I want to feel good
This last week, my youngest daughter was visiting from New York. She is a newly minted “Family Nurse Practitioner” and is providing primary care at a Community Health Center in New York. She observed how many patients come in and want prescriptions for tranquilizers (Xanax, Valium, Ativan), pain pills, or stimulants (presumably for ADHD). “They tell me that when they take Xanax they feel good,” she said. She tells them—“Wanting to feel good is not an indication for Xanax!”
Many of my adolescent patients tell me the same thing about marijuana. “It makes me feel good”, they say. Of course, a glass of wine or a drink in the evening also makes adults “feel good”. After all, why serve alcohol at social gatherings? It’s a social lubricant. And, it makes people feel good.
All of these substances, whether prescribed or not, promote a temporary state of wellbeing. To some degree, whether they are legal or not, is a function of whether a group of scientists, politicians, and citizens have decided that they are safe to use. Many substances are safe in small quantities but can become dangerous in larger amounts, e.g. alcohol. And, there must be social approval for its use. Our society may require a medical professional to certify that there is a medical need for a drug.
For most of us, discovering how to make ourselves “feel good” is a lifelong learning process. When we were kids, it was easy to feel good. I loved to bike ride, shoot hoops, and play hours of ping-pong with my best buddy. But as we get older, and life becomes more complex, making ourselves feel good is more of a challenge. How do we feel good after a long, stressful day at the office? How do have wellbeing when we are stuck in traffic? How to we feel peaceful when our teen is out past curfew? How do I feel positive when my wife is angry with me?
It’s easy to feel good when the going is good. It’s when the going gets tough that wellbeing is harder to find.
To some degree, human beings have created a lifestyle that doesn’t support human life! We have fashioned a world that we can’t comfortably live in. And our response to this is to find ways of feeling good that end up making us feel bad! We’re in trouble!
Here are my thoughts on feeling good without resorting to worrisome habits:
Develop and nurture a support system. Good friends, family, and relatives can provide a cushion of support and wellbeing in good and bad times. It takes time and energy to maintain a healthy support system. It’s well worth it.
Find a hobby. I have been practicing Aikido, a martial art, for the last 15 years. It has been enjoyable, interesting, and pleasurable. I always “feel good” after I go to aikido class. My brother, who has no musical ability, took up the banjo at age 68. He had tears in his eyes when he played for patients at a nursing home!
Nourish a spiritual practice. Prayer, church, meditation, reading inspirational books, or a walk in the woods brings you closer to yourself and our connection with each other. Find the right approach for you and it will help you feel good!
Exercise regularly. We live in our bodies. Our physical self is meant to be in motion--walk, bike, hike, swim, jog or jump rope. Do what’s fun at a time and place that’s convenient. Make it a habit.
Eat healthy--Fruits, veggies, seafood, beans, and unprocessed food. Limit sugar, fat, and processed food. It’s pretty simple.
Be thankful, have gratitude, and help others. Counting your blessings and helping others provides meaning and wellbeing.
What helps you feel good?