As I talk to people in the city, many of them engage me about managing their stress levels. Life in Toronto can be difficult sometimes; often we find ourselves making tremendous sacrifices in order to maintain personal relationships, career objectives and a host of other responsibilities. We indeed live in challenging times. It would seem that the rest of the world is on a similar trajectory. CNN recently released a report entitled “Banks under pressure over rising stress” shedding light on the rising stress levels of those working in the financial sector.  Additionally, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about stress and stress related illnesses, etc., recently released an article confirming that stress levels wold wide are on the rise – you can read the article here.  Of course, we don’t really need external confirmation of an issue that we can feel inside.  Just look around – many people are generally stressed and unhappy.  The real question is not whether or not stress in on the rise but rather, why?  Well, in my opinion I believe it is because people are investing more and more of their energy into behaviours which they BELIEVE will make them happier, and as a result less time and energy into behaviours which actually make them happy.  Did you know at a very fundamental level, people living in “1st world” countries have been rated as the unhappiest people in the world?  And those living in very poor regions of the world – although poor, were rated higher with regards to fundamental happiness?  So many books, articles and documentaries have highlighted this very fact – just pick up a copy of “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari“, and you’ll see that those of us who are caught up in the race for more <money, material belongings, etc.> never really feel a sense of fulfilment, because the acquisition of such belongings do little to improve our overall sense of satisfaction.  They only temporarily mask any feelings of unhappiness that we may be having.

In order to be happy, a human being needs to focus on his or her own mental and physical health – and less on these other materialistic things.  Because how much is really enough?  1st world countries already have a standard of living much higher than most other countries, yet we find ourselves stressed to the max.  How much more will it take to make us happy? The truth is – if you pursue a materialistic approach to life, you will never truly be happy.  You will never have “enough”.  There will always be another brand, another car, another this or that – you can’t possibly own it all, so why try?  Get back to the fundamentals of a happy existence.  Live an active lifestyle.  Exercise your brain through meditation or reading interesting, positive literature.  Challenge your body by practicing martial arts, or going to the gym, or joining a sports team.  Pick up sailing or hiking.  There is so much in the world to see and do.  You were not put on this earth to sit at a desk all day and stew in negativity.  The human mind is powerful tool – you need to challenge yourself and get back to living a simple lifestyle.

As a lifelong student of martial arts, I have learned many lessons about how to train the body properly and how to feed a positive attitude.  A positive attitude really does control your perception of the world.  One exercise I like to practice with my students is to have them simply sit and breath for several minutes.  You have no idea how helpful this exercise is for your mind.  It gives your mind a chance to relax – you look inward and purge your negative energy.  People need to do these types of things on a regular basis.  The human mind is just like any other organ – you need to treat it properly so that it can serve your faithfully.

Get back to a fundamental life.  Invest more time in your body and mind.  You will be happier as a result.

Happy training,

Sensei Pennell.