I’ve long suspected what the secret to happiness is, and now I’ve got proof. It comes courtesy of the Nerve Gut Research Laboratory at the University of Adelaide.

Hidy ho…the secret to a perfect start to the day.

It’s not love or money or success.

It’s definitely not in a self-help book.

It’s a good sleep and a good poo. It’s that easy.

I don’t mean to be infantile or facile or Freudian – maybe just a little foecal. Bear with me.

Eight solid hours of warm, blissful slumber is wonderful. Nine is even better. Best of all is waking naturally, without a shrieking alarm, to stretch luxuriously and have a few moments spare to contemplate the coming day.

As for the poo – I know it’s not ladylike, and not normally to be discussed in public – but scientists have confirmed that a good poo is the best start to the day. They have been studying the way nerve endings in your nether regions spark off little messages to your brain.

A successful morning event kicks off feelings of wellbeing, but if you miss the “golden opportunity” just after you wake up and before the rest of the day barges in, it triggers negative feelings and can bring you down.

You realise the truth of the sleep-and-poo-equals-happiness equation when you spend the day with neither.

The problem is that so few of us can obtain both.

A good night’s sleep is teeth-clenchingly elusive. First of all you need an easy mind. No guilt about the previous day’s actions, no fear about the day ahead. No possibility of staring, gritty-eyed, at the ceiling replaying or forecasting conversations. No ceaseless flipping of the pillow to find the perfect spot, no deliberately avoiding the glow-in-the-dark digital clock so you don’t know just how horrid the hour is.

No hunger, no fear, no pain, no strafing of bullets…all these things help as well, of course.

There were plenty of great and famous insomniacs (Napoleon, Thatcher, probably Kim Jong-il but I’m making that up). They’re people who got by without many zzzzs, but they’re not exactly joy-to-the-world types.

I met the world’s top sleep expert last year – I can’t remember his name, because I hadn’t slept at all the night before and was trying to work out where the nearest public toilet was at the time – and he told me people love holidays because that’s the only time they get enough sleep.

He reckoned it was about 90 per cent of the whole joy of a vacation. Enough sleep. And that if we all had enough sleep all the time we’d be about as happy as we are sifting soft white sand between our bare tanned toes while slowly swirling a cocktail with a swizzlestick as a balmy sun gently sets.

And look at people who generally sleep pretty poorly. Corporate psychopaths who spent their lives driving a bigger wedge between rich and poor. Ruthless politicians pushing for harder, tougher laws.

Now to poo. I won’t go on for too long, but I think it’s important.

To have a good poo you need a good diet. That seems to elude fat rich Westerners. And then there’s some of us who eat too much chilli and probably drink too much, and we only have ourselves to blame.

But the joy of a good bowel movement in the morning cannot be underestimated. It can set you in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day. You are lighter, happier.

I bet plenty of bad and mean decisions have been made by the Powers-That-Be while they are tired and constipated. Maybe there’s a wishful symbolism to dropping bombs. (Sorry, too far?). Chaiman Mao was famously blocked up and forced his minions to, ummm, help, and he certainly leaves a mixed legacy.

At the University of Adelaide’s Hanson Institute is a man who knows all about a good poo. Associate Professor Ashley Blackshaw is the head of the Nerve Gut Research Laboratory.

He says your gut works all night while you sleep, “shoving things downward”. Then when you wake up there’s a flurry of colonic activity, as nerve endings fire up.

“When you get rid of that signal you feel much better (but with) that quick burst, if you don’t take advantage, you’ve missed a golden opportunity,” he says.

“The nerves can keep firing off all day and bring you down… it affects your feeling of wellbeing.”

So there you go.

Now all we need to do is get rid of all the things that keep us up at night or block us up in the morning, and the world will be a better place. It’s that easy.

Most commented


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    • tuppett says:

      10:44am | 18/07/09

      That is oh so right.  Years ago on holiday in Bali, a constant diet of excellent fresh and healthy food and total relaxation, meant 9 hours sleep and then the next morning…..well.  Man, I came bouncing out of that loo like Rocky holding his title belt.  The absolute tragedy is that I still think on the moment with longing, as I’ve never again been able to achieve that blissful state.  How sad is that!

    • Big Al says:

      10:52am | 18/07/09

      I don’t know about the pooh part, but most surely, nothing puts me in a better mood than waking up on my own, followed by a good stretch and yawn after a deep, restful,un-interrupted sleep. It’s very rare for me now days especially since the baby has come along, before that a demanding job was no help either…. I have become such a cranky pants….Such is life….

