U nder stress, many of us will turn to comfort foods, such as potato chips; ice cream, or chocolates. We have positive mental associations with those foods and we eat them in the belief that the act of ingestion will bring back that positive mental state. So we indulge in a pint of chocolate Häagen-Dazs, knowing that we don’t need the excess sugar, fat, or calories, yet feeling, momentarily, happy. A habit that has taken me only thirty years to finally see and, I think, finally break, is “eating as a way of saying ‘F*ck You.’” I may have had an argument with my wife, or I may have been driving all over Brooklyn in the pouring rain to visit different clients, or I may be pissed off at life in general, and that anger will magically turn into a dying need for two slices of pizza and a diet Coke. For years, stopping for a slice of pizza in between runs from point X to point Y was my way ingesting stress relief, of ‘ingesting’ happiness. But as I’ve learned the very-hard-way, this method of ‘happiness ingestion’ is counter-productive. Happiness-by-ingestion is a sure-fire way of making yourself unhappy since the more you indulge in this type of happiness, the more you will need to buy larger clothes to accommodate your expanding waistline. So if happiness is not stored in pint-sized containers labeled Häagen-Dazs, then what is the source of happiness? I realize that this will sound hokey but here is the answer: the source of happiness is you, because happiness comes from within.
Why does the response “happiness comes from within” sound like New Age bullshit? The problem has to do with our working definition of happiness, the definition we carry around in our heads that has been heavily influenced by consumerist society. Happiness is defined as something that comes from outside. Purchasing a new car will make you happy but purchasing a very expensive car that helps you to get the hot looking lady will make you even happier. Happiness comes from sex, or so we think. Sex can provide a feeling of connectedness between you and your lover. Sex can provide a release of tensions, a way of letting go of the stress of the day. But what you are left with isn’t happiness but an inner calmness, serenity, peacefulness. If that was our working definition of happiness, then happiness can, of course, come about as the result of a warm, loving sexual relationship but, in the absence of that relationship, inner calmness — happiness — can come from you.
For those who want to explore the idea of ‘happiness coming from within,’ I highly recommend that you listen to the podcast Separating Life’s Wheat From The Chaff.
When I checked the spelling of Häagen-Dazs, I found that the story of this ice cream brand sort of begins like a Borscht Belt joke. “Two Jews walk into an ice cream business…..” See Häagen-Dazs
act of ingestion will bring back that positive mental state: To some degree, this is the idea behind the ingestion of the Holy Eucharist and transubstantiation. One might even argue that the idea that the very notion that we can ‘ingest’ happiness can be traced back to this particular practice, the practice whereby one’s inner salvation comes from ingesting something that is outside one’s self, that must be given to you or, perhaps, purchased through tithing, and that by ingestion a magical inner transformation takes place.
New Age bullshit: I believe that much of what is labeled ‘New Age’ is, indeed, bullshit. There may be accidental kernels of truth lurking inside, but as too often happens in the land of freedom, new, innovative, interesting ideas quickly degrade into snake-oil multilevel marketing.
absence of that relationship: There can be non-sexual relationships that help us feel connected, calm, and peaceful. There is the relationship between you and a friend, you and a pet, and you and your garden. Yes. Your garden. You give to your garden. You nurture your garden and, over time, your garden gives back something to you, be it flowers, vegetables, etc. You can be in a relationship with your inner self through the practice of yoga and, through that, find an inner peace.