What is growth? What is health? What is happiness?

In the “About” section, I said that the goal of this blog is ” to support each other in our pursuit of health, happiness, and growth.” But what do “growth,” “health,” and “happiness” mean? These concepts mean different things to different people, and even to the same people at different times. As such, this blog will revisit each theme from a different angle over and over again, but for now I thought I’d share my basic understanding of what these words mean to me.

Health

In my experience, health is often most easily defined when it is lacking in some way. For instance, when I’m feeling under the weather, “health” could mean being able to breathe with an unobstructed nose, or if I have an ache, “health” is the state of being free of pain. In each of these cases, health is characterized by the absence of something added. However, when I’m paying attention on a better day, “health” may mean riding my bike up a large hill, swimming a great distance, or holding a yoga pose with presence and vibrancy. The common idea here is that health is what we experience when our body is working as it is meant to, or as we know it can under ideal circumstances.

The description of health that I’ve provided above is mainly concerned with physical health. Obviously, we can also talk about mental or emotional health, and these are all related and interconnected.

Happiness

Happiness can be thought of as emotional health. Most simply, to be happy is to feel good. However, too often a person’s happiness is allowed to depend on external circumstances. “I’m happy when things go my way.” “I will be happy when I get what I want.” This conditional happiness can feel good, but it can be accompanied by doubt, worry, and fear. “How long will I continue to get my way?” “I will be unhappy if things change.” In my experience, learning to let go of this conditional, outward-looking happiness and replace it with an unconditional, self-sustaining happiness has been a worthy pursuit. Does this mean I am always happy? No, of course not. Does it mean I don’t get upset when things I judge to be “bad” enter my awareness? Not at all. But through practice, I am learning to judge less, and even when I do judge, I am learning to dissociate from my negative feelings and thoughts and to just observe them with curiosity and compassion.

Growth

Change. Transformation. Development. These are words that come to mind when I think of growth. The world is a beautiful, crazy, complicated place. We will never know all there is to know. To the extent that what we know influences who we are, we are naturally growing every day, because we are learning every day. An important question then becomes what are we learning? Are we learning lessons that, if internalized, will bring us closer to health and happiness? Or are we learning lessons that leave us feeling isolated, fearful, and angry? And at the same time, what possibilities are there for unlearning unhelpful lessons from the past? If we have to grow every day, what can we do to ensure that we’re growing in ways that feel good?


 

I hope for this blog to provide a space for us to explore these ideas and teach each other ways of being in this world that optimize health, happiness, and growth. Please comment below with your thoughts and questions. I look forward to learning from you.

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