at least feel better. That’s for the short term. In Section Two are seven more things you can do that will make good feelings more common in your life. Instead of specific tasks like the first seven, they are more like “approaches to life.” And they can make a profound difference over the long haul.
These principles work — even when the “cause” of your bad feelings come from circumstances external to you and beyond your control. In other words, if you feel bad because you’re broke and in debt, these principles will help you feel better now (and do better getting out of debt). That’s what distinguishes these principles from, say, alcohol. Having a few beers may make you feel better temporarily, but it will set you back, physically, financially, and mood-wise too. The principles in this book will set you forward. They will help advance your cause, or at least won’t do any harm, and will make you feel better, which can be helpful all by itself.
The most important thing to know about your mood is this: Only concern yourself with what you can do. There are circumstances that can “make” you feel bad. If you can do something about those circumstances, then by all means go to it. If there’s nothing you can do about it, however, then concern yourself with what you can do. As the Mother Goose rhyme goes:
For every ailment under the sun,
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
You can’t do anything about the weather, but you have a say about how much sugar you eat and how much sleep you get and how you think, etc. Concerning yourself with the parts of your experience you have control over will give you more power to control your moods. Yes, you might feel better if the sun was shining. But you can also feel better by exercising. You have control over your body, and don’t have any control over the clouds.
Feeling good is not a trivial thing. Both physical and psychological health require a sufficient amount of feeling good. When you feel bad, you don’t think as well, you don’t get along with others as well, your health is impaired, you don’t have as much energy, you don’t get the job done as well, and besides, it’s no damn fun. You tend to do things you regret when you feel bad — much more so than when you feel good. The actions you take when you feel stressed or angry or down in the dumps are not good or effective or something to be proud of. Feeling good is good for your health and good for your life.
When you feel good, you’re a more benevolent person. If you’ll allow me to be a crusader for a moment, it’s good for the planet that you feel good. You’re a more of a biophiliac (lover of life) when you feel good.
Of course, you can’t feel good all the time; there are biological restraints against it. But you can feel good more often and that will be good for you. Trying to feel good all the time will make you feel bad more often because you’ll be comparing the way you feel with the way you expect to feel and coming up short too often. Go for a little improvement and you’ll get a lot farther. Let’s get to it.
Section One: How to Feel Good When You Feel Bad
“The most manifest sign of wisdom,” wrote the eminent French essayist, Michel Montaigne, “is a continual cheerfulness.”
1. Steady your mind by calming your breath.
This is one of the fastest and easiest and most immediate ways to change the way you feel. The way you breathe changes your feelings. If you want some proof of that, right now, take a slow, deep breath while you’re reading and you’ll immediately feel more better. Most relaxation techniques, meditation techniques, and hypnosis techniques use deep breaths to get started.
You can change your breathing any time. You don’t have to stop doing what you’re doing. It may not change your feelings dramatically, but even a little improvement is worth something. A small difference can sometimes make a big difference.
Change your breathing and you change your state of mind.
If you can pay attention next time you feel upset or angry or worried, you’ll notice your breathing changes. It becomes more shallow and faster. Your state of mind and the way you breath are intimately linked, and when you change one, the other changes too. They go together.
Have you ever seen powerlifters in the Olympics? Almost all of them, right before they lift, blow their breath hard out. Shakespeare, that great observer of human nature, knew this. In Henry V, before an attack on Harfleur (a city in France), he gets his soldiers pumped up: He tells them to “lend the eye a terrible aspect...set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide; Hold hard the breath...”
Shakespeare demonstrated what he knew: That you can put yourself into a certain kind of mindset by the look on your face and the way you breathe. Here we're only concerning ourselves with the breath. When you breath slow and deep, you become relaxed. When you blow your breath out hard, you feel stronger and more courageous.
This one is the simplest techniques to explain and the easiest one to do. When you’re stressed out and want to feel better, make your breathing deeper and slower. When you breathe in, avoid filling only your upper chest. You absorb more oxygen from the lower parts of your lungs, and breathing down into the bottom of your lungs is more relaxing.
You can add something to the deep breaths without too much extra effort: When you’re about to breath out, try to discover some tension in your muscles somewhere in your body, and as you breath out, relax those muscles as best you can. Muscular tension and your state of mind are linked as well, and when you relax your muscles, you relax your mind too.
