Happiness practical ways to improve your mood and wellbeing - The Intelligent Pursuit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
January 17, 2018

What is the secret to happiness? 
Back in 1994, after returning from an enchanting one month hiking trip to Machu Pichu in Peru, I set out to write my first book. I called it Be Happier Starting Now. Little did I know that writing it would eventually lead me to become a bestselling author, not with a happiness book, but with books on health and natural supplements. I put 2 years into this happiness book, day and night, and weekends... the most intense endeavor I have taken upon myself since medical school and residency. I wanted to create a unique work or written art. A book that combined philosophy, poetry, science, humanism, pragmatism, openness, warmth, and love. The pursuit of happiness led me to write this happiness book.
   Although I have not promoted this happiness book much, it is very special to me and it has touched many lives. Sometimes when I'm feeling a little down I pick up to read my own book, and it really does make me happier! I had not planned on placing it on this page for sale until recently when a dear friend of mine read it and was so moved by it that she encouraged me to share the wisdom to a wider audience. "You can help so many people be happier," she said.

Mood lifters, natural ways to improve happiness
Are there natural supplements that help with mood enhancement?
   Yes, consider SAM-e for depression, 5-htp for mood stabilization, it can help balance mood in some people who benefit from an increase in serotonin availability, and St. John's wort herb. You can also try a formula called Mind Power Rx. No supplement is as good as exercise, good food, and deep sleep.

If you would like a copy of Be Happier, please feel free to order it from Amazon.

Be Happier Starting Now has ten chapters:



The One-Minute Happiness Quiz by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Circle a number in each category. The higher, the truer.

  1. I have a healthy personality with high self-esteem, strong willpower, and a positive attitude. 1 2 3 4
  2. I feel connected with and have loving relationships with family, pets, friends, spouse, or lover. 1 2 3 4
  3. Old or new emotional wounds have healed. I harbor no grudges. 1 2 3 4
  4. I have meaningful goals that I'm passionately pursuing. 1 2 3 4
  5. Work (and/or school) is satisfying. 1 2 3 4
  6. I am financially secure. 1 2 3 4
  7. I have many interests and pleasures. 1 2 3 4
  8. I am physically healthy, I exercise, sleep well, eat well, and have low stress. 1 2 3 4
  9. I enjoy learning and acquiring knowledge. Furthermore, I use my creative talents. 1 2 3 4
  10. I have a personal truth or belief system that provides a meaning to my life. 1 2 3 4

    Score: Total _________

    Quiz score interpretation:

    10-20 Double your Prozac dose (or natural antidepressants such as St. John's wort, 5-HTP, SAM-e, etc.) - meant as a jest, of course.
    21-30 There's room for improvement
    31-36 Very good. You can learn to be even happier.
    37-39 Congratulations. Consider writing your own book on happiness.
    40 Incredible! Hold on to something. You may be levitating at any moment.

        Be Happier was written in the mid 1990s, but i still stand by with most of what I wrote... the thoughts and emotions seem timeless. If I were to update it, I would change the part in Chapter One about pharmaceutical medicines for mood enhancement. At the time I didn't know about SAM-e, St. John's wort herb, 5-HTP and other mood enhancing herbs and nutrients. SAM-e can be helpful for the temporary relief of anhedonia.

1. A Healthy Personality
People who were outgoing and energetic as young adults seem to be happier with their lives by the time they hit retirement age. June 26, 2013, Journal of Research in Personality, online

2. Connections
Semir Zeki, a professor in the University College London's Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging, and John Romaya, a senior programmer, scanned the brains of 24 volunteers as they viewed pictures of their romantic partners. The participants also looked at pictures of friends of the same sex as their lovers, but to whom they were not attracted. While some brain regions showed increased activity, when lovers viewed images of romantic partners, others shut down, such as parts of the temporal, parietal, and frontal cortex, which are thought to be important in judgment. That finding lends credence to the adage that "love is blind," says Semir Zeki.

The role of marriage
Marriage reduces the risks of depression and anxiety, but these disorders are more likely to plague people once the relationship is over.

