Happiness Express tells you how to be 'Happy' by diving into your daily life
A new book presents mantras for everyday well-being by deep-diving into the way we sleep, eat, exercise, learn and procrastinate
What is your definition of happiness?" we ask Khurshed Batliwala. "It's just finding the toilet door open when you really want to go," he replies. His answer isn't surprising given the fact that we're halfway through his new book Happiness Express [Westland Books], which Batliwala has co-authored with Dinesh Ghodke, and we've had a few laughs already. Both authors are Art of Living teachers.
They're also IIT Bombay alumni, so naturally, they're often asked, "How do I get into IIT?" Which is why they came out with Ready, Steady, Go! last year, a guide to smart ways of learning. "But then people asked us, 'How did you manage to get out of IIT?', and then we decided to write Happiness Express," Batliwalla tells us over a phone call from Bengaluru, while he proceeds to expand his original definition. "Happiness can mean different things for different people. For a child, it's a teddy bear while for a teenager it could be their first love," he says.
Dinesh Ghodke and Khurshed Batliwala
We'll confess, we deliberately walk on the opposite side of the self-help section in bookstores. Once, a wise man even summed up two popular self-help reads for us — The Checklist by Atul Gawande and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell — in five minutes. And we'll shamelessly admit, we still have a problem with implementing those tips. Happiness Express, though, is a smooth read because it deals with a subject we don't overtly talk about — it's a given that everyone wants to be happy — and it's pretty hilarious, which is also a given considering the authors' ability to crack us up over the phone. They delve into the anatomy of the brain, sleep as a biological activity, how we learn, the practice of meditation, and memory with methods to improve daily well-being that Batliwala and Ghodke have tested.
The bits of jargon become fun, too. Only because their intent is to de-jargonise. A chapter called The Feynman Technique, modelled after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman who was known to simplify complex problems, is our favourite because it breaks down the very definition of a "derivative" — enough to bring back memories of our undergraduate days as students of statistics. Then, they have outlined steps to help you study — and the first is to simply write down the title of the concept.
In fact, when we speak to Kumaar Bagrodia, the founder of Neuroleap, an applied neuroscience venture that deals with the assessment of brain activity based on neurometric readings, he informs us of the importance of the thinking organ, as opposed to its intangible counterpart. "As technology gets complex, the solutions become simple. So, instead of dealing with the mind, we deal with the brain. Our set of clients are diverse — and a lot of them come in for learning disorders," he says.
What's interesting is that the checklist approach, which is what Gawade's book is about, isn't any solution for the authors. They suggest Mind Mapping instead. Batliwala and Ghodke maintain an inclusive approach, which is essential to prove the point that happiness isn't dependent on any one factor alone — it has to be viewed in context, and in totality.
The book comes with funny illustrations based on the authors’ experiences. Illustrations/Gowrishankar V, Swung Dash Studio
"Everybody loves sleep and food. But most don't know much about the process. By the time a person retires, he has slept for a total of 22 years, but they don't know what happened in those 22 years. So, we wanted to show how you can make this a restful time," Ghodke explains adding, "As a society, we're happy talking about the problem, and our conversations are never solution-oriented. Rather than spending on the latest iPhone or iPad, we recommend spending on experiences."
The exponential curve demonstrates that within 20 minutes of learning something, you are likely to forget 40 per cent of it. Instead keep writing what you remember.
The expert angle
There is no medical definition for happiness. An easy philosophy to be happy is non-attachment. Of course sleep and exercise are essential for being happy. Whereas, with procrastination, people procrastinate only because they don't like the task they are supposed to do or because they're anxious about doing it. But there are also those who procrastinate and are happy. The key is to live a simple life.
Dr Dayal Mirchandani, psychiatrist
. It is very difficult to define happiness. At the most, it is a pleasant feeling. And honestly, happiness is overrated. I'm not saying that one should be happy. But imagine if you were happy all through the year, what sense would that make? Sadness is what gives happiness it's meaning.
. Most people don't think of happiness in the long term. It shouldn't be a goal. It's a choice.
. The shortcut to happiness is gratitude. And whenever people tell me that they don't have anything to be grateful for, I
check on them. "Hey, you're breathing, no?"
Milind Jadhav, life coach
Author tips for procrastination
. Batliwala and Ghodke call procrastination the "Dark Lord of all vices". So, the first step is to begin. And if you're thinking of failure already, just give yourself the permission to fail.
. Right now is always the best time.
. Don't think of the long term, and take small steps to reach your goal. Take short breaks with some meditation.
> After you accomplish your task, don't forget to reward yourself. It gives you an incentive to do more.
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