Or try this one: breathe in through your nose, lock your throat and relax (holding your breath) for a couple seconds, and then breathe out slowly and steadily through your mouth. Repeat that three times, and you will feel calmer. The variations are endless. You can explore them on your own. Just breathe in ways that make you feel good.
So here’s a technique you can do anytime, anywhere, and under almost any circumstances and it will change how you feel. It’s especially good to do when you feel stressed or under pressure.
2. Get back on purpose.
One of the most important fundamentals for feeling good is a sense of purposefulness. People without a purpose are bored or feel bad, or cause trouble for others. Doing something that serves a purpose — a purpose you agree with (or better yet, thought up yourself) — can make you happy indeed. This principle is the most important one in this article. It is the most practical, the most necessary, and the most basic.
There is such a thing as having too many purposes or conflicting purposes, so it’s important to think through what you really want or value and let the rest of them go. When you’ve narrowed down your purposes to the few important ones, then a quick way to feel good is to get to work on one of them.
The world is constantly taking you off purpose. Advertising is constantly putting new purposes in front of your nose, tantalizing you, trying to make you go down whatever path they're selling. It’s as if you’re on a certain path, headed in a certain direction. And as long as you keep going down that path — the one you’ve chosen and that fits with what you value — you’re happy. But there are paths that go off to the side all the way along, and there are people standing on the corners, trying to get you to go off on their side-path. That’s just a metaphor, though. In reality, many of the people and things that entice you to go off your path have no interest in you and aren’t trying to derail you — it’s just a side-effect of what they’re doing.
You will take some of these side-paths. And you’ll be going along and then realize you’re not on your purpose. When you notice you're no longer on your path (pursuing your chosen purpose), your next task is to get back to your purpose, get back on your path.
TV is a major side-path for most people. Most people spend too much time watching TV and movies. If you’re not one of them, good for you. But if you are, think about this: If you were to list your top three values — the three things most important to you — I’ll bet TV isn’t one of them. And yet, when you look at how much time you spend doing it, you’ll find it is out of proportion to how important it is to you.
You’re being pulled off purpose, off your path, and in this case, someone is doing it deliberately. Those TV producers are trying to pull you in. They want very much for you to stop doing whatever useful, healthy, productive thing you would otherwise be doing and watch their program. And they go out of their way to titillate you and make you curious enough, angry enough, or alarmed enough to drop what you’re doing and sit down to watch. They create mystery, they arouse your curiosity, they entice your powerful instincts — they do everything they can to make you want to watch.
Less intentional forms of taking you off purpose are things like a parent or spouse who has a drinking problem and creates trouble that you feel you have to deal with. The trouble that you’re dealing with is really not a freely chosen goal of yours; you didn’t sit down and decide one of your top three values is “to take responsibility for someone who is not taking responsibility for himself.” It’s off your purpose.
Wherever you find a source of life and energy in nature, you’ll find parasites trying to use that life and energy. There are intestinal worms, bacteria that grow on skin, lamprey fish. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium, “A friend who is a biologist and who spent many years in Africa studying the native fauna tells how sad it is to do an autopsy on a freshly killed lion. Most of us hold an idealized picture of the king of the jungle — strong, majestic, and free. But if one looks closely, the powerful lion turns out to be a living shelter for hundreds of different parasites, mites, ticks, and worms making themselves at home in his mane, his eyelids, his tail, his nose, and his throat, down to his gullet and intestines.”
The lion is a source of life, and so there are other organisms that try to use that life for their own ends. In the same way, you are a source of life, and there are plenty of things and people trying to use that life for their own ends. Advertisers, salesmen, religious leaders, political leaders, even your friends and family. That’s not to say they don’t care about you. They may care very much. But it will be rare for you to find even one person who cares as much about your purposes as you do. And wherever your purposes do not align with another’s there will be a tendency to get pulled off purpose.
And you will be. Many times. The way to handle it once you notice it is to simply get back on purpose.
One of the most common causes of a bad mood is what’s called “rumination” which means thinking about something, chewing it, continuing to turn it over in your mind. They call animals that chew cud “ruminants,” and that's where the word comes from. Getting back on purpose stops rumination, and that’s one of the reasons it makes you feel better.
In the book Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure, the story of a five-month ordeal by Admiral Byrd in the Antarctic, he tells how he was nearly poisoned to death by carbon monoxide fumes. For more than a month he could hardly move around, and spent most of his time in bed with no radio, no sound of any kind, and he couldn’t read because his eyes hurt so badly. He tried to minimize the amount of fumes, so he didn’t even burn the lamp very often. Can you imagine spending over a month lying in bed, feeling terribly sick and in pain, in the dark, completely alone and in complete silence? He said he almost lost his mind.
His comrades at the base camp finally deduced there was something wrong, and they were sending out a rescue party — a dangerous undertaking in those winter conditions. There are deep ice crevasses, hundreds of feet deep and covered over with snow drift so you can’t see them. During that time of the year it is also very dark. The sun doesn’t come up over the horizon at all. Admiral Byrd’s ordeal took place in the early 1900’s, so they didn’t have much technology to help them.
But his comrades were coming to get him. He had to get up and prepare for it. He needed to light flares every so often, so the rescue party could see him. The hut he lived in was buried flush with the surface of the snow, which meant the rescue party couldn’t see him unless he had flares going. They could have passed within fifty yards of him and never seen his post. So he had to keep the flares lit. He had to go up the ladder and set up the magnesium and gasoline flares. It was arduous for him because he was so weak. “Yet,” he wrote later, “these simple preparations, by taking me out of myself for a while, did me good.”
Having a purpose, having something important to do, stopped his ruminations and made him feel better. People are built for challenge. Our best comes forth when there is a strong purpose compelling us. We’ve tamed our environment, though, and if you’re going to gain the value of a compelling purpose, you’ll have to create one yourself. Your environment is not likely to create one for you, as it did for our ancestors.
Creating a good purpose requires thinking. So let me give you a tip. It is better to think on paper than it is to think in your head. Think by writing. Write out questions and then write out answers. Make lists. Put them in the order of their importance. When you want to do some good, clear thinking, write.
Once you’ve figured out your purpose, your main challenge will be to stick with it. You’ll be constantly taken off your purpose. Those who really accomplish things have developed attitudes that allow them to get back to their purpose or even prevent themselves from being side-tracked in the first place. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was in high school he decided he was going to be the best built man in the world, and then he was going to go into films like his hero, Steve Reeves. His parents were completely against it. They actually considered taking him to a psychiatrist. In Austria, it is probably a classifiable mental illness to want to go to Hollywood.
Young Arnold worked out two hours before school and two hours after school every day. He was serious. His dreams were no mere idle wish. He was determined to carry them out. One morning he was drinking his coffee (I guess they start the coffee habit early in Austria) when he spilled it. His mother came over and looked at him. “What’s wrong, Arnold?” she asked, “What is it?”
I’m just sore,” he said, “My muscles are stiff.”
She yelled out to Arnold’s father, “Look at this boy! Look what he’s doing to himself!”
In his biography, Arnold says something that could be considered cold by many people. He reveals his attitude, and it’s this attitude that allowed him to reach his goal. He said, “I couldn’t be bothered with what my mother felt.”
He was so intent upon his purpose, he couldn’t be bothered with side-tracks. And at least as far as his goal was concerned, his mother’s worries were a side-track. He didn’t waste time or energy trying to fight it. He just went back to his purpose. And that’s what you must do if you want to accomplish those secret dreams you harbor in your heart.
If you concern yourself too much with what other people think or feel, you won’t be able to accomplish much.
When you feel lost, adrift — when you feel a kind of mix between anxiety and depression — that’s the haunting call of a lost purpose. The thing to do at times like that is think. Think it through. Think by writing. And then get back to your purpose.
The damnable truth of it is: Being there isn’t worth much. Getting there is all the fun. But part of our genetic heritage is an internal sense that when we get there, that’s when we’ll really feel good. It’s a biological illusion. Ask anyone who is old and who has experienced the disillusionment enough times to get it through their head.
When Josephine Marcus Earp, the woman who was married to Wyatt Earp for 47 years, reached old age, she wrote her story. The husband-wife team had an adventurous life, going to the gold rush in Nome, Alaska, prospecting in Nevada — they were always after something: Trying to strike it rich or build a saloon or stake a claim. She wrote, “Our greatest pleasure, though we didn’t realize it just then, was in the anticipation and the seeking. In being able to cut loose from the everyday grind, we had already struck it rich.”
