Count Leonov Nikolayevich (Leo) Tolstoy (1828 -1910), in his book “What I Believe,” set out five principals of earthly happiness which no one can deny. Although in his book Tolstoy uses how rising in the Russian upper class cuts you off from these five principals. I will show how our shared illness of bipolar disorder cuts us off from these principals just as deeply and how finding and embracing these five principals we can finally live and find the happiness that has eluded us for so long.
“The first condition essentially necessary for happiness has always been admitted by all men to a life in the link between him and nature is not destroyed – that is life in the open air, in the sunshine, in communion with nature, plants and animals.”
Today study after study are proving the benefits of connecting with nature for mental health. Google: “how nature helps mental health” and see what I mean. The key is connecting. Bipolar disorder shuts us in and shuts us off. In Mania, we are too busy to notice and in depression we are too down to care. However, if we truly make the effort to connect with nature, be it in local park or our own garden or at some great place like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, we will find that that this connection soothes us and slowly brings us back to happiness.
“The second indubitable condition for happiness is labor – congenial, free labor, physical labor, which gives a man a good appetite and sound invigorating sleep.”
Today, I must admit there is little work that can be said to be congenial, free or physical. Having gainful employment is helpful to mental health, but being stuck in a job you hate is just as bad for your mental health. I think my activities last weekend portray more what Tolstoy was getting at and in 1870 when this was written there were more of this type of activity available. I spent last weekend helping friends restore an old garden at the house they just purchased. It was once a beautiful garden, but had been neglected for many years. Each day was spent raking, pulling, cutting and hauling. You were thirsty, hungry and at the end of the day too exhausted to care. It was fun to share this work with good friends and the work made us happy both in the doing and seeing the result. This kind of work does lead to happiness, because it makes us feel useful and productive. To feel useful and productive as a bipolar sufferer is one road to happiness.
“The third condition essentially necessary for happiness is family life.”
Bipolar disorder destroys family life. Bipolar makes the sufferer selfish and self-centered. Bipolar makes the family members unsure of what is going on, what is right or wrong and ultimately angry. Yet if the sufferer can overcome their illness the joy they find in their families after mending the hurts can not be over stated. Families can provide the greatest happiness.
“A fourth condition essentially necessary for happiness is a free, friendly communication with all men.”
Bipolar disorder causes isolation. When manic most of us are the life of the party and we collect a bunch of fair weather friends. When the crash happens, and it always does, our friends are no where to be found and we are alone with our pain.
In stability, we can find happiness through our friendships and our circle can grow and grow.
“The fifth and last condition essentially necessary for happiness is health and a painless death.”
Bipolar causes the sufferer to be mentally, physically and spiritually unhealthy. We suffer from all sorts of secondary issues that are used to kill our emotional pain. But we can be restored to health. With a proper diagnosis and proper medication, we can become stable allowing us to fix our physical and spiritual maladies. Allowing us to live a good healthy life and pass on to the next without regret.
All in all, Tolstoy was right, if we can embrace even a few of these five principals for happiness, we will find that happiness that has eluded us. I know I have.
Our battle is with our minds, not with other people, places, situations or other external things. Remember our battle will always be with our minds and our minds alone.
The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”
I say,” Work harder on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”
Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.
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BLOG OF THE WEEK:
Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. I hope you enjoy this weeks Blog: