Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recipes for Happiness, part one

A thought came to my mind: Why not start a collection of recipes for happiness that other people (whether laymen or experts) have proposed? This can also include lists such as guidelines for a fulfilling life.

The only criterion is that the list should contain clear statements, instead of consisting of general principles or of vague aphorisms (an example of the latter kind is Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). The lists may be serious or lighthearted, all are welcome!

Please contribute in the comments section!

And please, no self-created lists. I am looking to collect only recipes authored by famous people or authors, or the results of extensive surveys.

I make no recommendation for these recipes. In other words: Buyer Beware, Pick and choose, No warranties, etc.

Let me seed the collection with three lists:


Khushwant Singh

First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health, you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness.

Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores, but it should be enough to provide for comforts, and there should be something to spare for recreation—eating out, going to the movies, travel and holidays in the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.

Third, your own home. Rented places can never give you the comfort or security of a home that is yours for keeps. If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, and cultivate a sense of kinship with them.

Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If you have too many misunderstandings, it robs you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to be quarrelling all the time.

Fifth, stop envying those who have done better than you in life—risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.

Sixth, do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.

Seventh, cultivate a hobby or two that will fulfil you—gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks, or to meet celebrities, is a criminal waste of time. It’s important to concentrate on something that keeps you occupied meaningfully. I have family members and friends who spend their entire day caring for stray dogs, giving them food and medicines. There are others who run mobile clinics, treating sick people and animals free of charge.

Eighth, every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the mornings, 10 minutes should be spent in keeping the mind absolutely still, and five listing the things you have to do that day. In the evenings, five minutes should be set aside to keep the mind still and 10 to go over the tasks you had intended to do.

Ninth, don’t lose your temper. Try not to be short-tempered, or vengeful. Even when a friend has been rude, just move on.

Above all, when the time comes to go, one should go like a man without any regret or grievance against anyone. Iqbal said it beautifully in a couplet in Persian: "You ask me about the signs of a man of faith? When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips."

The SOEP Survey:

1. Having an emotionally stable (non-neurotic) marital partner;
2. Prioritizing altruistic and/or family goals;
3. Attending church; and
4. Making a satisfactory trade-off between work and leisure - both are important, but need to be balanced.

Robert Fulghum (author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.


Harmanjit Singh said...

Some comments from facebook:

- Love Khushwant's list! Very practical.

- Commendable endeavor!

- I also recommend:

- I appreciate your effort. It would be nice to see what different people recommend. Here's a 5-point article for getting peace of mind by a therapist:

An article called 'Top 5 regrets of the dying':

Unknown said...

I recommend a treatise on happiness:

Lots of interesting points.

Anonymous said...

Freud: work and love.

Bill :-)

Anonymous said...

Epicurus: Pleasure in peace, moderation, freedom from fear and pain, and friendship.

Bill :-)

justbe said...

How hard you are trying to be happy?

How hard is for you to trust your self in the psychological self devised fear of being narcissistic and look for the recipes suggested by the famous/authors, suggesting them as the ones who are experienced?

How barred is the inner and outer separation you have made for yourself (your entire b(l)ogging is a reflection of that) that any recipe that you collect will not be perceived by you in total??

Thats my experience 'having gone through that', though its good to try and keep experimenting with recipes of life. I enjoyed Khushwant's list. Much of it is derived after his works of translations that he did for some parts of the sikh scriptures which he blended with his own lifestyle.

Harmanjit Singh said...

@justbe: stop frothing at the mouth. you don't make any sense, except in the last paragraph, which is the only one relevant to this article.

zrini (srini, ஸ்ரீநி, வாசு, சீனு, சீனி etc.) said...

great stuff! keep it up.

zrini (srini, ஸ்ரீநி, வாசு, சீனு, சீனி etc.) said...

as i pondered on your question, though you have asked only popular views, i thought that the general recipe for happiness is ineffective for, say, a psychotic or lovelorn (it may be still do some good to them, if they receive it well); so in some sense, 'the general solution', stated below, which seems to be a tautology to me, 'the particulars' that prevent one from being happy need to be squarely addressed. not that it is simple, because the invisible structures that are part of oneself are contributing to the unhappiness. by reading popular views and your blog, these invisible structures that are contributing to unhappiness may get influenced and fall down and result in constructive action,thus contributing to happiness... sounds like i am self-validating my statement :).

Anonymous said...

Punjabi list of happiness(No No this is not narcissism this is about making others(grooms family) happy)!!!!

Shreyas said...

Epicurus' Tetrapharmakos -

Don't fear God
Don't worry about death
What is good is easy to get
What is difficult is easy to endure

Anonymous said...

just be content and clarity in thought. there is no recipes for happiness, these tips will lead give momentarily happiness!!