Your answer to this question is one litmus test of an over-stressed, over-scheduled life. It's a sad commentary on contemporary life that many people can't seem to find the time to answer nature's call. Some of us studiously avoid fluids so as not to waste valuable time taking bathroom breaks. We "hold it in" while we multi-task our way through life, disregarding the risk of bladder and kidney infections. When we do make the time to visit the restroom, three-quarters of us continue to use our smartphones.
The same pattern applies to our eating habits. We often mindlessly overindulge, oblivious to our body's satiety signals. It's so old school to sit down at a table and give our undivided attention to the plate of food in front of us. Add a dollop of stress to our workday and off we go to the vending machine to grab a poor quality chocolate bar or a bag of stale chips. Cooking just takes too long. Even nuking in the microwave wastes several minutes. We prefer to order online, park in the "take out only" spot, run in, rush home, and gobble it down before it gets cold. Or we inch our way through the fast food drive-thru, never missing a beat on our smart devices. Sometimes the food doesn't even grace our doorstep. We scarf it down at 70 mph, like a ravished dog, paying little attention to what we are inhaling unless we get unlucky and ketchup lands on our freshly laundered white shirt.
Many, if not most of us, are "running on empty," as the Jackson Browne song goes. Our constant go-go-go mode may be attributable to technology run-amuck, the drive to be the perfect parent, or simply the inability to utter the word "no" when asked to take on yet another task. No matter. The result is the same -- we're rushing through life like so many tornado chasers. Is this any way to live?
This constant adrenaline fueled pace is taking a toll on our health. Is it any surprise that 43 percent of adults suffer adverse effects from stress and that 75-90 percent of all doctor's visits are for stress-related ailments?
We all need to slow down and stop rushing headlong through life like we're on a bullet train.
Here are some good ways to decrease your stress level:
• Move your body
• Take a real vacation to a place with no cell reception
• Get your muscles kneaded
• Get your shut eye
• Stop relying on drugs like caffeine, tobacco, and prescription meds to make it through the day.
Try these on for size. You just might discover that a less frenetic pace equates to a more enjoyable life. Remember, we only get one chance to get this right ;-)
Health was "extremely important" to happiness for 73 percent of respondents. People in "good or excellent" health are three times more likely to report being "very" happy. Interestingly, what may matter most is how healthy you think you are: The AARP found that the percentage of people reporting good health is relatively stable over the 35-80 age range, varying only seven percentage points. That's despite the fact that objectively, older people are in fact not as healthy: The number of people who report they are suffering two or more medical conditions increased 400 percent over the 35-80 age range. (People may be comparing their health to their peers who are in worse shape.)
Some 68 percent of respondents called relationships "extremely important" to happiness. Some 72 percent of people who were married or in a relationship called themselves "very happy" or "pretty happy" -- compared to 60 percent of singles. AARP asked respondents to rank the importance of certain activities to happiness, and many of those scoring at the top were relationship-related: 72 percent said "kissing or hugging someone you love"; 72 percent said "watching your children, grandchildren or close relative succeed in what they want to do"; 69 percent said "spending time with your family and friends such as a meal or social gathering'; and 64 percent said "experiencing a special moment with a child." However, relationships did have to be real: "connecting with friends or family on a social media site like Facebook" came in 37th out of 38 activities in contributing to happiness.
Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said pleasure was "extremely important" to happiness. Among the simple pleasures that were most important to the happiness of people 50 to 80: enjoying natural beauty like a sunset or ocean (64 percent); having someone do something nice for you unexpectedly (56 percent); practicing religious or spiritual faith (50 percent); making progress on personal goals (47%); and being absorbed in a favorite hobby or interest (42 percent).
Four in ten of those surveyed called accomplishment "extremely important" to happiness.
Meaning and engagement were considered "extremely important" to happiness among 38 and 37 percent of respondents, respectively.
Some 31 percent of respondents said money was "extremely important" to happiness. Money was slightly more important to people who earned $25,000 or less. As psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman has noted, beyond a household income of $75,000, experienced well-being no longer increases, although people's judgment of how satisfied they are with their lives does continue to increase. At the same time, severe poverty amplifies life's misfortunes, such as illness or divorce. The AARP study found similar results: Income and happiness were positively correlated; when comparing the percentage of those "Very Happy" by income ranges, the slope increases up to the $75,000 mark, then continued to rise even more dramatically. Asked how they would spend $100 on something to increase happiness, most respondents said they would spend it on their family or going out to dinner. This correlates with findings that show buying experiences makes people happier than buying things.
People who feel they are in control of their happiness report that they are 2.5 times happier than those who believe happiness is out of their control. A sense of control is linked to higher income, higher education, good health and not experiencing a major life event in the past year. This finding also mirrors decades of research suggesting autonomy -- the feeling that your actions are self-chosen and self-endorsed -- is a core psychological need. Studies have found people who lack a sense of control -- prisoners, nursing home residents, people living under totalitarian governments -- suffer lower morale and poor health, according to David Myers, a professor at Hope College in Michigan and author of "The Pursuit of Happiness." Interestingly, a sense of control over one's happiness rises with age -- with 69 percent of people age 75 to 80 feeling they have control over their happiness, versus about half of people age 40 to 54. It may be that with the wisdom of the years, people recognize that happiness is a choice.
Spending time with a pet can be a substantial way to contribute to one's happiness, the survey found, especially for older women: 81 percent of women age 66 to 80 who own pets said spending time with them contributes "a lot" to personal happiness. It was also important to two-thirds of singles.
Follow Lorie Eber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EberLorie