Find an old person and ask them. Don’t ask someone related to you because their genetic interest will want to tell you to acquire and succeed. Ask someone with no genetic stake in you. Ask them: What part of life really means something? They’ve had enough time to experience the good and the bad many times. If someone would know, they would. They’ll tell you we place too much emphasis on arriving and we don’t realize the fun part is the struggle to get there.
And it is a struggle. Working on a purpose, surmounting barriers, handling problems — it’s a struggle. Trying to keep to your purpose while the world seems dead-set on taking you off your purpose is a struggle. And keeping your motivation when you have a lot of setbacks is a struggle too. But there is joy in it. And there is very little joy in living without a purpose.
When you find yourself off purpose, you will immediately feel better when you get back on purpose, and is something you can do today.
3. Get out of a feedback loop.
When you and another person get angry at each other to the point where both of you become unreasonable, get away for awhile. You’ve entered a feedback loop where the other person’s physical arousal (from anger), conveyed through her tone of voice, posture, look on her face and what she says, arouses your own system (sympathetic nervous system — the adrenaline-based fight-or-flight mechanism). Now you’re upset and the look on your face (and the tone of your voice, etc.) only serves to make the other even more aroused, which you can see and hear and that makes you even more aroused.
You’re in a feedback loop. Like a microphone and PA system that begin to produce feedback, your emotional arousal keeps feeding back upon itself, getting worse and worse.
Get out of this loop. Go for a walk. Go into the other room and relax. It’s like moving the microphone away from the speaker. Go somewhere where you can’t see or hear the other person for awhile. When you both cool off, try to work it out.
When you’re cooling off, it doesn’t do any good to go over in your mind what you said and what the other said and think about how right you are and how wrong she is. When you do that, you’re still in the feedback loop. You’re carrying it on in your head, and it will keep you angry. Either write to yourself and try to be reasonable, or distract your mind completely for awhile.
When you feel calm, go back and try to work it out with the other person. The only thing you will accomplish by working it out while in a feedback loop is hurting each other unnecessarily and saying things you will regret later.
Trust your relationship. Trust that you can go away from it and it will be there when you come back. Your trust in it will help make it so.
4. Ask yourself How instead of Why.
When something goes wrong, get in the habit of changing the usual question (Why did it go wrong?) to a better question (How can I make it better?). Don’t worry about why it is the way it is. Concern yourself with improving the situation.
Ask yourself: “How can I make the situation even a little bit better?” And keep asking it until you get a good answer. Then get to work on your answer.
In the classes we teach, we always get a lot of flak about this one. There are whole therapies that spend years trying to find out why the patient has a phobia of flying. There are other therapies that have asked, “How can this person fly without freaking out?” And they do it. They go about getting the patient used to the concept of flying and eventually the person can board the plane and get on with his life. And they may never find out why the person was afraid in the first place.
Back in the other the other kind of therapy, the therapist is still probing to find repressed memories that may have caused the phobia. And the odd thing about this is that often even when the person finds out what caused the phobia, it doesn't make the phobia go away.
Of course, there is some value in uncovering repressed memories. And sometimes there’s value in finding out why. But for the most part, if you don’t want to make a long and protracted and possibly futile search, you can skip to HOW.
You can ask why you overeat and you won’t have any problem at all coming up with answers. But all you’ve got are theories. What’s the “real” answer? Is it because you weren’t loved enough as a child? Is it a genetic weakness in your family? Is it an evolutionary holdover precaution against famine? Are you simply bored?
The only way to know whether the answer you come up with is the "real" answer is to put it into action. If it keeps you from overeating, that is about the best you can do to know you have the real answer. But you could have accomplished that with a HOW question in the first place. If you asked HOW, you would have to come up with theories and then test them. But with a HOW question, you go straight for it. You don’t get side-tracked into what can become an endless search for “understanding” — a search at which you may never know for sure you’ve been successful. When it comes to things like “unconscious motives,” there’s no way to validate whether what you’ve found is a true unconscious wish or a figment of your (or Sigmund Freud’s) imagination.
There is one thing you can say in favor of asking why and delving into the mysterious unconscious processes or whatever: It is entertaining. It’s intriguing. It’s like a mystery and mysteries hold attention like nothing else.
