One of my favorite things growing up was playing video games. No matter what else was going on—parents fighting, pressure at school, catching the flu—picking up the controller to the Super Nintendo system, hearing the boot up and seeing those gloriously rough pixels flooded my brain with an inexplicable sense that life was going to be great. Though my parents had rented Super Mario World as a promised reward for good behavior, as if I were ever not good, gaming was always haunted by a countdown to the imminent moral extolment of manual labor, followed by forced manual labor. So early that Saturday my brother and I, as clever boys do, woke up early to get more gaming in before we would be hauled to a construction site. There was something as magical as Christmas that morning, quietly turning on the TV in the dim light of dawn. We had just gotten Mario's frog suit—one of the most satisfying inventions in video game history—when from the darkness of the hallway crashed my half-awake, raging, father who without warning ripped the Nintendo from the entertainment center, yanking the black chords until the screen went black, and fled with his prize back into the darkness of the house, leaving my brother and I to stare at each other in disbelief in quiet remains of my father's contempt.
Anyone who has spent time with children knows how close to the surface their feelings lie. From an early age we learn what makes us happy, what makes us sad, and all the other complex emotions of the human experience. Before we have an inkling of reason these emotions drive us with as much animal instinct as any other creature. Then we spend the rest of our lives operating from this perspective, seeking stimulus for the feelings we like and relief from those we don't.
But our brains aren't able to sense their own existence. Or more precisely, we do not actively perceive the action of the brain. The things it does is what we are, and how well it does those things is the measure by which other humans consider us. Senility, autism, youth are all states of the brain which compromise an individual's relationship to healthy, fully developed adults. Also the more insidious states such as rage, violence, and many mental disorders. Medicine has for decades inculcated the names of hormones like serotonin and dopamine into the bourgeois lexicon, yet people drone on about them as if they're no more effectual than a license plate number.
Once during a visit to see my family a sister of mine was easily excitable, and I found her crying in secret. She confessed to me she'd been short tempered and treating her husband horribly, as if for no reason at all. I had a hunch, her being newlywed, and asked if she was on birth control. That the alteration of her thoughts and behavior could happen via pharmaceutical had not even crossed her mind, and she'd have probably continued to suffer in silence had she not shared it with me. Similarly, my long battle with depression could have ended much sooner had anyone pointed out the connection between hormones and health.
If you believe the illusion that your thoughts determine emotion, then your brain is functioning exactly as it should. In the most basic illustration of the purpose of hormones, they are the catalysts which compel us to live. Did you notice you were hungry before the thought came to you? Of course not. First the hunger must occur, then the signal is conveyed to the brain. The same happens with sleep and the need for physical intimacy. Feelings must rise first and then the thought follows. With the higher emotions the illusion of being led by thoughts is stronger yet no less an illusion. Compare two persons equally inclined to react to a negative stimulus, such as choosing between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. The one in our example with a full stomach will have a much milder reaction than the one who hasn't eaten for some time, or both of them singly will react more or less intensely in relation to the time since their last meal. If thoughts lead emotion then why the variable with blood sugar? In fact, populations in poorer health tend to be more susceptible to fear, because less stimulus is needed to raise already high levels of fear related hormones. Emotions are hormones, and are the sole enabler of our thoughts and motivations. Pump a man with enough drugs and he may not react at all like a human, because hormones, and thus emotions alter his thoughts and motivations, and yet we treat addicts and sufferers of mental health disorders as if they have adequate control over their own biological process, which is absurd, expecting them to do what no other person in their place could do either.
Yet also we expect of ourselves to find relief or change in our own thoughts, but since the origin of our suffering is in our bodies, with hormones, if one wishes to improve their general emotional state they must start with their physical health. How can you expect to be happy when you don't even fulfill the first requirement for happiness, which is a full stomach?
Since recovering somewhat from my alcoholism I have experienced a hugely increased sense of wellbeing. Of course there are prejudices and perceptions which can filter a persons impression of their environment and even of their own emotions. But the increase in good mood, motivation, and presence has come from an increase in my health, brought about by the time spent in abstinence from harmful foods and substances. Other habits I've picked up such as avoiding grains and keeping my blood sugar elevated have also done immense good for my hormone stasis, and thus my thoughts and emotions. It is easy now to be happy and motivated, to be satisfied with less and very little, because my hormones are no longer in an extreme state of flux.
Lately I have noticed a correlation on Instagram between youth, abdominal definition, and the delusion of having discovered the secret to fulfillment. Yes, healthier people have a more positive outlook on life. But, no your abdominals don't mean you've uncovered the secret of life, and that high-energy you often feel, which feels a little bit like agitation, is actually stress hormones from your excessive exercise and pre-workout, and by the time you hit thirty you will find out you don't know anything about life after all. Perspective grants the space to make changes, changes alter your physical being, your physical being sets your thoughts and emotions. A healthy person is happy and needs little. A sick person is changeable and needs much. When I was sick I felt constantly in a frantic action to find relief, and having learned so many incorrect notions about life and health I found very little relief. Today I have found relief. It came from my diet which is free of grains, plentiful in protein, fruit, sugar, vegetables and coffee, and not an ounce of alcohol. The biggest surprise I found was how easy it is to get true relief, and if a former cancer ridden, overweight alcoholic can experience such profound improvement so easily, imagine how easy it will be for you. Change does come from within but not because you decided to be a better person, it's because you chose to eat homemade mashed potatoes instead of going hungry. For more on metabolic health and how to restore a healthy hormone balance that results in greater vitality and enjoyment of life you can read my book Fuck Portion Control.