Choose to Be Happy? Yes You Can!
Dr. Amit Sood -- professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine -- grew up and went to medical school in Bhopal, India. Throughout his medical training, he writes, he experienced "the scourge of poverty, malnutrition and disease" that created tremendous suffering in his country.
In 1995, Sood came to America. He did a two-year residency in New York, followed by six years in rural Washington, all the while practicing a different kind of medicine than he had in India. In America, his patients were, on the whole, healthier, wealthier, better nourished, with many more resources.
Here's the shocker. "To my surprise," he writes, "the suffering was the same. It's nature, intensity, pervasiveness ... I had naively assumed that everyone (in America) would be happy and having a good time. The extent of stress made no sense to me."
And that led Sood to his lifelong quest to understand the scientific basis of human suffering, and to come up with practical things that ordinary humans can to do to live extraordinary lives of peace and calm, with better relationships and greater happiness.
He describes his methods and philosophy in his playful and profound book called "The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness" (Da Capo Press). It features detailed step-by-step practices to help you decrease negative stress and intentionally choose happiness.
"Happiness is a habit," says Sood, now chair of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative and director of research at the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine program. (Just knowing this place exists makes me happy.) "Some of us are born with it; others have to choose it. This book will help readers 'choose' happiness."
HIS BIG DISCOVERY: IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. "After years of studying and learning from patients, students, spiritual luminaries, scientists and philosophers," Sood writes, "I realized that human suffering is often not caused by our conscious thoughts and actions."
Our minds are hard-wired to attach to the negative, to see the world as a dark and threatening place because that gave us a survival advantage in days gone by. These days, that evolutionary tendency keeps many of us stressed and anxious.
"The brain and mind work very hard to keep us dissatisfied and stressed," he writes, and that pretty much bypasses any hope for happiness, unless we intentionally redirect its focus.
"Our suffering is nobody's fault," writes Sood. "We can all do something about it."