Dr Rangan Chatterjee explains how ‘happiness is a trainable skill’

Virgin Radio

31 Mar 2022, 10:43

Chris Evans and Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

Chris Evans and Dr Rangan Chatterjee at Virgin Radio

Physician, author, presenter and podcaster Dr Rangan Chatterjee joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about his brand new book, Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways To Feel Great Every Day, which is out today.

Dr Rangan told Chris: “I think this is definitely the most important book I’ve written to date.”

Explaining what readers can get from his new book, which has chapters such as Write Your Happy Ending, Treat Yourself With Respect, and Go On Holiday Every Day, the doctor said: “My whole thing has always been, what’s the root cause of why this person is sitting in front of me?

“I’ve said for years, 80 percent is lifestyle-related; the way we’re living our lives. But I’ve been then trying to figure out over the last few years, well, is lifestyle the root cause or can you go further upstream? Is there something that’s even more important?

Dr Rangan explained the concept of upstream and downstream, saying: “Trying to find the root cause of a patient’s problems led me to lifestyle; food, movement, sleep and relaxation. But then I would see lots of patients who would change their lifestyle. They’d have brilliant lifestyles, yet they were still struggling. They were letting the actions of other people - let’s say an email from a boss - really, really bother them and build up this kind of emotional tension and stress in their body, which would then get in the way of their lifestyle changes.

“So I was thinking, is there something that’s more upstream, and there is. From 20 years of seeing patients, I look at my patients, I look into the research, and it’s happiness. People who are happier in their lives and with their lives are happier, and they live longer. And there are two big reasons for that, right? The first one I think people naturally get; If you feel more content and calm in your life, you naturally make better lifestyle choices. You’re less likely to comfort eat and to dive headfirst into the Ben & Jerry’s tub.” 

Doctor Rangan continued: “But it’s not just that. Even when you account for lifestyle, there is this beautiful study of nuns. They followed these nuns their entire life. They all had the same lifestyle, same diet, same movement, same sleep, and they found that the happier nuns were significantly healthier and they lived for longer.

“People who don’t feel so good in their lives, compared to people who do, they get sick three times more often.”

During his chat with Chris, the doctor spoke of his upcoming podcast with former rugby star Jonny Wilkinson last week, saying: “He reached his dreams when he was 24. As a kid, he writes down, ‘I want to play for England, I want to win the world cup'. And he does that at 24. He said to me, the minute the ball left his foot for that winning goal, he started to go down, feel low. The next morning he wakes up feeling empty. Many of us are chasing the wrong dream.” 

Doctor Rangan’s book features real-life case studies and over 20 practical exercises within the three pillars of Alignment, Control and Contentment. The doctor explained: “Happiness is a trainable skill. We can get good at happy. It’s not a distant destination that we’re going to stumble across when our life is perfect, when everyone treats us the right way, when everything goes our way. That’s never going to happen. And so I have broken it down. I think it’s a very practical model for people, that I’ve used on myself, I’ve used on my patients, and there are these three legs on what I call the core happiness stool.” 

Speaking about the first of the three legs, the author, presenter and podcaster said: “The first leg is Alignment, when the person that you really are inside and the person that you’re actually being out there in the world are one and the same. Are your values and your actions matching up?”

He went on: “The second leg is Contentment. What sort of things do we do in our life that make us feel peaceful and calm and content?”

And regarding the last of the three legs, Dr Rangan said: “This third leg is Control. I’m not talking about controlling the world. The last two years have shown us that the world is not controllable. Things aren’t going to happen whether we want them to or not. It’s what can you do on a daily basis that gives you a sense of control over your life?

“We can call work on these three legs of the stool. I’ve broken down exactly how to do it in the book with these simple tools that don’t cost any money.

“When you work on alignment, contentment and control, the side effect is going to be that you’re going to feel happier more often, and you’re going to get healthier.” 

Talking about Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways To Feel Great Every Day, the doctor said: “What I think makes this book so different from my last four is there’s a real personal nature to this book. I’ve shared some stuff about me that I’ve really struggled with in my life. Insecurity, struggles that I’ve had. It felt liberating.” 

During his conversation with Chris, Dr Rangan Chatterjee also spoke about topics such as truth, how to train yourself to not get triggered, the difference between core happiness and junk happiness, and the idea of the ‘want brain’. You can listen back to the full conversation here.

Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways To Feel Great Every Day is out today.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.