Tuesday, April 23
12:28 PM

Towards a better world

29 Jan 2020

Bhutan stands out in today’s world for many things – an idyllic getaway in a country nestled in the Himalayas is just one of them. Just writing about it brings vivid images of green verdant meadows luxuriantly coating the sloping mountains, tall coniferous trees majestically standing guard over the kingdom and an abiding image of quietly contented, happy people.


Way back in the 1970s, the King of Bhutan in his immense wisdom, proclaimed that what mattered to him most was not his country’s gross national product, but its ‘gross national happiness’, an idea that is gaining increasing capital in today’s world with many countries also aspiring to make their citizens not just wealthier but more importantly happier. In his book Happier Tal Ben-Shahar talks about the underprivilege of privilege and in the same vein talks about the privilege of hardship. It’s funny, the more we pamper our kids the more we set them up for unhappiness. It is now advised that we involve our children in daily chores and give them responsibilities.


It is said that we should not pave for them a smooth road and handle them with gloved hands but on the contrary let them enter into the rough and tumble of the real world, face the challenges head on and meet happiness on the way! Give them the luxury of hard work my friends!


Diet and happiness? Nah! There is nooo connection… . That is what the young folk would say. I am sure the teenagers would love to be told that diet has absolutely no role in how happy one is. Unfortunately, research has shown that the opposite is true! Remember your mother keeps saying that home food is better than fast food? It turns out she is right! Fast food though terribly tempting (even for me) has been proven to have links with depression. Sad to say the modern western diet has also come under the scanner and has been found wanting.


On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates, fruit and nuts are packed with feel good nutrients. Vegetables induce more positive emotions than meat. Surprised? The interesting thing that research has come up with is that when you are wondering what to eat, think of not only what you like, but think also of what the bacteria living in your tummy like!


If you remember from one of the last posts, the good bacteria in the gut – that make you feel good, happen to like green leafy vegetables! Curd/yoghurt, sauerkraut  are probiotics and have bacteria like lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which ensure good health and happiness of their hosts.


Eating fast food sadly leads to bad bacteria growing in your gut. These bad bacteria are linked with obesity, mental health issues and diabetes. There are some foods which are prebiotics- they act as fertilisers for the good bacteria – like whole grains, honey, apple skin, nuts, onion, garlic, bananas etc. The happy bacteria flourish in their presence. It will be a good idea to add them in our diet. Who ever thought practising humility would translate into a happy person? In India we have a saying: The branches of a tree laden with fruit tend to droop. It means a person who is truly talented or successful is not arrogant, on the contrary is humble, approachable and down to earth- and guess what? Happier!


Humility, mercy, patience, respect and tolerance are virtues our parents tell us to adopt. Religions extol these values. These traits make a person happy too. Humility keeps one grounded. It allows a person to correctly analyse oneself, and see both the positive and negative aspects of oneself. One should practise the art of standing outside oneself, now and again and introspect.


How do we rate ourselves? Are we happy with everything we are doing? Have we erred anywhere? Would I like to change anything? Could I have done things in a different way? Humility needs oodles of self worth and healthy self esteem.


A person with humility knows where self improvement is needed and works on it. Mind you, working on self improvement also makes a person happier. Be the change you wish to see in the world – and the world will be won! So humility does not mean a weak, diffident person. It needs immense self-control and discipline. Needless to say, these two traits are essential for meaningful long lasting happiness.


So how does one learn the art of humility? A whole book has been written on humility and its accompanying merits and how to acquire this art. The author is Pelin Kesebir from the centre for healthy minds, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison. The results of the research was an eye-opener for her as well. She says that humble people have fewer ego issues and are comfortable with their place in the bigger picture.


They look for commonalities with their fellow-beings and would focus on assimilation rather than division. They practise gratitude regularly. It is a good idea to ask the children to write three things they are grateful for every day. It looks like a simple task but believe me kids are often not sure what they should be grateful for!


Finally, she says that let us look at everything around us with wonder… . Appreciate the newness in the everydayness is what I say. See the blessing that every new day is – with all its old routine, it is a gift from God. The routineness is a gift! Simply sit back and quietly reflect on the miracle your body is and the silent pumping of your heart and the breathing…and feel the awe. Let’s focus on acquiring the ‘awe’ factor in our life, while practising humility, gratitude and enjoying the wholesome home-cooked food

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