What Is Happiness?

Philosophers have been debating the happiness question almost since the beginning of time and I’m not sure they are any nearer a definitive answer now than they were when they were running round is furry underwear.

It’s one of those question that if you ask 100 people you’ll get 100 different answers and none of them will necessarily be right, nor will they be wrong.

One of the things I encourage people that come to me for life coaching to do, is start to focus on what they want (presuming they know what that is) rather than what they don’t want.

This isn’t because I’m a  believer in the law of attraction, I’m not, but simply because the human brain is far more efficient when focusing on what it wants than trying to exclude everything it doesn’t want.

The analogy I often use is, imagine walking into a bar and when asked by the server what you want to drink, you reply with, “Well, I definitely don’t want a glass of Sauvignon Blanc please” That response would get a few strange looks and you’d probably remain thirsty for some time to come.

Unfortunately when trying to define happiness it’s probably easier to say what it isn’t, rather than what it is, and then seeing what you’re left with.

One of the things that people can sometimes confuse happiness with is pleasure. Yet we know the two are not just completely separate things, but in some cases can be mutually exclusive.

The pursuit of pleasure can even lead to long-term unhappiness.

Think of any addiction you like and you will see a pattern of destructive behavior that started with the desire for pleasure in some way shape or form.

Pleasure is very much a ‘now’ emotion and nearly always involves actually doing something that you consider enjoyable. Happiness is more of a ‘state’ that is made up of many parts and it doesn’t necessarily imply you are doing anything particular at all.

It’s perfectly possible to be washing the dishes and be happy whereas not many people would find that a particularly pleasurable experience.

It gets even more interesting when you consider the obvious flip side which suggests the denial of pleasure can increase long-term happiness levels.

Think back to a time when you have shown real discipline and forgone immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Maybe you skipped on the chocolate cake when you were on a diet. Or said no to that tempting beer because you were driving. Or even resisted the urge to give the middle finger to the lunatic that almost wiped you out at the intersection.

I would wager good money that when you did such a thing you felt good afterward. Sure you sacrificed some immediate pleasure, but you gave that up for the greater good. That feeling of satisfaction would have stayed with you way longer than the momentary pleasure you would have felt.

Over the last 7 weeks whilst I’ve been engaging in the Primal Blueprint I’ve completely cut out pasta, rice, confectionery (cakes and candy), bread, milk, corn, pulses, potatoes and almost every product that contains grains such as wheat, barley, oats etc.

I have shunned some meals I really adore and eaten others I’d have previously abhorred.

However, I haven’t seen the improvements in overall well-being that I expected and seemed to happen with everybody else. I’m no longer having the huge crashes in energy that I was experiencing in the first few weeks, but that’s hardly worth the sacrifices I’ve undertaken, is it?

I actually think it may well be. I do feel a certain sense of achievement even though in the league table of amazing human accomplishment it really isn’t going to threaten the top spots or have people clamoring to hire me to speak to their organization.

That doesn’t matter to me though because I did what I said I would and definitely feel good about that.

Today I want to step things up another notch and see if the sense of satisfaction is in proportion to the sacrifice undertaken as I suspect it is.

The one thing I didn’t give up entirely was alcohol. On the Primal Blueprint some alcohol is ok, especially in the form of wine, but I think I took this a bit too far by deciding I could incorporate beer too.

I have to admit I love a nice cold beer at the end of a work day. I can’t drink a lot of the stuff and after more than 2 I start to feel dehydrated and don’t enjoy it at all. Therefore, I’ve not been getting as drunk as a skunk every night, but I’ve probably averaged a can a day which is a can a day too much for being truly Primal.

I was speaking to my good friend Bob Poole about this the other day. Bob started the Paleo approach shortly before I adopted the Primal Blueprint (the two approaches are very similar). He has seen fantastic results, especially with dropping a load of weight and gaining more energy.

I told him that before I quit this thing (my original plan was to do it for 30 days),  I wanted to have one last push and make sure it wasn’t the alcohol that was stopping me seeing the results I wanted.

I could also kill two birds with one stone and also conduct my own little experiment into happiness.

On the 19th October our best friends arrive from the UK for a two week stay, which gives me exactly 4 weeks to go alcohol free. I don’t think I’ve gone 4 weeks without drinking since I was 16 so this could be very interesting and may even tougher than giving up certain foods.

However, I think it will be really satisfying when I pull it off because it ‘s even more outside my comfort zone than giving up all the other good stuff.

Bob has agreed to commit likewise and also blog about it. He does celebrate his birthday in the middle of the period so we have agreed we can drink on one occasion if we want to. Although for me that will mean a glass of wine, because beer is definitely off the menu completely.

I doubt very much this will give me the inside track on happiness and have philosophers falling at me fight in supplication, but it should be fun to see how it pans out.

What about you, do you fancy joining me?

What is the one thing that if you quit for 28 days would give you a real sense of achievement? I’m not asking you to quit for life, just join me for 4 weeks starting on Tuesday 21st September and see how you feel at the end.

Don’t be a wuss, let me know you’re up for it in the comments section and we can keep each other accountable.