Cultivating Psycho-physiological Happiness of Body & Mind: How to Stay Thick-skinned to Undue Criticism

In today’s increasingly connected world, one of the key challenges facing humans is to maintain and sustain healthy social relationships with the people around us. As a human, we often come across or interact with a range of complex situations and difficult people that trigger negative vibes and inject pessimistic feelings to our emotional, psychological and physical state of mind. Social ills like jealousy, grudges, distrust and doubts are widespread these days. What has added fuel to these life worries is the attitude of the people towards forming opinion and being judgmental too early about the actions of the others. In the wake of differing perception of the people about you that could be fully or partially representative of or absolutely contrary to your very personality, it would be senseless to waste energy living up to their expectations and keep everyone around us happy at all times.

Secondly, the people’s judgment about you is not necessarily a representation of what you think but what they think. So you shouldn’t at all burden yourself worrying about what others think about you. Because, no matter what you do, you can still be judged or stereotyped on even petty stuff about you – such as your hair style, clothes your wear, food you like or even the music you listen to. Such people would simply build some skewed perception about you based on their understanding of your life. So what is people’s perception about you, it’s not your headache. Since you can’t change their perception, you should not blow you mind with their confusion either. I believe, you are simply incomprehensible to them. For that reason, it would be useless to waste time explaining your position and defending your actions or even justifying your personal preference/choices to the people who have no idea about your life struggles, what you went through and the cost you paid to become what you are today. Consequently, you should think about – ‘how could you actually stop you from being YOURSELF’. But if you do so, you are simply not ’YOU’.

I believe, being able to understand and accept difference of opinion serves as a basis for saving many precious relations. Even though when two biological brothers/sisters don’t necessarily think alike, how come people expect others to be behaving the same way as they do. Had all people have similar thinking, life would’ve been much easier. So I believe, it’s perfectly natural to be different and living your inner-self as long as your actions represent ethically acceptable and legally responsible behaviour. This at least works for me. On a brighter side of your life, you would also come across people who won’t quickly judge you at the first place. They would understand your feelings, value your contribution and acknowledge the difference of opinion.

As a whole, how does this destroy your own course of life happiness? and given the challenges behind maintaining and sustaining social relationships, how to stay happy in all the circumstances? This in fact needs an understanding of the notion of happiness. Happiness is quite a subjective perspective, so everyone has their own definition of happiness. Some attribute to the accumulation of wealth and material gains, while some equate happiness to the inner peace of mind and to some, it is a pleasure to be derived through name and fame. I personally characterize happiness as living a life purpose. Being a subjective element of human psyche, it is very difficult to quantify happiness in clearly measurable terms. In my view of its quantification, I believe, it’s a qualitative function of listening to or acting as per your inner state of mind and living your heart to the fullest of its feelings. If you feel like roughly quantifying happiness, you need to measure the qualitative essence of the pleasure/excitement ingrained in your actions or the events that happen in your life and actually make you happy. In my quest to measure (to some extent) the mysterious concept of happiness, I have come up with two formulae. One that endeavors to measure direct happiness linked to the joyful events, while the other one measures indirect happiness (i.e. other way around) through improved emotional resilience and mental control on the hardships encountered, leading to less worries and reduced psycho-physiological sufferings.

One very simple example I can relate to describe DIRECT HAPPINESS is the excitement of going to a water park. Four friends namely, FIS, AMS, MKT and GRD decided to go to Water Park on a weekend. We assume that the minimum by default enjoyment (score) to be derived as part of this experience is ‘5’ for each of them. We further assume that each of these individuals have varied enjoyment scores based on their unique qualitative perception about the water park experience. We assume, AMS is the most excited person among all the friends and hence has the highest enjoyment perception score of ‘9’ on a scale of ‘10’. This makes AMS the happiest among all the friends with overall happiness score of 5 x 9 = 45. This is because AMS’ qualitative perception (enjoyment or value) derived out of the water park experience was more than any of his other friends.

DIRECT HAPPINESS = Minimum Pleasure or Enjoyment to be Potentially Derived Out of a Joyful Event x Individual’s Qualitative Perception (Enjoyment) About that Event

Individuals

Minimum Pleasure/ Excitement to be Derived (by default)

Qualitative Enjoyment/ Perception of Individual Group Members (on a scale of 10)

Overall Happiness Score (out of 50)

FIS 5 5 25
AMS 5 9 45 (The Happiest)
MKT 5 7 35
GRD 5 8 40

One more example I can relate to describe INDIRECT HAPPINESS status of the 4 friends is the fear of being trapped in a bushfire incident. In this case, we assume that the minimal by default fear or suffering to be caused can be quantified by a score of ‘5’ for each. We further assume that each of the 4 friends have varied fear/panic levels based on their unique qualitative fear perception about the bushfire incident. We assume, GRD has the highest fear perception score of ‘9’ on a scale of ‘10’ and hence he would suffer the most among all his friends, whereas MKT being the least worried person would suffer/worry the least among his friends. Now, if we translate their fear perceptions in terms of their indirect happiness, MKT was indirectly the happiest person when viewed other way around as the disastrous bush fire incident affected him the least.

