PSYCH ARTICLE

happiness on a mountain

Part 2: Professor Happiness Teaches Us How to Be Happy

Happiness expert Raj Raghunathan on the marketing and psychology of happiness

In Part 2 of our interview with "Professor Happiness" Raj Raghunathan, the expert actually teaches us how to be happy. Isn't this what you've been waiting for? (Click here for Part 1)

DailyHap: What's the number one thing you've learned about happiness?
Raj: I don't know if I would call any of these the "number 1 thing," but there are so many insights you get as you go down the "rabbit hole" of happiness. One thing you quickly learn is that constantly wondering about how happy you are is not a good thing—you get depressed. It's no surprise or coincidence that a number of people who study happiness tend to be depressed.
 
Second, you discover that people have made life so complicated both for themselves and for others, and that it is all so unnecessary: we could be so much happier if we just simplified our lives, but we don't seem to be willing or able to do it.
 
Third, you discover that, although people say they want to lead a happy life, they haven't taken time to define happiness. If you don't know what happiness is, how are you going to achieve it?

DailyHap: What makes you happy?
Raj: Oh, a lot of things. I love being with my kids and family. I also feel really happy when I have made other people happy. I love being absorbed in work—e.g., when I am trying to explain an intricate train of thought in a research article. I really like it when I am in open spaces, out in nature, with the sun beating down on me. I also like it when I have had a nice long day's work and I feel mentally and physically tired, ready to sleep.

I also like playing pranks on others—getting them into sticky (but safe) situations.

DailyHap: What is—if it exists—the universal secret to happiness?
Raj: I think there are five very important requirements for human beings to be happy.
 
First, it is important for basic needs to be met. If you are worrying about where your next meal is going to come from or you are suffering in the cold, it is unlikely that you can be happy.
 
Second, it is important to find something that you truly love to do and have the opportunity and resources to pursue that passion. This passion may not pay you well, and it may be something that no one else does, but so long as you can get "lost" in it, you will find life to be meaningful.
 
Third, it is crucial to be loved and nurtured—and feel connected—but it is even more important to develop the ability to love and nurture others. There are a variety of reasons why loving and nurturing others is so important, but one of the main reasons is that, when you are so "emotionally generous," you feel expansive and big, like a King or a Queen and that's a very elevating feeling.
 
Fourth—and this is something so crucial that, even if you had the first three you wouldn't be happy without this—it is vital to have the ability to "go with the flow," that is, be flexible and open to whatever life throws at you. This includes being open to suggestions that others make, and to accepting others the way they are, without feeling frustrated by one's inability to change others. This does not mean that one shouldn't attempt to control others or the environment; rather, what it means is that one should develop the ability to not be upset or frustrated if one fails in one's attempts to change or control people or things.
 
This takes a very fine and deep understanding of the nature of reality and systems, which is why, the fifth and final requirement for happiness is to have faith that things will work out fine in the end. With such faith, it becomes easier to accept the people one has to interact with, and the outcomes that one is dealt.
 

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