Dubai: British celebrity physician Dr Rangan Chatterjee gave out a lifestyle prescription to feel great and happy always to a packed audience at the 15th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Emirates LitFest) on Sunday night.
“Happiness is a trainable skill,” said Dr Chatterjee whose latest book is titled ‘Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways to Feel Great Every Day.’
He maintained that happiness can transform our health and it is a skill that can be practised and developed, rather than an impossible destination or mirage.
A medical doctor with over 20 years’ experience, Dr Chatterjee said his focus in medical practice had changed after his son had fallen sick due to hypocalcemia convulsion when he was just six months in 2010.
“Modern medicine saved his life. But it did nothing to teach me about what had happened and what the implications of that were,” he said in conversation with moderator Sally Moussa.
He said he had felt guilty that even with all the educational qualifications and experience, he was unable to prevent his son from nearly dying from a preventable vitamin deficiency.
New wealth of knowledge
In his desire to get his son back to full health, Dr Chatterjee travelled around the world, attending conferences and learning new information and applying it with his son, who is now a thriving, healthy 12-year-old boy.
Dr Chatterjee had, meanwhile, started utilising his new wealth of knowledge for treating his patients and to spread awareness through podcasts, television shows and books. He became the presenter of the BBC1 show, Doctor in the House, and has a popular podcast, ‘Feel Better, Live More’. He has also authored six books.
According to Dr Chatterjee, 80 to 90 per cent of patients seen by doctors are in some way related to our collective modern lifestyles.
“We have to accept that as doctors, we’re trying to get pharmaceutical solutions for lifestyle problems. And it just doesn’t work very well in my experience for most people. I’m not anti-pharmacy as such as I think they have their role. We are over prescribing them, in my view, for issues that are driven by our lifestyle.”
No band-aid solutions
Instead of going for band-aid solutions, he said he would prefer to help his patients understand what might be causing their health issues and try to get rid of them for good.
Chatterjee maintained that when we are healthier, we are happier because when we feel well, we naturally make better lifestyle choices, which then enable us to enjoy life even more. He explained how his 360° approach to health shows that a few changes in key areas of your life produce enormous benefits, empowering you to become the architect of your own health.
“All those things have taught me a lot about life…about what life really means, about what health really means. I’m now at a stage in my life, where instead of feeling guilty about what happened with my son, I actually think that that was his gift to me because had that not happened, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Happiness key pillar to health
For him, the four key pillars of health have been food, movement, sleep and relaxation as he had written in an earlier book.
“But over the last few years, I’ve been thinking is lifestyle really the root course? Or is it something that’s even more important than our lifestyle? And that’s what led to this latest book on happiness because there is something that’s more important than lifestyle in my view.”
Trying to change any unhealthy behaviour or addiction through willpower and motivation actually does not work in the long run unless the person is happy about doing it, he observed.
While asserting that happiness is a trainable skill, he opined that it is not something that just happens to us when we know life is good, rather it is the mental stage that you create by choosing a positive approach to any situation in your life and we create our happy experience of the world.
“A lot of the reason we don’t feel happy is because we actually bring stress onto ourselves with the way we view things. And a lot of stress is self-generated with how we view a situation,” he said.
Solitude and journaling
Having compassion and empathy can help avoid social friction and stress originating from the behaviour of other people. It is important to have your inner values in alignment of your external actions and emotional stress has a ripple effect on mental and physical health.
Having self-awareness is an incredibly powerful tool and people must have a daily practice of spending some time in solitude and journaling to reflect on life, he said.
“We now know the feeling of being lonely is as harmful for your health as smoking 15 plus cigarettes a day. But the reason many of us are struggling with our wider health is because of this loneliness and we do need to open up and if you don’t have someone to open up to in person, do it to a journal.”
Dr Chatterjee also shared his morning routine in which he brings in three Ms—mindfulness movements, and mindsets. “Mindfulness could be meditation; it could be some breathing practices. It could be drinking your coffee or tea in silence, not scrolling on your phone at the same time, but really paying attention to the flavours.”
After 10-15 minutes of meditation, he said he practices a five-minute strength workout. For the part of mindset, he said he reads something uplifting.