Health, Happiness, and Whole Lot of Other Things Are Interrelated.

January 18, 2010

Health, happiness, and a whole lot of other things are interrelated – in more ways than many people may realize. Happy people tend to be healthier. Healthy people tend to be happier. Happy healthy people tend to have better lives. Health and happiness are mainly a choice – coming from within (reflecting and expressing what we most often choose to think, feel, and do).

Health is more than just the absence of pain, injury, illness, or obvious dysfunction. Health is many things – the totality of which results in being “whole” and having (holistic) integrity. Health could be viewed as a balanced and supportive relationship (to ourselves, others, and the world around us). Physical, emotional, psychological, and relational (including financial) health and relationships are key components of wealth and wisdom (of any kind). I do not include “spiritual”(health) since that is an essentially meaningless term; there is nothing that is NOT “spiritual”. Everything is “energy” (of some kind).

An e-motion is energy in motion. Emotions are both physical and metaphysical (subjective experiences). What and how we feel affects our physiology – starting with our nervous and endocrine systems. Our feelings influence our hormones, neuropeptides, and the dominance of our sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system responses as much as the other way around. Being calm, peaceful, happy, and/or joyful is supportive to health. Sadness, anger, fear, and other “negative” emotions” produce pathological biochemistry and disease. When we are “healthy”, we are usually “well” in many ways. Wellness is more than the absence of dis-ease. Wellness is a state of integrity, harmony, and balance.

Our environment has a huge impact on our health, emotions, and ability to think clearly and function effectively. Our environment is both internal and external. Of the two, the internal is more important and impactful. Our own (internal conscious and subconscious) thoughts, emotions, beliefs, “programming”, and (habitual) patterns of perception have greater and more frequent access to and influence on our cells and our lives than diet, exercise, or (external) environmental factors (including “toxins” and “toxic” people).

Happiness and other “positive” emotions are independent of external circumstances. They are the result of internal conditions, not external ones. There are many examples of people maintaining positive outlooks and expectations for NO reason other than choice. While a favorable and supportive exterior physical and social environment is preferable, outside conditions are seldom as essential or influential as internal interpretation, integration, extrapolation, and expression.

Optimal performance is often said to require optimum conditions – including nutrition. Human society is built around many things – the first of which is food. Whoever controls food (and water) can control just about everything else. The quantity, quality, timing, and attitude toward food intake contributes to both physical and mental capabilities. Along with blood sugar and biochemistry (“building blocks” and balance), food also affects mood and emotions.

People eat for many reasons. First and foremost, food is fuel. Fuel allows us to access and harness energy. Energy cannot be created; it can only be converted (from one form to another). Emotions are a type of energy (output, release, and expression). Food comes in many forms. Not all food (or fuel) is physical or enters through our mouths. We “feed” upon (and require) many things to “fuel” us. Humans are the only known living creatures that choose what to eat (and what not to) based upon (chosen or conditioned) beliefs rather than actual needs, opportunities, or even “preferences”.

We are what we eat” vs. “We think therefore we are

While what we eat IS (often) important, we are clearly NOT (just) what we eat. We are not even what we absorb, assimilate, use – and identify with. Our alimentary tract (from mouth to anus) is essentially outside us – and still part of the external environment. Our bodies are in some ways like donuts – and food enters and exits through a (connected) hole. It is not what we eat, but what and how much we are able to keep, utilize, and/or eliminate that matters more. More important still, is what we think and feel about what goes into (and out of) our mouths and bodies – and what we do (as a result).

Internal imprints are usually more relevant than external “reality”. Perception tends to reflect projection (of world views – regarding both oneself and anything or anyone outside and/or not oneself). Some things are filtered and/or found more or less important (or interesting) than others. To improve memory, make a choice to pay more attention. Make things matter more. Give them more importance. Humans tend to know, learn, and like some things more than others. Memories (and consciousness) are less “stored” than “processed”.

The new science of epigenetics has found that DNA does not determine destiny; thoughts and emotions do. Cell membranes determine genetic transcription. This means that on a cellular level, it is not only (inherent or changing) conditions (or materials) but choices that to a large degree controls who we are. This implies that self-responsibility is required – and that we cannot blame anyone or anything. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always choosing (almost every aspect of) our being. Although we are in many ways like robots running automatically on prior programming, it is possible to increasingly make conscious choices.

NONE of the cells in our bodies are more than a few years old. We have the potential to (literally) recreate ourselves anew (into something better – or worse) over time. Like all of life, we are “meant” to (adapt and) “evolve”. There are many ways to grow. Among the most important are in understanding and responsibility.