But if what you want is to handle the situation or solve the problem and then get on with the business of living, ask HOW not WHY. It’s more efficient. It’ll help you find solutions. It’ll make you feel better.
5. Try on a different meaning.
When something happens, you decide what it means. You may have made the same decision so many times that now it’s so automatic you don’t even know you’re deciding anything. But you make meanings. You do it all the time.
Some of those meanings make you feel bad, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
For example, a researcher named Stanley Schacter set up the following experiment. Subjects (people who don’t know what’s going on) were given one of two things: Either a placebo (sugar pill) or a shot of adrenaline. Then the subjects mingled with Schacter’s assistants. The subjects were led to believe that the assistants were given the same kind of drug as the subjects were given.
There were two different scenarios. In one group, the assistants acted as if they were experiencing anxiety. The subjects mingling with this group reported that the drug made them feel anxious.
The other group of assistants acted as if they were really excited and happy. In this group, the subjects felt on top of the world.
They made an interpretation of their own internal biological state, as we all do, and the interpretation made the experience either pleasant or unpleasant.
I’m going to assume right here that some event has happened and “it made you” feel bad. Now, think about what you believe the event means. Does it mean you are doomed to failure? Does it mean he or she doesn’t love you? What are the implications for this event? What does it mean? Find the meaning that makes you feel bad. Now set that one aside for a moment and open your mind.
What else could it mean? I’m not saying you have to stick with what you come up with, but consider some other possibilities. Try to think of three different meanings for the same event — and think of real possibilities rather than obviously ridiculous meanings.
The exercise itself will show you that the meaning you first decided on isn’t the only possible one, and that, all by itself, will make you feel better.
For example, let's say my wife seems a little distant and I feel bad because I think her distance is because I haven’t been as attentive a husband as I think I should be. I start berating myself for my laziness and inconsideration only to find out that she’s worrying about her mother and it’s got nothing to do with me.
But sometimes you can never find out what it really meant. Let’s say I couldn’t or didn’t find out. Then my next course of action is to think up other possible meanings for her “distance.”
Maybe she didn’t sleep well. Maybe she has a mysterious pain in her leg, and she’s worried about it. Maybe she drank too much coffee.
The point to the exercise is not to find out the “real” meaning to the event that’s bringing you down. If you can find out the real meaning, find out. If you can’t, at least you can think up other (equally likely) meanings besides the conclusion you jumped to — meanings that won’t bring you down.
If you really don’t know, then it’s rather foolish to come to a conclusion that makes you feel bad. And when you come up with other ideas, the point is not to decide which one is the right one. If you don’t know, you don’t know. The value of the exercise is to keep you from being too committed to the one that brings you down. Realizing that it could mean any of four different meanings lessens the impact of any one of them.
All of the above is a negative use of this algorithm. It’s how to feel better when you feel bad. But you can also make possible meanings in a way that makes you feel better when you already feel fine.
You understand your life in a certain way. You have a story you live within. You know where you were born, what your parents were like, what your personality is like, and you even have some theories about why your personality developed that way.
But those meanings you already have are not fixed in stone. They can be changed. You can think of your life in different ways. You can make analogies for yourself and live inside analogies that are inspiring. For example, John and Kathy are starting a new business together. It’s tough. They sometimes feel like giving up, but they won’t. They think of themselves like the heroes of the Alamo: If they were going to be defeated, they by Jove, they were going to be defeated trying; they’d make their stand; they wouldn’t give up. And, say Kathy and John, “Neither will we.”
The point of this principle is to try out different perspectives, and just don't settle for the meanings that automatically pop into your mind. Always assume you can do better than that, you can think up better possible meanings, and when you do, you'll feel better. The meanings you make will be more likely to help you be more effective with your actions too.
6. Inspire yourself.
Life is full of difficulties and it will never be otherwise. Since you can’t rid your life of difficulties, the best way to be happy in spite of the them is to have a good attitude toward those difficulties.
When you play a game and your opponent is as good as you, it is a challenge and very fun. When you have a difficulty in life, it is basically the same thing. You’re being challenged by life. Sometimes it’s not as fun because the stakes are high or you are completely outmatched. But you can adopt an attitude about the difficulties that will make your life more enjoyable overall. Where can you find attitudes to adopt? Movies, books, tapes, other people...or you can invent them yourself.