INDIRECT HAPPINESS = Minimal Fear or Suffering to be Caused By a Disastrous Event x Individual’s Qualitative Perception of Fear About that Disastrous Event

Individuals

Minimum Sufferings To Be Caused (by default) Qualitative Fear Perception of Individual Group Members (on a scale of 10)

Overall Fear (Panic) Score (out of 50)

FIS 5 6 30
AMS 5 7 35
MKT 5 5 25 (Indirectly the happiest)
GRD 5 9 45

Happiness has not always necessarily to do with possession of money. While some people claim to be happy owing to their being in control of everything with the money they have. I believe this is also, to some extent, a subjective matter but the reality of the matter is – money can’t necessarily buy them integrity, respect and trust of the people and the values like true character, etiquettes, integrity and morality could still be lacking in them. Such people pretend to be living in a make-believe world of being content and happy. The fact of the matter is – when you grow older, at some point in life, you do realize that the real happiness is not in leading a lavish lifestyle, having luxury cars and enjoying executive positions. Nevertheless if it does, such feelings of extreme luxury are mostly short-lived. If happiness only has to do with wealth and material gains, you would have never seen any poor happy.

In view of the same mindset, you might have observed one thing among the extremely rich people – despite being bestowed with everything which a common man can hardly dream of – they eventually feel something is missing in their life. Even though they earned extraordinary name and fame, yet they feel unfulfilled. Comes then in their life is a desire to make a social impact by initiating a philanthropic effort or social cause. Now, why is this?? I believe achieving psycho-physiological satisfaction of body & mind is actually your ultimate happiness bottom-line as humans. This psycho-physiological wellbeing necessitates living a life purpose, at minimum a social purpose and a personal purpose. A social purpose can be achieved through societal contribution, taking the form of philanthropy or social cause. At the personal front, the most crucial aspect towards achieving psycho-physiological wellbeing is to build and maintain trustworthy relationship with the friends and colleagues, and equally important is to spend quality time with family members and loved ones, thereby making these moments a lifelong joy.

Life is a rich mix of pains and gains. I believe, life is like a checkerboard where black squares represent pains and white squares represent gains. The only difference is that the arrangement of squares is known in case of the checkerboard, whereas for humans, these black and white squares are irregularly and unequally lined-up in your real life. While the black squares trigger worries and white squares activate happiness in the life, there is certainly some unknown and unequal proportion of both the flavors in your life. On a brighter side of life happiness, it has principally a lot to do with qualitative perception of your much-loved actions, be it earning wealth, gaining name & fame, being in a loving relationship, concerned about social causes or helping people in need, all depends on your happiness taste buds. However, on the darker side of life, if you often encounter miseries, sufferings, hardships and bad lucks in your life, you obviously have no control on what happens in your life. Nonetheless, you do have a great control on how you emotionally react to the adversities and misfortunes coming on your way to leading a happy life. By being cool, calm and collected on your emotional front, you could help alleviate the impact of physical and mental sufferings, should you face these at any point in your life. This is because whatever happens to you, good or bad, the intensity of the hardship or the pleasure derived out of that event is primarily a qualitative perception of your mind or emotions. That is to say, how you trick your mind into taking up the challenge or making most of the luxury based on the situation encountered.

While food is what your body needs, but what your mind needs is also something you need to be equally conscious of. What you hear, what you see and the people you interact with, all of these form the basis of your thought process and these could either negatively or positively nourish your mental, emotional and spiritual state of mind and subsequently guide your physical actions and shape your overall character and personality. While human body is equipped with a natural mechanism that enables expulsion of nitrogenous waste from the body, however, humans are not naturally gifted or fitted with any body part or organ that could automatically vent-out mental toxins which humans inject or get injected into their mind through negative vibes, thoughts or feelings that trigger bad emotions and consequently lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

Today science has proved that if you endeavor to stay cool and calm, avoiding negative thoughts and feelings for at least 1 day, it will have a positive impact on your body & mind in terms of productive and creative thinking and improved intellect. This is because it would enable better functioning of body & mind through improved blood circulation and body physiology. Imagine a thinking machine of small size and delicate nature, the human brain, claiming a 20% share of the energy in your body all alone, how important the health of this thought process machine would be towards your psycho-physiological wellbeing and happiness.

To me, human beings are similar to personal computers that have hardware and software parts. In case of computer, a software program serves as a set of machine instructions that control computer operations, while in case of the humans, a human brain is analogous to a software program that controls the overall functioning of the body organs. Also, it is your brain where social, cultural and in some cases religious thoughts are programmed which guide your shared social, physical and emotional behaviour. Therefore, when it comes to wellness of human body & mind, a positive and happy mind forms the basis for better functioning of the human body organs and maintaining psycho-physiological happiness.