Happy as single without deep relations?
Single people can be just as happy as those in romantic relationships -- but it may depend on their temperament. Single people can, in fact, be just as fulfilled as couples -- but it may partly depend on how they approach relationships in general. The key is whether a person prefers to avoid conflict and drama in relationships. In that case, the single life appears just as satisfying as being coupled, on average. In contrast, people who are unfazed by relationship ups and downs tend to be less happy when they're single,

Pets as connections
Pets inspire us to enjoy life's simple pleasures, to be more forgiving, to love unconditionally, and to remember what's important.

4. Setting goals to follow your dreams
Having a strong sense of purpose in life may lower the likelihood of brain tissue damage in older adults. Autopsies conducted among adults in their 80s revealed that those who felt their lives had meaning had far fewer "macroscopic infarcts" -- small areas of dead tissue resulting from blockage of blood flow; March 19, 2015, Stroke.

6. Money and finance, money increases happiness up to a point
One key to happiness might be whether you make more than your friends and neighbors, regardless of whether that income is six figures or just a mediocre take-home. We tend to be happy as long as we have more than the people around us.

Building a successful business is often not easy, it takes years of education, learning, making connections with lots of people, having an idea that is different than what others have done, staying with it, sometimes giving up months or years of socializing, or at least keeping socializing to a minimum for a while, and perseverance. It is the ability to be creative and pragmatic at the same time, and focused, and having good money management skills, and getting along with others.

Saving money can have a significant positive impact on your well-being. It can make you feel better because it helps you face the unknown, gives peace of mind, and gives you independence.

Being poor affects your ability to think. Those coping with severe financial stress don't have the mental bandwidth to deal with all of life’s troubles.

People's emotional well-being increases along with their income up to about $75,000, researchers report in the 2010 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For those making less than that, said Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, "Stuff is so in your face it's hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment." Deaton and Daniel Kahneman reviewed surveys of 450,000 Americans for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that included questions on people's day-to-day happiness and their overall life satisfaction.

Experiences versus possessions
People's satisfaction with their life-experience purchases - anything from seeing a movie to going on a vacation - tends to start out high and go up over time. On the other hand, although they might be initially happy with the latest high fashion clothing purchase or a new product purchased, their satisfaction with these items wanes with time. Experience-related buys lead to more happiness for the consumer.

Moving to a wealthier country
Immigrants who move to a wealthy country may not achieve the happiness they expect from making a larger income, British sociologist David Bartram of the University of Leicester says the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the border because the pursuit of wealth does not necessarily equate happiness.

7. Interests and Pleasures
Enjoy life, starting now
We're happiest when looking forward to vacations, though once back in the office or home that level of joy is comparable to non-vacationing individuals. Essentially, vacations may not be the restorative respites they are chocked up to be except in those who happen to have a very relaxing and special time.
Sexual enhancement through various means, natural or prescription medications, can play a role in overall vitality, especially in those middle aged and older.

Time, by Pink Floyd
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

8. Happiness and health, safety
In a study of healthy British adults, Dr. Andrew Steptoe of University College London, found that those who reported upbeat moods had lower levels of cortisol -- a "stress" hormone that, when chronically elevated, contributes to high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and dampened immune function, among other problems. Women who reported more positive emotions had lower blood levels of two proteins that indicate widespread inflammation in the body, C-reactive protein and interleukin 6. Chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to a range of ills over time, including heart disease and cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology, January 1, 2008.

Heart health
People who are usually happy and enthusiastic are less likely to develop heart disease than those who tend to be glum. Enhancing positive emotions could help cut heart health risks. European Heart Journal, 2010. Natural ways to a healthy diet. Those who have problems with impotence can certainly have their mood improved with natural therapies that work.

Safety precautions, avoid injury
Road crash injuries send several million Americans to emergency rooms each year. Some common nonprescription medicines can impair your ability to drive and operate other vehicles and machinery safely. Some of the most common of these drugs include certain types of nonprescription antihistamines, anti-diarrheals, and anti-nausea medications.

9. Learning and Creativity
The more I study and understand a field of knowledge -- for instance art, architecture, history, biology, human behavior, animal behavior -- the more fascinating it becomes

10. Developing a personal truth, philosophy, religion, a spiritual practice
Performing small acts of kindness and gratitude can make people happier,

My viewpoints
The universe is indifferent to the existence of humans. Nature acts, moves, changes and churns along at its own pace and tune, guided by the physical laws of the universe  -- whether this leads to the benefit, or harm, of the people and animals who live on this planet.

