Deepak Chopra, the physician, speaker and writer specializing in mind-body connections, is not exactly someone I’d listen to all day. As a veterinary surgeon, I’m a bit too rational for that. But he piqued my interest in explaining* how we can reach happiness. To be happy, he says, we need to reach balance in four areas of life.
Reaching worthy goals is a wonderful thing, but it shouldn’t be our only purpose. We all know people who have achieved financial success but are miserable, lonely or addicted.
The Hollywood scene is a great (or sad) demonstration. Success cannot be defined by net income only.
Similarly, being loved is one thing. Giving back is another. A greater goal in life could be: “What can I do to help others?”
Chopra reminds himself to help others by considering the three A’s: Attention, affection and appreciation. For example, you can give your undivided attention to someone (a colleague, a friend, a spouse or a child) instead of simultaneously emailing, texting or daydreaming.
This is one area that needs to be achieved mostly for yourself. Physical well-being leads to emotional well-being. We all know what to do, although we don’t often sleep enough, exercise enough or eat healthy food.
But in turn, being healthy enables us to do all kinds of things for others, so it is not as selfish as it sounds.
Whether you believe in a supreme being, a higher consciousness or you develop your intuition or creativity, being a spiritual being is part of being happy.
One would think that a veterinary clinic has little room for creativity, yet I often see colleagues and technicians come up with ingenious solutions to everyday problems.
When we reach happiness, says Chopra, we secrete neuropeptides and neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and opiates. They in turn affect immune-modulation, which affects our health.
Is being happy a selfish endeavor? Sure, we want to be happy for our own sake.
But when we transcend selfish goals, we can do things for others: first, our family and friends; beyond them, our community; and beyond that, the world.
Chopra then shares a mathematical formula for happiness. What could be more rational than that? It is not his invention, he says; it has been designed by social scientists:
H = S + C + V
H is, of course, happiness.
S is a set point in the brain. It is determined early in life, maybe around 3 or 4 years of age. Some people look at any situation and find an opportunity for happiness. It is a rare quality. Surely you’ve noticed that most people complain, criticize and condemn.
This set point in the brain determines about 50 percent of happiness.
C stands for (material) conditions of living. It is interesting to note that two kinds of people constantly think about money: the extremely poor and the extremely rich. And it so happens that they are typically unhappy.
Conditions of living determine only about 10 percent of happiness.
V stands for voluntary choices. We can make choices for personal pleasure (watching a movie, dinning out, shopping …) but they tend to lead to short-term happiness.
We can also make choices that bring fulfillment and lasting happiness. They take place when our choices involve creativity, when we use our strengths or when we contribute to a business or a community that is larger than ourselves.
Our voluntary choices determine about 40 percent of happiness.
Ultimately, Deepak Chopra believes that the easiest way to be happy is to make someone else happy.
* This blog is loosely inspired by his interview with Darren Hardy, editor of Success Magazine, in June 2012.
Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.