    • Mel:-) says:

      01:21pm | 18/07/09

      I should set up a training institution for such super happiness.
      It is not that hard than you think.
      If you do a little bit exercise and be content, most of us can get a good sleep.
      Drink a glass of warm water or with honey after you get up should help your bowel function. Otherwise a 5 minutes exercise definitely help, skipping your breakfast is a definitely no no. Another tip, watch Kosh’s joke on sunrise helps too.

    • plant boy says:

      02:24pm | 18/07/09

      the only ‘diet’ ive ever indulged in was the ‘only fruit till lunch’ one about 15 years ago - and it stll remains the best i have ever felt.  Light, Full Headed, Calm but energised.    which begs the question as i write, why did i abandon it…... years of post-grad study, babies and a coffee addiction i guess.   

      perhaps a close second was a stint predominantly vegetarian.  i dont care what the professionals say about the ‘movement’ of all food southward all being equal…...fruit and vegetarian food glides where as meat seems deternined to hang on !!!

    • Craig says:

      03:22pm | 18/07/09

      I must be one of the happiest people on earth. I get a good 9 hours (or more) a night and move my bowels straight after breakfast every morning. I don’t understand how most people get by without them to be honest. Eating healthy food probably helps and I certainly harbor little guilt about the past or fear about the future, live for the present I say.

    • Evan Maloney says:

      05:54pm | 18/07/09

      I’ll take coffee and a blow-job but, regrettably, I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

    • Tim says:

      06:07pm | 18/07/09

      So let me get this right, what Tory is iluding to is that if you get a good sleep and a good poo you will be happy.

      But in order to acheive these things there are a number of caveats applied. For example to have a good night sleep you require ‘An easy mind. No guilt about the previous day’s actions, no fear about the day ahead, no hunger, no fear, no pain, no strafing of bullets’ and to have a good poo you require ‘a good diet’.

      So in other words for me to be able to do these things to make me happy, i need to first have a healthy body and a healthy mind free from concern.

      Is it just me or is this another adaption of the chicken and the egg conundrum.

    • Brad says:

      08:46pm | 18/07/09

      As the Dalai Lama said “True happiness comes from peace of mind”.
      Peace of mind for me is many things. In this capitalistic World, unfortunately it is money to buy a house raise kids and pay my bills.
      But no matter how you try to justify true happiness it will always come back to peace of mind.

    • Wombe says:

      09:42pm | 18/07/09

      Umm - ablution means “to wash”, it has nothing to do with dropping the kids off at the pool.

    • Leon says:

      09:25am | 19/07/09

      In which case, I must be nearing total enlightenment…

    • Jack says:

      10:36am | 19/07/09

      Hmmm…OK so maybe it is true. I can speak from the other side of the moon. My bowel movements are maybe 2 -4 days in between, sometimes more, always between 11-1pm when they arrive. I am a cranky old coot most of the time. I’ll have to start painting the porcelain earlier so that I can be happier.

    • davido says:

      10:55am | 19/07/09

      I am with Wombe on ‘ablution’... you had me puzzled there for a while.

      As to a poo in the morning, I have never had one in the morning so I wouldnt know.

      Sleep is a must though and I can almost tell by someone’s behaviour at work how much sleep they have had.

    • harlequin says:

      02:15pm | 19/07/09

      Spot-on!  Let me wake up by myself, and I’m a happy lad.  Wake me up and I’m like a bear with a sore head.  Wake me up and I’m constipated and I’m quite ready to start world war III.  But let me have nine hours sleep (I always knew that eight hours malarkey was bullshit!) and a good poo and I’m just a happy, laughing laughable lad.  OK, ‘lad’ is stretching it a few decades, but you get the picture.

    • Tory says:

      05:04pm | 19/07/09

      Hmmm, you guys are right re. the use of the word ablution in the headline.

      Maybe the subs see a poo as a form of internal cleansing, possibly with religious overtones.

    • ol' larry says:

      06:01pm | 19/07/09

      Sadly I’m missing the peaceful slumber part. It’s a long time since I woke up and thought “oooooooh yeah, that was a good one”. Thankfully, I get to say it about 30 minutes later, straight after breakfast.

    • les says:

      10:16pm | 19/07/09

      why does it take a degree to figure out the obvious, a good bonk , a good sleep, followed by a good defecating ecstasy experience ah life is good! and simple too. but why it has taken so long to get medical endorsement of these simple things in life? maybe the religious distaste for anything that was /is pleasurable has only really just started to be eroded ..as a child suffering from chronic constipation the best my family doctor could ask was did I have a daily motion? never was it a good experience


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