My worldview sees no inherent meaning to life. It is up to each individual to create their own meaning. I choose to create mine or my philosophy by trying to maintain a healthy body and mind, having financial stability, nurturing loving relationships, helping others when I can, being kind, along with incorporating elements of humanism, pragmatism, hedonism and Epicureanism.

To me, spirituality is not necessarily what we believe, or how many books on the topic we have read, or how often we go to a place of worship, but how we behave towards others. Are we kind, forgiving, empathic, helpful?

No one religion can justifiably claim absolute authority or absolute knowledge

Review of Be Happier Starting Now: A Medical Doctor Explores the Fascinating Field of Happiness Reviewed by Sharon Presley

Happiness quote:
"There is no point in holding on to cobwebs of archaic creeds if they are not enhancing your quality of life. Just because you were taught something as a child does not mean it is correct . . . . This age requires us to keep an open mind, revise, review, and readjust our thinking patterns . . . ." - Ray Sahelian, M.D.

"Holistic" may be a clichéd term but I like it. It's a good word to describe Dr. Ray Sahelian's approach to charting the path to a happier life. Unlike the stereotyped physician only trained to treat the body, not the whole person, Sahelian integrates ideas from psychology, medicine, philosophy, nutrition, science, spirituality, and other sources. He understands what psychologists have known for years but many physicians (and scientific materialists) scoff at or simply ignore - there really is a connection between the mind and body, with each affecting the other in complex ways.

Let me make one thing clear from the start. Sahelian is not some New Age flake pushing tofu, out-of-body experiences and inner-child weekends. Not in my review! Not even close. There are no wild-eyed claims, no psychobabble, no mysticism. Just sensible, balanced suggestions based mainly on medical and psychological research journals and books. An annotated bibliography is included for those who want to read the original research. On the other hand, just because this book cites research, don't expect a dry, distancing catalog of mere facts. There's a real human being writing this book. Sahelian's style is gentle, joyful and exuberant, with a sweetly poetic flair that many will find charming (while some will decide it's not their cup of tea). It's possible to be poetic and scientific at the same time.

Here's what topics are included: developing a healthy personality, cultivating a sense of connection, healing the wounds, setting goals to follow our dreams, finding satisfying work, being financially secure, pursuing pleasure intelligently, nurturing physical and mental health, learning and creating, and developing a personal truth. An appendix discussing natural supplements that improve mood and describing mood-improving medicines is also included. (Not everyone will agree with his position on Prozac.)

Sahelian weaves together specific information and suggestions with his own personal experiences and his observations of others in a style that is easy to read but not fluffy. Though basic rather than encyclopedic, his book provides an integrated nondogmatic overview that does an excellent job of putting happiness into a proper perspective. No one thing brings you happiness; there is no one "magic answer." But a lot of things that help can be found in this book.

Start being happier now, here's a bit of advice from Dr. Sahelian: "Be timid no more. Life's a sumptuous banquet. Sample! Explore! Expand!"

Sharon Presley, Ph.D. is a social psychologist who writes and speaks frequently on topics relevant to critical and independent thinking. She is executive director of Resources for Independent Thinking.

Happiness through altruism?
• Pleasure occurs when giving to charity or helping people
• Pleasure in the brain centers -- the caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumbens, known for pleasure -- are similar to areas for basic needs: food, sex, shelter, social connection
• Pleasure in giving suggests existence of pure altruism.

The happiest countries have the highest taxes
2009 - The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports people in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands are the most content with their lives. The three ranked first, second and third, respectively, in the OECD's rankings of "life satisfaction," or happiness. Northern Europeans pay some of the highest taxes in the world. Danes pay about two-thirds of their income in taxes. Denmark was one of the first countries in the world to establish efficient social services with the introduction of relief for the sick, unemployed and aged. Social welfare programs include health insurance, health and hospital services, insurance for occupational injuries, unemployment insurance and employment exchange services. There's also old age and disability pensions, rehabilitation and nursing homes, family welfare subsidies, general public welfare and payments for military accidents. Moreover, maternity benefits are payable up to 52 weeks.