When you watch the movie Lorenzo's Oil, for example, you see a couple greatly challenged by circumstances. They had the same choice we all have: succumb to the challenges in life and be depressed by them, or rise to the challenge. They rose to the challenge. Seeing an inspiring movie can give you a metaphor for your own life. You can think, “Yes, I have these difficulties, like the couple in the movie trying to help their son. They didn't give up, and neither will I.”
In the movie A League of Their Own, one of the players says, “It’s hard.” The coach says, “It’s supposed to be hard.” That has stuck with me and come into my mind many times, and inspired me.
Louis L’Amour once said that adventure is just a romantic name for trouble. For an adventure story to be interesting, the characters must have trouble. And it’s the same with your life. The challenging parts make it interesting. That’s just a point of view, and certainly not the only one possible, but when you adopt it, you’ll feel better and you'll deal with the troubles better. That point of view may not last very long if you're not already in the habit of thinking that way, so you’ll have to deliberately adopt that point of view over and over again. After awhile, it’ll stick.
You can help yourself gain that perspective by doing any of the following:
a) coach other people to have that attitude (teaching other people is a good way for you to learn it)
b) watch movies and read stories that inspire you
c) listen to tapes in your car that inspire you
d) coach yourself
That last one is important. Coach yourself. Talk to yourself like you’re a good friend and your thoughts (when you feel bad) are just the immature thoughts a kid might have. Give yourself a broader perspective and a better way of thinking about things. Reading, listening and watching inspiring stories, especially true stories, will give you lots of ideas for ways to coach yourself.
When you find a book or DVD or CD that inspires you, read it, watch it or listen to it again and again. When you’re down, think about those things and change your frame of mind. Inspire yourself in any way you can think of.
"It doesn't last," say the people who don't want to listen to a motivational lecture or go out of their way to inspire themselves. And they are right. They may feel very motivated right after the lecture, but two weeks later, it may have fizzeled out. Does that mean they shouldn't do it? I don't know, but if they exercised once, would it last? If they bathed once, would it last? No, they'd have to do it regularly. Does that mean they shouldn't do it? Does it make exercise not worth it because you have to keep doing it? No. And the same goes with inspiring yourself. When you feel inspired, you feel better.
7. Give your body a tune up.
If you haven’t done any exercise in the last two days, do some and you will feel better. Do too much and you’ll feel worse.
If you’ve eaten sugar, white flour, white rice, or drank alcohol or caffeine in the last two days, don’t eat any more in the next couple of days and you will feel better.
To feel your best, eat enough protein and vegetables.
If you feel bad because you’re tired, you’ll feel better after a nap. Sleep is not trivial, it is important — to your health, and to feeling good.
Your body moves in what are called ultradian cycles. An ultradian cycle or ultradian rhythm is a cycle that repeats itself more than once a day (as opposed to a circadian rhythm that repeats itself once a day). Your heartbeat is an ultradian rhythm — it repeats itself hundreds of times a day. Same with your breathing. You may have heard that when you sleep you follow a rhythm. It is an ultradian rhythm: At first you sink into deep sleep, then you come up into REM sleep (that’s when you dream), and then you go deeply asleep again, then you come up and dream for a little while, etc.
You carry on a similar cycle while you’re awake. During the day you become very alert, and then every 90 to 120 minutes or so you go into a drowsy state for about twenty minutes. Have you ever noticed this rhythm? Of course it’s harder to notice if you are taking stimulants like caffeine, but even then you will find your level of alertness changing throughout the day in regular cycles. If you are going to nap, do it when you feel drowsy: Don’t waste your alert time trying to sleep.
To relax is one of the most immediate things you can do to give your body a tune up. One way to relax is to pick one word or phrase and repeat it to yourself over and over for twenty minutes with your eyes closed. When you notice your mind has wandered off, gently start repeating the word or phrase again. This practice has an immediately relaxing effect that can last the whole day. Do it regularly and research shows it will benefit your health and well-being in the long run.
Anything relaxing will make you feel better: Listen to a relaxation tape, get a massage, take a hot shower, slowly stretch some muscles, do a deep breathing exercise, etc.
Relaxation is incompatible with anger, anxiety, and most other bad feelings. So when you relax, you replace your bad feelings with good ones.
Give your body a tune up. This means do something that improves your physical health. One of the best ways to feel good more often is to improve your physical health.
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Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.