Remove the mask you wear around the public and answer me this - when you are alone with yourself and your thoughts, are you happy? Or do you allow the ghosts of past failures and the spectres of future outcomes to haunt you?

I know my ghosts and spectres constantly visit me. They would keep me up till 3 in the morning and have my heart beating wildly like Clapton on steroids with their 'What ifs'. The simple truth was that the constant worrying has probably already done its damage, shaving away a few years from my life. 

All that changed when I finally reached a breaking point and chose to actively stop caring about things that were just 'possible outcomes' instead of realities. I stopped fretting about the things I could not change and actively focused on surrounding myself with happy people or just those who were happy to be around me. Making them smile or helping them through their bad times was my high; the light that helped scare away my own ghosts.

how to remain happy based on lessons from the "world's happiest man"

It turns out that that was the right thing to do. Ask Matthieu Ricard. Who? 

Matthieu Ricard is the world's happiest man

No, seriously, that is his thing.

matthieu ricard
The 69-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk was part of a 12 year study by neuroscientists on the role of meditation and compassion and his brainwaves were found to be way higher than the rest on the happiness charts. 

What did that mean?
  • It meant that he had an enhanced ability to respond to others feelings. 
  • More importantly, he could empathize without getting overwhelmed.
  • He was also clinically proven to be far less stunned by sudden unexpected or aggravating stimuli than a regular human being.

I know it is not as cool as having Iron Man's suit or Spiderman's ability to climb walls but don't you think that it is a pretty awesome super power to have - the ability to be happy and react to stress better than anyone else? Given a choice, would you not consider getting that over being bitten by a radioactive spider or a radioactive iron box (That is how Iron Man became a superhero, right?).

There are times when stress is definitely warranted, Matthieu Ricard noted, like 'when a rhinoceros is running behind you' or when you feel you are being oppressed. But all other forms of stress - that don't directly affect you mentally or physically - should be removed from your mind.

The constant fear of things that may happen/ how people perceive you/ how your bad decisions affected your life- these are your rhinos running behind you, keeping you stressed and destroying your immune system from within even as you wear a mask and smile to maintain appearances on the outside.

The key, as Ricard stated, was to let go.

You cannot outrun a rhino over an entire jungle. The same applies to your inner demons and worries. You cannot outrun them. You can only defeat your perceived rhinos by acknowledging that they do not exist. 

Of course, there are problems that are real as well. Diseases - temporary or permanent, divorce, loss of loved ones, crimes, poverty - these are real and affect us directly at times. So how is it possible to still be happy?

1. Happiness  is a skill to be cultivated. 
You must make it a daily process rather than look for temporary highs. 
Remember my 100 Happy Days challenges and how they changed my life not once but twice? Everyone I know who took the challenge came out a different person, realizing how important it was to make happiness a part of their everyday routine.

2. Having a temper is not a crime. 
Choosing to let it be your defining quality is a different matter.

3. Choose to be benevolent and altruistic. - Matthieu Ricard
That means choosing to be kind and to care and help others. Yes, life has taught me that you may get used by some who choose to take advantage. But you cannot choose to give up on good people simply because bad ones exist. You do not give up on the rose buds just because weeds arise around it. 

4. Instead, actively aim to get rid of the stress factors in your life.
 Hatred, obsession, greed, pride et al. That involves introspection as well as true awareness of your own nature and those you surround yourselves with. If it means unfriending blood relatives and false friends, so be it. 

5. Share the happiness. 
Make people who matter in your life happy too. It is not a case of being selfless - their happiness makes you happy once more. It was my antidote and still works even today.

6. If you can't control it, don't keep worrying about it. 
Having a problem is different from worrying about it. Being a diabetic is different from worrying about all the possible end stage outcomes and complications of diabetes. 

7.  'One aspect of your life may not be there but many others are.' - Matthieu Ricard
Enjoy what exists instead of fretting over what is not.

The simple truth is that a lot of the burdens we carry on our shoulders do not actually exist in real time. And you need to realize that to get back on the happiness train.

Yes, this isn't the life you imagined for yourself. 
Yes, there are things that are beyond your control. 
But that doesn't mean this is the end of your journey... just the start of a new fork on the road of life; one with opportunities galore for you not just to laugh and be happy again but also to be the success your teenage self envisioned you becoming. To achieve new goals.

How about starting off by stealing Monk Matthieu Ricard's title and becoming the happiest person on Earth? Don't you think that would be a goal you would want in your life?

