The Myths of Happiness

Once upon a time, an old farmer lived in a poor country village. His neighbors considered him well-to-do because he owned a horse, which he used for many years to work his crops. One day his beloved horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors gathered to commiserate with him. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically, “May be,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors rejoiced. “May be,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors visited the farmer to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” said the farmer. The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” the farmer replied.

This insightful story is from the most recent book I read, Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t-What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The farmer is wise in the fact that he doesn’t presume an outcome to be positive or negative. This is extremely insightful because we are more times the “neighbors” who are quick to congratulate or commiserate. How can be go through life and know whether future events will bring happiness or dismay? We are not fortune tellers, but we can learn from those who have gone before us and experienced similar events first hand. Let’s go through some key life events and figure out what will and will not make us happy.

I will be happy when I find Mr/Mrs. Right-When you begin a relationship with a partner, who you see as your perfect match, the passion can be described as unworldly. Everyday is magical, sex is incredible, conversations endless, and compliments bountiful. This of course fades with time; fast forward into a busy marriage and you may find yourself bored of your partner and wondering why you even got married. This is called hedonic adaptation which is the process of us getting use to things overtime. This occurs in relationships because we remain with the same partner who presents us similar stimulus on a daily basis. How can we fight hedonic adaptation and keep our relationships strong and happy? Change up the stimulus: try a new sex position, go to a new restaurant, give out a compliment, write a note, spend a weekend apart, etc. Give your relationship a buffet of stimuli to maximize the variety.

I will be happy when I obtain (fill in the blank)-In our consumer culture we are told that obtaining a certain amount of money, status, or power will bring us happiness. Money can buy happiness but only to a certain degree. Once we have food, shelter, heat, and safety (including health insurance) we derive minimal happiness from additional monetary funds. The additional money we earn frequently used to increase our luxuries which we become accustomed to overtime through hedonic adaptation. For example, my wife and I bought a house; in the first month we were on cloud nine but we soon got use to our surroundings and our happiness returned to normal levels. This happiness myth also applies to obtaining titles or promotions. The initial feelings we have after achieving new status is soon adapted to and often times replaced by unhappiness related to new stresses and unforeseen responsibilities.

I can’t be happy when the test results come back positive-Our predictions of the future are very inaccurate because we tend to only focus on the positives when we desire something and the negatives when we don’t want something. For example, when I think about going on my vacation I imagine the sun and relaxation but not the stressful travel and overpriced services. Conversely, when I think about having cancer I imagine vomiting from chemo but not celebrating holidays or listening to good music. We have a strong psychological immune system that tempers negative situations and allows us to be more optimistic than we thought possible. Adults who became blind were reported to have the same happiness after one year compared to when they weren’t blind. Time heals all things and terrible events are not so terrible because life is made up of many small happy events: having dinner with friends, seeing a full moon, reading a good book, etc. If the test result is positive, know that your post-tragedy happiness will in short be similar to your pre-tragedy happiness.

As you can see, happiness comes in many different forms and what we think will make us happy or unhappy is not always the case. To foster the most happiness we need to be conscious of the small things that bring us pleasure. I love yoga, coffee, conversations, reading, and tv shows; deliberate appreciation of these things makes my baseline happiness high. If those things that make me happy start to not make me happy then I take a break and come back to them-this is done to ameliorate hedonic apadtation. Lifelong happiness can be obtained if we understand our adaptability to both the positive and negative outcomes in life-when thinking about present and future events say to yourself “May be.”

 

Worry Wart-Remover

Have you ever been called a “Worry Wart?” I have on several occasions and throughout my life my worries have grown. As an adult there are a million things to contend with which can induce worries: paying the bills, keeping up with health, climbing the social ladder, maintenance of relationships, etc. Then there are the irrational worries that are usually propagated from movies or news: flesh eating diseases, serial rapists hiding in the bushes, razor blades in candy, movie theater shootings, sex-slave kidnappings etc. And to my luck, I live in Flint, so now I get to worry about consuming toxic water whenever I turn the tap on. So suffice to say, we must grapple with our worrisome thoughts everyday. How can we let go of our worries? To be truthful I don’t completely know but there are a few key things that help me get through storms of mental despair.

  1. Prayer: Release your worries to God because He has your back. Talking to the big man upstairs is not only therapeutic but strengthens your spiritual relationship. I know this the Sunday School answer but it really will lift a weight off your chest. You don’t have to formally pray or say anything at all-just clear your head and notice God’s presence. You’re not alone. We didn’t worry nearly as much when we were children; be a child in God’s presence and know He understands the big picture.
  2. Yoga: I’m a huge fan of Yoga because it forces you to be mindful of the present. Yoga is not meant to be some ab-shaping-calorie-scorching workout, it’s meant to bring you more in tune with your inner self. My favorite instructor is Tommy Rosen and he focuses on breathing throughout all the movements. When you learn how to breath you learn how to listen to yourself. Your true self is constantly being bombarded by outside influences that many times create negativity and anxiety. That may sound like a bunch of hippy crap but I promise if you practice mindful meditation/yoga you will make it priority in your daily life.
  3. Watch a TV series: I love well made TV shows: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Wire, Mr. Robot, etc. There are so many great series on TV right now that you can find the perfect show that fits your personality. Why would a TV series reduce worries? One word-Flow. When you get into a show you forget your worries and enter into the emotions of the characters. For a short moment you aren’t focused on your worries but rather the story unfolding in front of you. Of course, any flow experience is good but I like series for reducing worries because my problems are nominal compared to my beloved fictional characters. Walter White’s worries of selling meth to pay for his cancer treatment trumps my worries of not having pooped in the last two days.

