The Physiology of Happiness

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An Interview with Jim Bagnola

Jim Bagnola is an international speaker, an executive coach and a corporate educator. He is an expert in the field of leadership and body-mind management, focusing on the influence of thinking patterns on health, happiness, success, and the capacity to lead. Jim is author of Becoming a Professional Human Being: How to Enjoy Stress Free Work and Personal Happiness using the Mind/Body/Work Connection.” He is one of the top 600 speakers in the world and was among the “World’s Top 30 Leadership Professional” from 2006-2010. His scientifically supported, lively, and humorous presentations have inspired thousands of people all over the world. In this interview, we asked him how his principles apply to happiness.

How can the laws of Becoming a Professional Human Being be applied to happiness?

Everything I think, do, and say, affects my physiology. And my physiology creates my emotional state and vice versa. I am responsible for my happiness. Nobody else is responsible for my happiness or unhappiness. I am responsible for it. Nobody is responsible for my attitude. I am responsible for it and create my happiness through my physiology, through the way I see and experience the world. A good example of this mind/body play is that food is the most abused anxiety drug, and exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.

The journey of becoming a professional human being places the accountability for one’s own happiness squarely on their own thinking, action, behavior, and attitude. We are creating our physiology and psychology. The sum total of our physiology creates emotion. Tapping into our essential nature creates the emotion of happiness, which is bliss. If I have bliss, then I am probably following lesson one which is “performing my magic”. When we perform our magic, time stands still. I don’t even know what time it is because I was permitted to do what I love to do. I experienced that today as I presented. This lesson, Perform Your Magic, leads you to your natural state of being happy.

When examining the second lesson, From Here I am to There You Are, we find that service ignites the same bliss. Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is in the service to others.” You will find out who you are by serving others.

In 1988, the Institute for the Advancement of Health coined the terms “helper’s high,” to describe the euphoria, increased energy, and general feel-good sensation during the act of serving; and “helper’s calm” for the calmness felt immediately following the act. The experience releases endorphins, the body’s neurotransmitters responsible for pain killing and mood altering. This euphoria and state of the physiology is happiness.

If we are lucky enough to find our magic and use it in service of others we touch the bliss within.

If we like, better yet love ourselves which is embedded in the 5th lesson: Do you stand up for what you value most?, it’s because we are following our own value system. This has as a natural side effect, which we call happiness. It comes from living in harmony with our own value system. If we compromise what we value most in life, we don’t like ourselves. No happiness. What this does is that it compromises the function of the immune system. If you turn against yourself, you don’t like yourself. The cells in your body react and respond to everything you entertain mentally. Negativity brings your immune system down. This is called unhappiness.

The first law says, “everything I think do and say effects me physiologically”. The second law says “I can’t possibly help someone without helping myself”. It’s impossible. Everything refers back to one’s Self. Service makes a person happy. Living your purpose or performing your magic produces happiness.

What would be the first step for someone to start becoming happier? 

Exercise. Exercise creates a different physiology. If you don’t use the tool of exercise, which is in my 7th lesson, Keep Your Mind/Body Battery Charged, your system may become depressed. The lack of exercise causes depression in the body. So in my book, the physiology is always involved. There is a physiology of happiness and it starts with exercise.

Then the second step is: what are you eating? Yesterday, I saw the research on drinking soda. The research said that those who drink soda age faster than those who don’t. There is approximately 16 teaspoons of sugar on average in one can of soda. This cannot be healthy to ingest.

If I eat the wrong food for my physiology, I create anxiety in myself. Regular exercise and what I eat can assist in creating happiness in my physiology.

There are two categories of food; one type of food is intelligent and the other category of food is unintelligent. If you go into a gas station, most of the foods you will find there are not intelligent. The more it is made by man or processed, the more unintelligent it is. The more natural it is, the more intelligent it is. When we put intelligent food into our bodies, we get intelligence. When we put processed foods in our bodies, we get distorted intelligence. Distorted intelligence does not allow contact with pure intelligence, which is the source of all happiness.

There is a holistic approach to happiness: exercise, intelligent food, sleep, right thinking, service, and meditation. It seems like common sense but as comedian Will Rogers once said, “common sense isn’t so common.” We can create a physiology of happiness.