Q: Money can’t buy happiness. I know, because I have plenty of it. But what can I do to be happier? I realize life is short and I don’t want to miss out on enjoying it.
A: What makes people happy? More than 100 questions were asked of 1,280 Americans ages 13-24 in 2007 (by the Associated Press and MTV). As with people of all ages, relationships with family and friends are the greatest source of happiness. Money was not high on the list, nor was sex. Studies of U.S. adults also found that money does not buy happiness: The average person’s income more than doubled between 1957 and 2002, but the percent of people who described themselves as “very happy” remained the same. Poor people are less likely to be happy than people who have their basic needs met, but wealthy people aren’t happier. People who have social networks live longer than lonely people. Married people are happier than those without a partner.
A study of identical twins separated at birth and raised in different families found that genetics determines about 50 percent of our happiness level and we have a mind-set that influences our happiness. Lottery winners and paraplegics who lose the use of their legs return to their levels of happiness before the big change. But we can use various ways to become happier. These include getting enough sleep and exercise, spending time with people we love, keeping a gratitude journal, smiling, forgiving people, doing service for others, learning and creating, and meditation or prayer.
Q: I’ve seen CAM mentioned in Lotus Guide. What exactly is complementary and alternative medicine?
A: Western medicine often relies on drugs and surgery and focuses on a specific problem rather than the whole person, neglecting emotion and belief. The placebo effect in drug trials is dismissed, although it should be carefully studied to learn how belief affects our health. Scientists such as Candace Pert, PhD, helped develop the science of psychoneuroimmunology, which explains how emotions affect the body through the cell receptors. Negative stress emotions (cortisol) are implicated in many diseases as chronic arousal diminishes the immune system: CAM provides ways that are not part of conventional medicine to diminish stress.
CAM categories, as defined by the National Institutes of Health NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), include:
1.Whole medical systems such as homeopathy, ayurveda, or traditional Chinese medicine;
2.Mind-body medicine such as patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy;
3.Biologically based remedies, including herbs, foods, and vitamins;
4.Manipulative and body-based practices, including chiropractic and massage;
- Energy-field medicine such as Qigong, Reiki, and therapeutic touch.
My favorite CAM book is Prescription for Natural Cures by James Balch, MD, and Mark Stengler, ND. It includes vitamins, herbs, homeopathy, acupressure, bodywork, flower remedies, and food. For the latest research see http://nccam.nih.gov/health.
Q: I am trying to stop a pattern of taking in people’s illnesses and stuff that floats around them, trying to not go into the victim part of me anymore. How can I be less sensitive?
A: Thought/belief/personality is extremely powerful. One of the personalities in someone with multiple personality disorder can have diabetes, and the other not. A third can require reading glasses, and the others not. One can have an allergy, and not the other. The power of belief is also evidenced in the placebo effect (about 40 percent) in drug trials and the ability of a hypnotic suggestion to create body changes, such as when a hypnotist tells the subject a pencil is a cigarette, touches him or her with it,and the person forms a blister.
I use visualizations a lot because they focus thought. To establish your boundaries, visualize being surrounded by an iridescent bubble filled with the vibrating colors of the aura borealis, energizing your field. Surround the bubble with roses, catcher’s mitts, or satellite dishes to capture outside energy before it permeates your bubble. After you’re around people, imagine blowing up the protective image with firecrackers and then set up new ones.
Q: I like a girl but I’m scared to ask her out. How can I get my courage up?
A: Suggest an activity that doesn’t have dating connotations and that’s not on a Friday or Saturday evening. Try lunch, a hike, a stroll through an art gallery, or other interest you share, as you would do with a guy friend.
Q: I’m a college student, but I haven’t had a real boyfriend yet. What’s up?
A: It looks as if you’re expecting Prince Charming on his white horse. He’s not coming. You’re not perfect so you can’t expect a guy to match all the items on your list. We need to go to “boy/girl school,” where we learn about relationships and all they bring up from our unconscious fears and jealousy. Think of yourself as a psychologist or reporter studying the other gender and enjoying the discovery process, rather than thinking in terms of Mr. Right or how you’re performing.