Author's note:

P.S. To the one guy in Africa who is reading this blogpost while being chased by a rhinoceros in the savannas, I am so sorry. This post does not apply to you. There is definitely a real rhino behind you. You are looking to Google "What to do when there is a rhinoceros running behind you." 

On February 20th 2015, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion held its first link up. The intention for that day was to get a thousand bloggers from across the world together and spread compassion and love. That plan would carry forward from a single day into a monthly event where bloggers united to dispel the negativity with their words.

This month marks the 1 year anniversary of 1000Speak. And we mark the anniversary by talking about lessons we learned over the year and how it affected us. The lesson I learned and which I wanted to share with you:  Let go and realize there is no rhinoceros running behind you. Only then will you enjoy your stroll through the jungle.

In the past, I had written for #1000Speak on:
1. Compassion (my favourite)
3. Nurturing (my dog Snoopy's favourite... hmmph.)
4. Acceptance
5. Love
6. Compassion once more
7. Listening


Kala Ravi said…
While chuckling at the P.S, I am amazed at the wonderful content you have shared here Doc. Being happy and stress-free is a choice well within our reach. Why is then that so few people avail of it? They'd rather be pursued by rhinos than move sideways to let the rhino continue on it's straight ramming path. Strange indeed! I am all for stealing Matthieu Ricard's thunder and becoming the happiest person. Expecto Patronum! Focusing on one's happy memories even in moments of distress....really works!
Vaisakhi said…
I feel like my ghosts stay with me alll the freaking time. And yes I had read about Matthieu Ricard a couple of months back in an article stating why Butan is the happiest country in the world. For now I am still trying the let go part...let's see where it takes me!

And well for you Doc...when is the laughing Buddha of Blog world becoming the happy laughing Buddha?
Vidya Sury said…
The world's happiest man is in the news, and what a pleasure it is to read about him, Roshan!

I am currently doing the 365 days of happiness challenge. Of course I have several ways to be happy that I practice regularly - but it is great to practice it daily! Sometimes, several times. You've made great points in your post and yes, I am seriously working on being the happiest person on earth. Point no.6 - Amen to that!

Thank you!
Alana said…
Hoping that person in Africa has a smart phone. But seriously, I agree with so much that you say. But (and here's the big but) when you are caring for an elderly relative, and a family member gives you grief, but you need their help at the same time, it's hard to "unfriend" or shut that person out of your life. It's so tempting to, though - maybe that's what your Acceptance post will be about.
Parul said…
Thank you for sharing about the world's happiest man and those tips are so true. Your post is inspiring. I have been pretty down lately and I am also working on myself. Time to let go of those demons.
P.S. The P.S made me giggle :)
Vasumathi said…
Thanks as usual :) Every post makes great reading. And as others said - the PS not only made me chuckle, but wonder how on earth did you think of writing something so apt! :D :D
jaish_vats said…
Hi Roshan
I feel like this one post has been written for me hi hi.... You are right.... Unless you turn around and ask that rhino to become a cartoon bubble and go pop it will keep chasing you.... Great post
Just what the doctor ordered!
Just what the doctor ordered!
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for this serious yet laugh out loud post. Sometimes, the rhinoceros comes in different forms and is just as threatening. I live with a severe auto-immune disease which comes and goes and I think of it as a stalking shadow. Sometimes, I barely know it's there and at other times, I can feel it breathing into my ear and sometimes that voice is scary but it can also be strangely alluring. Offers me lollies..."Come here little girl".
After ten years of this, I gain strength from my track record. I am still here and I've survived some pretty grueling battles. I am also not alone. I have an excellent medical team and they're just as determined to get him as I am. I also haven't seen the disease as me. It has always been a separate entity and I know that's helped. In the end, all I can do is be as prepared as I can be and put up a good fight. I don't always do everything I'm supposed to do but I try. I am thankful for the time I've had and I'm also building up a legacy for my children in event of the worst. I have written enough for them to last til eternity.
Thanks again.
xx Rowena
Shilpa Gupte said…
Thanks so much, doc, for this amazing post and also about the info on the world's happiest man! I know there are a couple of rhinos running after me; guess, I will just step aside and let them go ahead! And strive to stay happy, in spite of...! 😀
Shilpa Gupte said…
Thanks so much, doc, for this amazing post and also about the info on the world's happiest man! I know there are a couple of rhinos running after me; guess, I will just step aside and let them go ahead! And strive to stay happy, in spite of...! 😀
The monk himself says that everyone can be the happiest person in the world. It is just a matter of aiming for it actively instead of waiting for happiness to fall in our laps.
And yes, stealing his thunder should be a life goal. Using the Expecto Patronum concept is something I always recommend too.
You aren't alone. Our ghosts will always be there, hiding under the surface. the trick is to keep them there till there is so much happiness in your life that the ghosts slowly disappear from your memories.
Letting go is tough... but it is also essential.
As for me, let's see - I've got the Laughing Buddha body ready... just a matter of mind now :D
I keep hunting for such kind of people... these are the stories we need to share with the public, I always feel.