2004 - Denmark - The Happiest Country?
Americans are less happy today than they were 30 years ago thanks to longer working hours and the deterioration in the quality of their relationships with friends and neighbors.
   If you're looking for happiness, move to Denmark. According to Adrian White, an analytical social psychologist at the University of Leicester in central England, Denmark is the happiest country in the world while Burundi in Africa is the most miserable. Adrian White based his study on data from 178 countries and 100 global studies from the likes of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The main factors that affect happiness were health provision, wealth and education, according to Adrian White who said his research had produced the "first world map of happiness." Following behind Denmark came Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and the Bahamas. At the bottom came the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Burundi. The United States came in at 23rd, Britain was in 41st place. Countries involved in conflicts, such as Iraq, were not included. Countries in Asia scored low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th, and India 125th. These are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.

The United States may be the richest nation on Earth, but it's not the happiest. A 2010 analysis of Gallup World Poll data suggests, however, that trying to compare the happiness of one nation to another is not straightforward. Rather, there are two major categories of happiness: overall life satisfaction; and more moment-to-moment enjoyment of life. And while overall satisfaction of life is strongly tied to income, meaning richer nations and individuals have more of this overall bliss, how much one enjoys life (by measures such as laughing and smiling) depends more on social and psychological needs being met. These include having social support and using one's abilities, as opposed to sitting at a mind-numbing job.

Happiness and the Common Cold
Staying positive through the cold season could be a good defense against getting sick. In an experiment that exposed healthy volunteers to a cold or flu virus, researchers found that people with a generally sunny disposition were less likely to fall ill. The findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, build on evidence that a "positive emotional style" can help ward off the common cold and other illnesses. Researchers believe the reasons may be both objective -- as in happiness boosting immune function -- and subjective -- as in happy people being less troubled by a scratchy throat or runny nose.

The concept of will power
Willpower is like a muscle in that the more you work it the stronger it gets. Some of us have more willpower than others. And while people may be born with different amounts of innate willpower, we can probably all take steps to boost our willpower.

Suppress unhappy memories?
People can suppress emotionally troubling memories and in some people this may be a preferable approach than going through psychotherapy where all these old memories are reactivated and brought to light again.

Research on happiness
I have collected some research articles I have come across. I hope you enjoy them.

Older adults with a bright outlook on the future may live longer than those who take a dimmer view. 
Researchers in the Netherlands found that older men and women judged to have optimistic personalities were less likely to die over the nine-year study period than those with pessimistic dispositions. Much of this reduced risk was due to lower rates of death from cardiovascular disease among the most optimistic men and women in the study. They were 77 percent less likely to die of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular cause than the most pessimistic group-regardless of factors such as age, weight, smoking and whether they had cardiovascular or other chronic diseases at the study's start.

Create your own happiness
Feeling a little down? Maybe you can fake your way into happiness! You may have more control over your mood than you think. People who choose to act more outgoing or assertive can actually improve their outlook on life. The research is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Children and happiness
I think it is important for children to be exposed to positive images and role models, including television. What kids watch influences their behavior. Preschool boys who watch violent TV programs, even in the form of cartoons, become more aggressive than their peers later in childhood.

Unhappy kids are more likely to become materialistic than children who are happy with their lives.

Women who have not had children seem to be just as happy in their 50s as those who did go down the family path.
The loneliest, least contented and most vulnerable women were found to be mothers who were single, divorced or widowed in middle age. Being healthy and having a partner gave a bigger boost to women's happiness and well-being than being mothers, with education, work and relationships with family and friends also important factors. The findings are based on two surveys of nearly 6,000 women aged between 51 to 61 years old that were conducted in 1992 and from 1987-1988. "Whether you are socially integrated or have concerns about paying the bills -- those things play a more direct role in shaping psychological well-being among women in midlife," said researcher Koropeckyj-Cox. The research was published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development, and showed that the timing of motherhood was also important to happiness. Women who had children in their teens were more depressed and lonelier than those who had their children later. About 35 percent of mothers who had children in their teens reported ever feeling lonely, compared to slightly more than a quarter of women who had children in their 20s. Mothers who delayed childbirth to 25 or older were happier and less lonely or depressed than younger mothers.

