Emotional sea level

Andrew Weil, USA

Author, physician and pioneer of integrative medicine. http://www.drweil.com/

(Submitted by Charlene Beck, USA)

It is perfectly normal to experience "the blues," just as it is perfectly normal to experience joy and bliss. Optimizing emotional well-being means gaining greater control of the variability of moods, damping the oscillations, enjoying the rewards of the midpoint. It also means not shutting down that dynamic variability, not getting emotionally stuck.

I call that midpoint "emotional sea level." It is the place from which you can take thrilling excursions up into the mountains of joy, or challenging journeys down to the watery depths of sadness - but through it all, you remain aware and confident of your ability to return to the pleasant vistas of sea level. It is here that you will find resilience, contentment, comfort, and serenity. This is your emotional safe harbor, which you can leave, but to which you should be able to return easily and naturally.

Let me introduce a foreign word that describes this emotional goal. Lagom is a Swedish term that does not have an exact English equivalent; it means something like "just right," or "exactly enough." It has been called the most Swedish of Swedish words and permeates the entire culture: architecture, politics, economics, and every aspect of daily life.

Contentment, serenity, comfort, balance, resilience, together constitute a lagom version of positive emotionality and, I think, a sane alternative to the perpetual happiness expected and demanded in our society. It should be more than enough to sustain us and will not burn us out or condemn us to alternating cycles of bliss and despair.

No matter what it is called - emotional sea level, the balancing point, lagom - the good news is that it can be cultivated until it becomes our default emotional state, through attention to the needs of body, mind and spirit.

Image credit: Antti Lehtinen. http://www.polygonblog.com/

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