365 days... ah, that is the Everest of all challenges.
That situation sadly comes under the "things we can't control" category. Yes, it is about accepting the things that we cant change.
as someone who completed the 100 happy days challenge, you know as well as I do how important it is in our lives.
Glad to hear that :D
I'm sorry to hear that. Sadly, I know so many brave people who fight against autoimmune diseases and yes, the fear is real.
But it is especially during that phase that you need to look forward and enjoy the moment rather than keep looking at the worst the future has to offer.
All the best.
hehe.. now there is an idea. Creativity ftw!
Think of the stuff you can change. Prepare for it. But if it is just the fear of stuff that may happen, then let it go.
Yvonne Spence said…
What a lovely post! I feel inspired to take up your challenge of stealing Monk Matthieu Ricard's title and becoming the happiest person on earth.
I agree that letting go is the key. Not always easy to do, and for me it starts with welcoming what is, instead of fighting it. Somehow it's so much easier to let go when we aren't resisting.

I am really enjoying reading the posts for the link-up and so several people have shared stories of people who have inspired them. There are many ways to climb the mountain it seems, but they all boil down to: compassion for yourself and others, let go.

PS, I loved your PS!
Ls said…
Thats a good dose Roshan. Loving it and putting into practice specially the 6th one.
Richa Singh said…
This comes in at the right time! I have been wondering myself why is it that many are happy and many are not. My takeaway from this is 'having a temper is ok'
Nisha Sanjeev said…
ha ha love your PS, Roshan. Well, after having lived with my ghosts for years, now I strongly adhere to my mantra - 'I do not seek my worth and value in anyone, anything around me'. It has helped me be happy.
Anita Jeyan said…
Firstly, the PS is so awesome :D Yeah that guy who is being chased by the Rhino is sure to end up here ! You are not going to be the happiest man then I tell beware.

Excellent post, doc! Happiness is something we should find ourselves. There are too may people drowning in self pity and blaming others instead of trying to be positive and happy.
Letting Go is never easy. A big factor is always time and distance. Being impatient to be happy once more and be free from the sorrow/scars/memories.

I still have to catch up on so many posts and wonderful lessons this time around... hopefully will do so in the coming 48 hours.
As everyone will tell you, it is never easy. But I can tell you from experience, it is what will save you in the end.
We tend to seek out the 'happiness highs' constantly. Instead aim to make happiness a regular steady dose... then even if you have a moment of anger, you will revert back to your default state faster than most instead of letting the anger overwhelm you for the rest of that day.
Totally agree... that made a huge difference in my life. Changed my mindset to a much more positive one and I honestly don't think I have become selfish for it either.
Anita, see that is where this post is handy too. Till the day he finds me, I need not worry about him :D He is my rhinoceros!
Ya, we all succumb to self pity and the blame game but a time comes when you need to just move forward and choose to be happy with what exists.
Everything cannot be a real rhino chasing us.
Vasantha Vivek said…
Really I had an urge to read the post because of Rhino in the title .... :) But it helped me more than that. No. 6 is my favorite. The PS is hilarious .... :) :) :)
Ira said…
A strong happy start on a lighter note with the doc! An inspiring post to stay happy no matter what course the life takes. CHEERS TO LIFE!
Thank You so much for this post Doc!
Aditi said…
Happiness is definitely a choice and you can cultivate it. And the two people who remind me of this every time I visit their blogs are you and Vidya :)