While we still attribute money to be our primary problem solver, buying us relief and happiness. In today’s materialistic and selfish world, this has unfortunately become a reality, nevertheless, I have observed the life of some people, who despite being well-off, still struggle to be happy. Upon my digging deeper into their behaviour, I came up with a conclusion that led me to some commonalities in their personality, like:

  • Undue interference/involvement in the personal affairs of their friends, colleagues and people around them.
  • Invading other’s privacy and personal space.
  • Imposing their opinion and giving unsolicited advice.
  • Checking-on or collecting personal information of their friends, acquaintances and colleagues.
  • Continually relating and comparing themselves with others, equating their habits, life style and wealth with their friends and coworkers.

Above behaviors generate the feelings of thanklessness and trigger extreme dissatisfaction of life as making most of whatever you have and being grateful in all the circumstances is one of the keys to a content and prosperous life. This make it evident that people, despite in possession of more or less all the necessities of life and even the luxuries, they still have to struggle with happiness because they don’t mind their own business but believe in superimposing their nature, friendship and relationship as their right to exercise on others, be it their friends, colleagues or partners. Likewise, there are some people who always try to dig out faults in others rather than looking at the flaws in their own personality. Such mindset detriments their inner sense of self-accountability, hence killing their own moral conscience and happiness. In fact, their own toxic thinking becomes their silent enemy. For them, one way to avoid this behavior is to look for negatives in within and positives in the people around them, particularly in the people they feel envious of or are in race with. This approach would at least help them rejuvenate their own positive thinking, enabling them to keep their nose out of others and focus on their own actions.

It is wise to expect that life is sometimes unfair in terms of unfair treatment of the people around you, their unfair expectations, unfair advantage they take out of your good behaviour, taking you for-granted in an unfair manner and so on. In such instances, it’s perfectly fine to say ‘NO’, and in doing so, you don’t need to be apologetic. If you feel you can’t say ‘NO’, people will take you for-granted and you will end up becoming less important in their eyes. Remember, no one can take you for-granted without your permission. But if you continue to let people take you for-granted amidst the fear of their displeasure and trying to keep everyone happy, people will continue to exploit you and you will continue to suffer.

Given that much of unfairness in life caused by varying behaviour of the people, it would be absolutely unfair to be ruled by the fear of being pessimistically or illogically judged by the people. So if you ought to be the withstander of life unfairness, embrace with courage whatever comes to your life – don’t look back, don’t care, move on. We often think we are not strong enough to face unfairness of life, but trust me, we humans are stronger than we think and capable of achieving a lot more than what we believe. While you certainly ‘DON’T’ have a control on what happens in your life, but you ‘DO’ have a control on how you withstand the aftershocks of catastrophes that may ever occur in your life. So what – if something tragic occurs, it’s not all over – in fact the real test of your emotional resilience begins here. So if you ever get stuck in a storm – how you stay calm and focused on your life purpose, is where the magic of your life shows up, making you a person capable of successfully weathering the storm by being in control of your emotional inner-self and chalking-out your own course of destiny.

While other people’s perception doesn’t always guide your reality, however, the moment you self-doubt your own actions, people tend to superimpose their own doubts, bring in their version of judgment and criticize your actions. No matter, due or undue, criticism by the people is mostly based on their lack of knowledge or incompatible value system or sometimes because of lack of contextual information behind your actions. Surprisingly in some cases, some people would still judge you on your inactions. Be it anything, if the people’s criticism emotionally triggers you then it’s your problem, not theirs’, because technically speaking, it’s affecting your life, not theirs’. While, to some people, judging other people and emitting negative vibes are amongst their favorite businesses on an ongoing basis, so having a clarity of the life purpose and goals is the key to avoiding mental imbalance caused to you when you are subject to the feelings of being ill-judged, misperceived or opinionated.

In the end, it is entirely up to you how you truly demonstrate your emotional willpower towards achieving what you accept for you and not what others choose for you. Then comes the time when you feel that the happiness in your life is not dictated by the opinion of the people but by the virtue of your inner self-control. By mapping and relating above events with your life, you should be able to master the art of staying happy and productive at all times and in all the circumstances.

REMEMBER!!!You are the master of your own life happiness. It’s entirely up to you, whether you turn your life a hell living or perfect dwelling. Chalk-out your own life course of action. Live your 100%, give your 100%, it’s your life 100%, am serious 100%..

 

Views expressed in this article represents writer’s personal opinion based on his knowledge, learnings and life experiences. Readers may disagree.

The writer is a former Assistant Director at Higher Education Commission, Pakistan and presently PhD Scholar at University of Technology, Sydney. He can be reached at junaidshaikh14686@gmail.com. 

 

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