I’m a staunch believer in the notion that our mental health is intrinsically linked to our physical well-being. When grief, anxiety, and depression are left untreated, they have a cunning way of exhibiting themselves in our bodies. Our hair becomes brittle when we’re under stress. Our nails weaken, our teeth suffer, and our skin reveals our anguish. Our immune systems decline, and illnesses often arrive.
Our minds are fickle, intricately designed, amazing things. They’re frustrating and beautiful at once. But when we rely more on our brains than our intuition, we place ourselves in danger of profound mental and emotional stress that leads to a whole litany of health problems. And yet, our tendency to rationalize is unrelenting, and we often allow our minds to overshadow our hearts.
Allow me to illustrate. Say you happen upon a piece of art that strikes you viscerally. Its impact on you is immediate and inexplicable: You have butterflies in your stomach. Your heart quickens. You’re enchanted, and you smile without realizing it. You feel the need to buy it, then and there, but it’s on the expensive side and while you can afford it, guilt and logic kick into high gear. “Are you insane?” you ask yourself. “This really isn’t the right time to be spending money on art. You should be saving your money. You never know what might happen!” The more you think about it, the more you convince yourself that it would be an unwise, indulgent purchase.
A month later, you stroll by the same gallery and see the piece now prominently displayed in the window. Once again, you can’t explain what it does to you—the way it makes you calm and happy and excited and grateful for humanity and the wonders of the world all at once. Something tells you that you don’t just want this piece, you need it. You make the purchase. You take it home. You hang it, and the sight of it brings you pure joy. From then on, the piece takes on a value that you didn’t think was possible. It soothes you when you’re anxious. It inspires you when you’re lost. It excites you when you’re down, and it restores you when you’re weary. Simply staring at it becomes a sanctuary of sorts, and a lifesaver at times. Whatever doubts you had about the purchase disappear. In fact, you wonder why you waited so long to get it. Instead of going through the stress and self-reproach your logic created, you should have listened to your instincts. There was a reason for that initial visceral reaction: Your heart was telling you what it needed for nourishment.
I’ve always loved the expression “Less Standing, More Dancing.” To me, it suggests that we should be more open to happiness, rather than sitting around and contemplating the consequences of what might happen if we give in to our impulses and intuition. Who cares if we look silly dancing while we’re on the dance floor? Who cares if we might fall? We’re having a damn fine time, and that’s what truly matters.
We’re born happy. We’re born to enjoy life. Too often, however, we repress ourselves out of shame and guilt and fear and uncertainty. In doing so, we rob ourselves of the wonderful, soul-enriching feelings we were put on this planet to experience.
I was a serial second-guesser for a good, long time. Growing up around adults who had little respect or interest in my thoughts and feelings, I was convinced that I was irrelevant and wrong three-quarters of the time. My need for validation followed me into adulthood. For many years, I felt the need to consult with others before approaching anything that might offer me pleasure, security, or a boost in self-confidence. I was married more than once, and, in every marriage, my spouse became my father, my guardian, my accountant, and my instructor—basically, the person who made most of my decisions for me. For many years, I also discussed nearly every decision I had to make with friends, family members, coaches, and therapists, even when I knew, deep down, what the best choice would be for me. After years of therapy, I’ve managed to gain the self-esteem I need to not only make decisions by myself but to trust my instincts and follow through with what I know will lead to a greater sense of well-being. Don’t get me wrong: I still doubt myself from time to time, but I lean more on intuition than I ever have—and have been rewarded considerably in return.
And that piece of art? It looks stunning in my living room.
I’ll leave you with this: Chase what brings you bliss. Your health will thank you for it.