Thank you for this amazing post, Doc!
Happiness is indeed a matter of choice and will.. it is well within our reach.. yesterday I was watching 'Awakening with Brahma Kumaris' and the same topic was being discussed.. really, we solely are responsible for our happiness.. no one else...
haha... I should find more life lessons involving wild animals in that case.
Thanks.. glad you enjoyed it :)
Hope it helped you :)
Thanks. That is high praise indeed for me :)
Moment of my day :D
It may seem easy when read as words and really hard to inculcate in real life but it is totally worth the effort.
tulika singh said…
That PS made me laugh Roshan ut what you said was such food for thought. It actually sounds easy -choose to be happy and you shall be. Seems like we have the power in our own hands. That's a heartening thought.
payal agarwal said…
Truly inspiring! Happiness is a choice for sure. Love that PS. :)
Shilpa Garg said…
So good to know that about the world's happiest man. And that goes on to show that happiness is an inside job. It might not be an easy task and not something that we can master easily, but it is something that we must strive for, everyday!
I know it is never as easy as it sounds. But it is worth the effort. And soon, it stops becoming an effort but a normal way of life.
We have to believe that he qualifies as the expert and what he says does make sense. Hard to practice but then what good thing isn't, right?
Anonymous said…
I think everyone carries their ghosts with them to a point - but they're part of who we are right now, so would we really want to lose them?
Love the rhinoceros lesson, especially your P.S. to the guy ACTUALLY being chased by one. :D
Glad to have your voice as part of #1000Speak!
Rekha Dhyani said…
My past failures and sttruggles kept me awake till late into the night or wake me up in the middle of the night for a long long time. Thankfully, I started meditating and thus have been able to get rid of negative thoughts to a large extent. I can definitely say I'm a much happier and content person now. Lovely lesson that was, Doc! As always. :-)
I think we need to learn the lesson from our ghosts and then move forward, leaving the ghost behind and taking just the lesson forward:)
thanks. its been wonderful being a part of #1000speak
Same here.. past failures and lost opportunities and dreams really took a major toll on my health. I still have to get around to meditation though that is one of the keys that Ricard definitely talks about
Great thoughts and ideas.
And I almost missed this one! I'm starting to realize that a big part of happiness is letting go and living without regrets. The best part about happiness is that it's all up to you.
Sorry for the late reply. Thanks :)
yes. we all know its easier said than done but there really is no point holding on to some skeletons from the past
Mithila Menezes said…
The worst problem that anyone could face is the problem of imagining that they have problems.
Lesson learnt, and I surely will apply the monk's techniques and principles to my life! They are pretty cool.. How many of us can boast of being not-frazzled by the daily stresses of life?

I know I definitely am... but its a lot less than it used to be, I am glad to say.
The World's Happiest man. What a lovely title! While I am constantly haunted by worries, one thing I can agree with is the part about empathy - during my worst moments, I get so self absorbed that I completely fail to empathize with others. I recognize this as a fault, but fail to act upon it.

Needless to say, we're all better people when happy. Like the monk says, we should stop focusing on the one aspect that's bothering us. Here's to the monk and to choosing happiness!
Anonymous said…
It’s hard to cultivate the true happiness. But after a while of feeling upset over the rhinos I have realised that it’s jugs in how well we water the happiness plant! Good points!

Bushra said…
Wow that's incredible studies. Indeed choose to being happy should not be overlooked. Worrying about problem won't end it. So we should not miss the present by thinking about future or past
Dipika said…
Your P.S. was hilarious, it actually made me google about that man ;)
Only if we could control out minds - else everything would fit on it's right place. Happiness is Key.
Geethica Mehra said…
Many times we are burdened with with things that don't exist in reality. Happiness is a habit that we all should wear.
Deepa said…
This is something which I needed today. I am an overthinker and someone who is a not very positive person but trying to be one slowly. I am bookmarking this to read whenever I feel the rhino is chasing me. :)A
Tina Basu said…
This is a wonderful read. Sharing happiness brings in more joy. Lets enjoy
Nameesh N said…
Beautiful set of thoughts put up in the blog. I believe in most of the points that are mentioned. The only thing I think is that, people do know about most of these things but can't control themselves and end up into the rat-hole. I feel the points you mentioned as part of this article should be written and stuck as a postit so that the person can read it again & again. It is necessary to tune the mind not to worry about what cant be controlled. Thanks for sharing.
Happiness can be practiced.Its a wonderful way to live life beautifully .Loved the PS
Great to read about the world's happiest man. Yes I would love to have that super power of being happy all the time. Love how you mentioned about spectres of thetpast visiting. Now only if I can follow all the amazing tips you have given
foodietweeter said…
I never knew you write so well Doc. :p
Jokes apart, a very good read here. thanks for sharing