These are three tangible things that you can practice in your life that will help reduce your worries. I love this quote…

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Let us let go of our worries by seeking God, being more mindful of the present, and realizing that our worries really aren’t that big of a deal in respects to the big picture. Your thoughts can make your life like heaven or hell. It’s all up to you, your thoughts are your own-what will you choose?

Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.

Psalm 50:15 NLT

Revisit: The Preposition of God

Question, should you live your life from God, over God, for God, or under God? Confused? Well, it was a trick question, you should live your life with God. Still confused? Don’t worry, I was to when I first started reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani which uses the above mentioned prepositions to explain how most of us relate to God. This book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to religious and non-religious people alike. Alright, let’s define Mr. Jethani’s prepositions…

Read the full post here.
The Preposition of God

Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder

What better recipe to be the first on the Bohemian Caveman recipe page than the Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder. Pork shoulder or Boston Butt is one of my favorite pieces of meat because when cooked properly it is extremely tender and jam packed with flavor. You can cook pork shoulder in the oven or crockpot but those methods are weak sauce compared to slow smoking. BBQ joints always sell pulled pork (which comes from the pork shoulder) but I always feel like I don’t get my money’s worth. I want some fricking MEAT and I don’t want to spend 15 dollars for a little serving. Hence, I am going to show you how to cook your own pork monster and enjoy endless mouth watering servings at a fraction of the cost compared to the BBQ restaurants. Let’s start….

Ingredients:

8-10 LB Pork Shoulder aka Boston Butt
Marinade
2 Cups Apple Juice
1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup White Vinegar
Rub
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Dry Mustard
1 Tbsp Coarsley Ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
Glaze
Your favorite bottle of BBQ sauce
Smoke
Apple or Mixed Hardwood Chips or Pellets
Equipment
Any outdoor smoker (I use a Masterbuilt 30-inch Electric Smoke with the A-MAZE-N pellet tray)
Meat Probe
Meat Injector
Aluminum Pan

Alright, you may be saying….”What the frick Jon, I don’t have all of these ingredients and obscure equipment!!!” Fair enough, but most of these ingredients are pantry staples and if you don’t have a smoker then you can slow cook the shoulder in the oven (it will obviously taste different).

  1. The Marinade: Dissolve Apple Juice, Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar and Vinegar in a saucepan (do not bring to boil). Once contents are dissolved remove from heat (see picture below). Take meat injector and inject pork shoulder with marinade every 1 square inch. *Just inject the meat hunk a million times until all that beautiful liquid is inside the shoulder* Place meat in aluminum pan and cover in refrigerator overnight.

    IMG_0087

    The Marinade

  2. The Rub: The next day, remove marinated pork shoulder from refrigerator. Combine in a separate bowl the Cup Brown Sugar, Chili Powder, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Dry Mustard, Coarsely Ground Black Pepper, Kosher Salt and  Cayenne Pepper. Mix thoroughly with spoon and then generously rub all over pork shoulder (see pictures below).
  3. The Smoke: I am going to give directions for my electric smoker but these can be translated to any other cooking apparatus. Preheat to 250 degrees. Take A-MAZE-N pellet tray and fill with wood pellets (see below). Light pellets and get them smoking. Place pork butt in the smoker uncovered for 3 hours.

    IMG_0070.JPG

    A-MAZE-N Pellet Tray with mixed hardwood pellets

  4. The Apple Juice: After smoking for 3 hours, remove pork shoulder and insert meat probe into thickest part (this can be done at the beginning of the smoke also). Place 1 cup of apple juice in the bottom of aluminum pan and cover pork shoulder with aluminum foil. Place back in smoker and continue cooking for approximately 6 hours or until the internal temp reaches 205 degrees. *You have to get the temp up to 205 degrees to properly breakdown the connective tissues and melt the collagen to make it tender*

    IMG_0072

    My electric smoker that my beautiful wife bought me for Christmas

  5. The Glaze and the Feast: Remove shoulder from smoker and lightly coat with your favorite BBQ sauce. Place back in smoker uncovered for one hour with no heat. This is the resting phase which is essential to keep the meet extra moist. The glaze will harden and create a nice bark. After the hour wait, your brain will be ready to explode from excitement. Behold your creation for a couple minutes and give yourself a big high five. The first bite will feel like pork nirvana and you may hit unknown levels of ecstasy. Leftovers will be abundant so enjoy!!!