There are probably more books written (and opinions) about choosing, cooking or otherwise preparing, and consuming food, nutrition, and other things we eat, drink, or otherwise intake than anything else – including religion. The amount of diversity and disagreement between “experts” (each with research and results to back their claims) indicates that what we put in our mouths is obviously NOT as crucial as what we put into our minds.

In the United States, those who actually eat (mainly) fresh produce are a minority. Americans also prefer (sweet) fruits over vegetables. While ALL “experts” agree that for humans there are essential amino acids (the building blocks for protein) and essential fatty acids, yet NO essential carbohydrates, some “experts” still insist upon advocating diets high in carbs (and simple sugars). Modern agriculture tends to revolve around growing, consuming, and including in almost everything packed, a very small selection of (highly processed) grains more than an infinitely larger and more beneficial range of vegetables – which is part of the reason for the amount of obesity, diabetes, allergies, and other food-related health problems even among those who do not over-indulge in the abundance of “food” most have available.

Food is not all that different from a drug – and it may act as medicine or poison depending upon how much of what is taken how often by any given individual. There is no one right diet, exercise, or anything else for everyone. Everything in life is “custom” – and usually changes over time. But some choices are generally more supportive than others.

While grains now are a key component in many people’s diets, it’s important to know that humans did NOT evolve as grass eaters – and that it is NOT an ideal food for us (in any form). If it were, we would be far better off harvesting and eating prairie grass, which naturally survives fire, flood, drought, insects, and just about everything else farmers fight for the few grasses they choose to grow. Prairie grass offers higher nutritional value (and even better taste) than any of the grains commercially grown – at tremendous cost, with fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and corporate exploitation of both producers and consumers. Hemp and bamboo are two other plants that we would be wise to grow and use (much) more of (commercially).

While I oppose factory farming, I am not opposed to eating (or killing for) meat – and have done so myself. Unlike many, I have not always relied on others to do my “dirty work” for me (out of my sight). I have met my meat, and know where it comes from. I am aware that humans are not the only Earthlings on this planet and recognize that each pound of flesh requires many more pounds of vegetation – and that eating mainly raw, fresh, unprocessed foods lower on the food chain has many benefits – for individuals, society, and the planet. I do not, however, think that a strictly “vegetarian” diet is ideal (for everyone). I do think that many people’s preference for types and amount of animals eaten NEEDS to change.

Most current commercial methods of hunting, fishing, and raising animals for food directly contribute to environmental destruction, pollution, climate change, and quite possibly to our eventual extinction. Factory farming, in particular, is not only “cruel”, but is also a reason that many humans do not have enough to eat – while others eat far too much. Most domesticated crops are grown for livestock rather than human consumption. Many non-domesticated plants are killed so that domesticated crops can be grown or so that livestock can graze. Most of what is grown is done with short-term financial profit as the primary motive rather than nutritional value or (either actual, maximum, or sustainable) ability to actually feed, clothe, power, or provide for anyone.

Plants are alive and have consciousness – but they do not have nervous systems (and thus do not feel pain or suffering – at least the way we and the animals we eat do). Plants do not need nervous systems because they do not move (away from danger). Neither we, nor they, need to be “nervous” about us eating them. Eating an animal results in killing and eating many more plants than if we just ate plants (directly).

Predation in nature is mainly for population control. The only real predator of humans is other humans. While some species do kill, eat, and sometimes even seemingly play with (or even torture) other animals, violence in nature is almost always the minimal amount required to preserve balance and survival (for all) – and prevent further or worse violence in the future.

While there are many people today who choose to eat primarily “vegan” (non-animal) or (exclusively) “raw” (uncooked but not necessarily “unprocessed”) foods, there is NO evidence of ANY human society EVER doing so – for more than a short time. Any given diet may work for an individual, at least for a while, but human evolution takes time. Even other primates (like our close relatives, chimpanzees) kill and eat meat. Humans have been cooking various things they eat for as long as they have had fire. While it is true that most enzymes tend to be killed at temperatures over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, this does not mean all food must be cold and uncooked to still be “alive” or good for us. Some foods cannot be properly digested without cooking.

Individual human choices about eating affect not only personal health and happiness, but also the potential future of the planet (and all on it). Thinking and eating go together. No matter what you do or do not buy, eat, and drink, please think about it – in terms that will (most) benefit you and all life on the planet (in the long term). What you think, feel, and do matters – far more than you know.

© 2010 – 2015, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

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