“Are you happy?” I asked this question as a part of my assessment for a new client. Sara replied “What do you mean?” Like all the time or just at home?” I said “Overall, are you happy? Or do you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression or anger? Do you like your job, have a good relationship with your husband and have plenty of social time with friends? Are you happy?” Sara looked down at her hands and took a few moments “I guess so.” She replied.
Sara was looking to lose 15 to 20 pounds and get in shape. She had stopped working out when she started a new job and just never returned to it. She complained about a “muffin top” look to her body that she was desperate to change. All of this added up to a few points that were worth mentioning during my assessment. The quality of her life, the quality of significant relationships and her social activity had the potential to increase her level of happiness or not. This is an important but often overlooked detail, primarily because the two factors, happiness and weight loss are rarely discussed together in a fitness setting. However, happiness can predict how successful you may be in your weight loss goals.
The pursuit of happiness is a lifetime goal, we all seek to be happier and it seems obvious right? Of course I want to be happy? Why wouldn’t I want to be happy? Life coaches, yogis, psychologists and school teachers all talk about and know how important happiness is in our lives. Not many would assume that happiness would have anything to do with losing weight. Unless of course, you consider how happy you would be after you lose the weight you want to lose. However, as the old adage goes; you have to act as if you have already attained that state before it becomes a part of your reality. It is a problem though when you strive for all the things, people and situations you think will make you happy only to realize that none of it actually made you happy at all. In fact, those things, people and situations may have actually added more stress and concern to your life.
In our pursuit of happiness we can get sidetracked. Our responsibilities, our kids, our jobs can in fact, bring us down emotionally. This all too familiar story of, too much going on and not enough time spent on things we love to do, scenario can set your weight loss goals up for failure.
When we are looking for weight loss, fitness or peak performance we need to also look at our current emotional status. How we feel directly corresponds to how our brains are functioning and how our bodies are creating or processing certain hormones and chemicals. If you want to lose weight it’s a good idea to focus on those things that make you happy. Being happy automatically drops cortisol and encourages the production of certain feel good brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. This is crucial to the weight loss process. Just think of how you feel when you fall in love or find a perfect friend, weight naturally drops off with little or no effort.
Feeling stuck in your job or lacking love in your relationships can have the exact opposite effect on your body. The added stress of trying to cope with life situations that make it difficult to function happily can increase the dreaded cortisol levels and drop serotonin instantly. This affects how much fat you store on your body and how quickly you can use it for energy. Over time you may begin to feel drained or fatigued, on edge or unsafe. You may acquire some negative habits as coping strategies like craving carbohydrates or sugars to give you the high your brain is desperate to feel, and perpetuate the negative cycle.
To lose weight or just make sure you don’t put yourself in the position to gain weight, do a happiness check in with yourself. Take your “emotional temperature” when getting ready for work, chatting with friends or spending time with your spouse. If you begin to feel a little low or depressed about any of it start asking yourself some questions about how you might be able to change those feelings. If there are things you can do for instance, like changing your job, enjoying the company of different friends or having an honest discussion about your relationship with your spouse, then it’s a good idea to take action and do it. If your circumstances require you to put up with things that don’t make you happy right now, ask yourself if you can change them in the future. Often the concept of hope can provide the impetus for change at a later date and increase your chances for happiness.
You can also implement a plan to spend more time on the things that do make you happy. If you enjoy painting, golfing or working out. Try to plan time to do them. I have suggested to many of my clients, to get up thirty minutes earlier to meditate, write or draw before their day begins to set the tone. Getting your “happy” in doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. Many of my clients prefer to take a long walk at their lunch break and eat at their desk later. Take a short break to call a friend, watch a dog play outside or take a quick look at pictures of your kids. Any and all things that make you happy are worthy of contemplation. I have seen clients create a vision board of what they do want in their life that would make them happy.
In any case your effort to see, think and feel yourself to be happy will help if you want to lose weight. Remember you are worth that effort and you will be so happy you spent the time to figure it out =) Good Luck.