Rat Race: The Movie

>> Saturday

The little 46-second video below illustrates perfectly one of the chapters of Self-Help Stuff That Works called We've Been Duped. It represents the human tendency to become greedy, to want more than we have, and to feel unhappy about what we "lack."

What do you think you lack? What do you feel would make you happy if you attained it? Do you sometimes feel you're pushing yourself mindlessly toward your goal, like a frantic rat in a race for the cheese, never really satisfied no matter what you accomplish?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not into navel-gazing. I think it's important to have goals. A person with a goal can be much happier than a person with no goals. But pursuing goals can also make you miserable. It all depends on how you do it.

For a goal to improve your mood, it needs to be something you want rather than something you feel you should do. And you need to refresh your desire for the goal periodically. Since goals take awhile to achieve, it is easy for your clear and sincere desire for the goal to deteriorate into a dead feeling of urgently going through the motions but never getting there, and of always looking to some future attainment to make you happy.

It is completely natural to start out feeling enthusiastic about a new goal but then over time find yourself postponing your happiness in the present and in a sense, trading it for the promise of a happy time in the future. It is natural to make yourself miserable to be happy.

How can you avoid getting caught in the rat race? The first and most important thing you can do is catch yourself losing your happiness, and then reminding yourself you don't need much to be happy. (Read more about that here.)

You'll have to remind yourself again and again throughout your life. Many times in your life you will "come to." You'll wake up and realize you've been "running on automatic," just going through the motions, driving yourself to accomplish one thing after another all day long, feeling you "must" do all those things, without ever even thinking or remembering that a long time ago you actually wanted to. You don't feel alive any more.

When you notice you don't feel alive, remind yourself you don't have to achieve any particular goal to be happy. You can even give up on the goal if you like. You don't have to accomplish it. (Read more about that here.) These are things you have to remind yourself of, because although you might know this right now, you will forget. You might even forget by tomorrow, and feel unhappy.

Another great way to prevent yourself from the misery of your own built-in (and perfectly natural) greediness is to use the comparison principle. Change what you're comparing your own life to.

If you keep comparing your situation to something better, you'll be unsatisfied and driven to run the rat race until you drop. If you compare your situation to something worse, it makes you feel better, puts you in a better mood, relaxes you, and makes you feel more content.

You can re-compare your life to anything you want any time you want, and it will always change the way you feel. The comparison technique will never wear out.

Anyway, ponder these imponderables while you watch the video: Rat Race.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


Self-Generated Ecstasy

>> Monday

Nia is a way of exercising that combines movements from three healing arts (like yoga), three martial arts (like Aikido), and three forms of dance (like jazz dance). The music and movements are unique, and the end result is deep fun. Here's a ten minute video about it:

Nia Video

The important thing for our mood-raising purposes here is that this is a pleasure-based exercise. It generates pleasure during the exercise, as well as having the normal improved mood for a day or two afterwards. It is more moodraising than normal exercise, partly because of the psychological impact of the movements, and partly because of the unusual amount of motion variety.

Most adults suffer from motion variety deprivation. The range of motion and the variety of motions we normally use throughout the day is unnaturally limited. Even doing normal exercise, like a treadmill or indoor bike, is a limited, repetitive movement.

Over time, a lack of motion variety produces pain in the body (read more about this concept in the book, Pain Free). One hour of Nia will give you more motion variety than you've probably had in a year! I'm serious.

You can learn Nia at home, or you can take a local class. Given how few people know about Nia, it is surprising how ubiquitous the classes are. There are probably Nia classes near where you live. If not, or if you'd rather dance in the privacy of your home, here are some Nia DVDs:

The Nia Technique: Global Unity
Nia Unplugged
Nia Opal

You can find Nia classes in your area with the Nia Finder.

Adam Khan is the author of See Her Smile and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.


A Day of Ease

>> Saturday

In the old days, people used to have "nervous breakdowns." For awhile, they were out of commission. They couldn't function at their jobs or in their relationships. Back then the remedy was simply rest, quiet, and relaxation. They took a break from work, from chores, even from normal human relationships.

They just laid around and sometimes got up to eat or to go sit outside and listen to the birds chirping.

Imagine what it would be like to do that, and how slowly and leisurely you would move when you walked down the hall to get some food. You would have all the time in the world. There would be no need or desire to move at anything over half-speed, like you had completely stepped out of the rat race and none of it meant anything to you any more.

The assignment I have for you, in our quest to raise our moods, is to spend one of your next days off moving like a person who had a nervous breakdown back in the 1950s. And do this for a whole day.

Move slowly. Try not to be efficient about anything. Flagrantly waste time. Deliberately be as unhurried as you possibly can.

Watch very little or no TV that day. Television programs and advertisements make you mentally move quickly. And don't get on your computer. But if you want to do something physical, like mow the lawn or do the dishes, go right ahead, but only if you're doing it just to have something to do. Do not do it to "be productive," or because you feel you should. Don't do anything that day you feel you "should" do.

Let's call this exercise "a Day of Ease." The experience is so restorative, so peaceful, and so elevating, I think you'll be pleasantly astonished. The process is also illuminating.

Why? Because our perpetual efficiency is driven by a kind of greed — trying to cram as much in as we can — but perpetual greed wears on you and brings you down. The never-waste-a-moment mentality has become a deeply-ingrained habit of more more more — and it is so universal, most of the time we don't even notice that's the state we're living our lives in.

The Day of Ease exercise is a break from the pressure of this grinding greed. You've got to try it! Believe it or not, it's kind of hard to do. You'll keep forgetting. You'll find yourself walking quickly or being efficient with your time. This driven hurry is compulsive, and to that degree it is unhealthy.

When you are deliberate in an area you're normally compulsive, you have an opening to gain some freedom. You have choice. Like eating after fasting, you'll find you have a much better appreciation of what you're doing after taking a break from it.

You don't need a nervous breakdown to get a Day of Ease. Those days are over. In the 21st century you can relax just because it's healthy.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.



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