    IMG_0093.JPG

    There she is! It was so delicious and we barely put a dent in it. We will have a lot of leftovers.

 

I Think Therefore I Am Not

“I think therefore I am” was the famous phrase coined by French Philosopher René Descartes. Essentially, Descartes  was saying that no one can deceive him that he does not exist because any conscious thought of his own accord proves his existence. But what if he consciously thought that he didn’t exist? Would he still technically exist? Confused yet? This tidbit of philosophy is a great introduction into the world of the “self.” What makes you-you? Is it conscious thought, narrative experiences, memories, or just the ability to experience things in the first-person? Thanks to my friend Megan, who bought me The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self by Anil Ananthaswamy I have a better understanding of what makes us-us. 

We all have an inclination of what our “self” represents. On the surface, our “self” is the culmination of our thoughts and experiences in the past, present, and future. We also have a physical “self” that comprises our body and a model of how the physical world should function (when I hear a noise outside I know that is not self-produced but coming from some other source). This basic thinking of the self stems from philosophers who connected the self with conscious thought and shaped western ideology of the mind-body connection. Unfortunately, the “self” is not that simple especially when disorders of the brain give us very different pictures of reality.

Would you pay someone 20,000 dollars to have your healthy leg-amputated? You may think this is a crazy question but there is a disorder known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) where people feel that certain parts on their bodies are not their own. Individuals with BIID, from an early age, can pinpoint the exact place on their body that feels alien and many go to extremes to remove what doesn’t seem their own-there are several reports of people laying out on train tracks or paying foreign doctors to excise healthy legs or arms. Does BIID bring into question the “self” as defined by the body we inhabit? What about people with Cortad’s Syndrome who believe they are dead. Individuals with Cotard’s have no desire to eat, drink, or do anything (including committing suicide) because they believe that they no longer exist. So would this scenario disprove Descartes-“I think therefore I am not.” Going along with questioning Descartes, do individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have a “self” if they are incapable of conscious thought? What about Schizophrenics who have multiple “selfs”? Even weirder, people who have out-of-body experiences where they can view themselves through the third-person, or communicate with their own doppelgänger. Is their self fixed, split, or dynamic in the conscious mind and physical world?

All of these maladies of the self can be explained by dysfunctions of certain areas of the brain and help explain all the dimensions that make up the self: “our narrative, our sense of being agents of our actions and initiators of our thoughts, our sense of ownership of body parts, our sense that we are our emotions, our sense of being located in a volume of space that is our body… all of these can be argued as comprising the self-as-object.” Beyond the self-as-object is still the self-as-subject. In all the aforementioned maladies there is still an “I” which is experiencing and this is always present regardless of consciousness. Who am I? What is the most reducible version of the “self.” It isn’t our physical body or our ability to think but rather something irreducible and essentially undefinable. The self is always present but intangible to objective measurements. I think the poem, “Nirvana Shaktam” by Indian Philosopher Adi Shankara best explains the “self.”

I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor any entity that
identifies self with ears, tongue, nose or the eyes;
Not even perceived by space, earth, light or the wind.

So is there a self or is there not a self? I believe there is a self and it’s greatest reduced component is the soul. Of course, the soul is not scientific but science cannot explain the self entirely through states of consciousnesses or physical dimensions. Buddhists and many philosophers do not believe in the self-rather they believe the self is a made up manifestation to help explain our personal subjectivity of the world. So why does this philosophical question matter at all? It matters because understanding the self can help us understand the way we interact with the world. Are we just a body walking around with a library of thoughts? Are individuals who have maladies of the self negatively disordered or just neutrally different. Simply put, what you define as “self” will dictate  what you deem important in life and your interactions with people on a daily basis.

Bohemian Caveman

Today marks a new milestone in my life with a domain name that I can call my own…BohemianCaveman.com.

The goal of this website is to give you tools and knowledge to improve every dimension of health so that you can become the best version of yourself. 

So what the frick is a “Bohemian Caveman?” Well, the definition of Bohemian is as follows

a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

This definition hit me in the stomach and I feel that my life closely aligns with this funny sounding word. In what ways am I Bohemian?

  1. I spend my free time writing book reports 
  2. I decided to live in one of the most dangerous cities in America (still alive and happy)
  3. I practice meditation and seek to understand my inner consciousness.

Of course, I have a long way to go in becoming a complete personification of the word but I think I have been slowly moving in the direction my entire life.

So what about the Caveman part?

  1. I am a man with a beard.
  2. I am a Registered Dietitian who adheres to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle.
  3. I exercise through functional movements: yoga, walking, weight lifting, and mountain biking.

So what the heck is this blog about? My goal is to make this blog about the improvement of our Mind, Body, and Soul. My previous readers experienced the Mind posts and those will continue into the future. I will post about food, exercise, meditation, yoga, religion, history, self-improvement, minimalism, and a whole host of material that fits into the Mind, Body, Soul categories.

Thank you for the support and let’s continue this awesome journey…