Brain rewards us for laughing
Researchers report that humor seems to activate brain networks that are involved in rewards. Humor is no laughing matter, according to Dr. Allan L. Reiss of Stanford University in California, who led the research. "Humor has significant ramifications for our psychological and physical health," he told Reuters Health. Our sense of humor, he said, "often dictates if, how and with whom we establish friendships and even long-lasting romantic relationships." Humor is also a "universal coping mechanism" for dealing with stress. Reiss added. Despite the importance of humor, Reiss said that little is known about the brain mechanisms that underlie humor. The Stanford researcher noted that most people are drawn to humor and that it makes people feel good. "We seem to feel rewarded" by humor, he said. Now, Reiss and his colleagues report that they have zeroed in on the brain's reward system for humor. In the study, volunteers had their brain activity monitored as they read a series of cartoons. Some of the cartoons were supposed to be funny, but others had the funny cues omitted. After viewing each strip, participants pushed a button if they thought the comic was funny. Researchers found that when a cartoon made a person laugh, a brain network that is known to be involved in reward was activated. In fact, the areas activated by humor have been shown previously to be activated by amphetamines and cocaine, according to a report in the December 4th issue of the journal Neuron. "I believe that understanding humor is fundamental to understanding many aspects of 'normal' human social behavior," Reiss said. Learning more about the brain mechanisms that underlie humor may also help scientists who study depression, according to Reiss. He noted that the loss of the ability to appreciate humor is a common symptom of depression. "We believe that utilizing studies such as this may be one way to more specifically identify individuals at risk for depressive disorders," Reiss said. The research may also be useful in measuring a person's response to treatment for depression, according to Reiss. The humor reward system in the brain may come "on line" even before symptoms of depression change, he said. Neuron, 2003.

Smiling at strangers can be a thankless exercise in some British cities, where a survey has revealed the famous stiff upper lip is rarely likely to crack a grin in return. Psychology students spent an hour smiling at 100 strangers in 14 British cities as part of the Comic Relief fundraising campaign, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper. Only 4% of people in Edinburgh, 12% in Nottingham and 18% in London returned the students' smiles. On the other hand, the residents of Bristol smiled back 70% of the time, and 68% of Glasgow citizens were cheery enough to raise the corners of their mouths. Pat Spungin, a psychologist who led the research, told the paper that social setting played a large role in smiling, which might explain why Londoners scored so low. "With a population of 7 million, which is very mixed and very mobile, it is difficult to feel a sense of community with other Londoners," he said.

Over time, people "catch mood" of friends, lovers
Laugh and the world laughs with you, the saying goes, and this is especially true for couples and roommates, the results of a new study suggest. It seems that couples and roommates tend to have similar emotional reactions as time goes by. So if your roommate or lover laughs out loud at movies or gets weepy over hurt puppies, you may too -- given time.

This so-called emotional convergence seems to be beneficial to friendships and romantic relationships, making them stronger and longer lasting. Everyday experience suggests that people are capable of "catching" the mood of a spouse or friend

Marriage won't guarantee happiness
Though individuals can enjoy a lifetime of happiness from marriage, the difference between them and singles is smaller than expected. Although a person can enjoy a happy boost from marriage, the person tends to return to his or her prior level of happiness, whatever that level might have been before saying "I do." Married people are happier than these other groups, but they were happy when they were single.

The formula for happiness?
If you're happy and you know it then it's clearly a result of: P + 5E + 3H. A pair of British researchers said Monday they had worked out a simple equation to quantify happiness that could put an exact figure on the emotional state. After interviewing 1,000 people, the researchers--a psychologist and a self-styled "life coach"-- concluded that happiness equals P + 5E + 3H. In the equation, P stands for Personal Characteristics (outlook on life, adaptability and resilience); E for Existence (health, friendships and financial stability) and H represents Higher Order (self-esteem, expectations and ambitions). Psychologist Carol Rothwell co-authored the report with Pete Cohen. They asked interviewees -- a mix of men and women all over 18 years old -- to choose five scenarios that made them more happy or less happy from a list of 80 different situations. They also asked a series of questions about their own natures, outlooks and situations. Men and women found happiness in different ways. Sunny weather, being with family and losing weight were more of an influence on women's happiness, while romance, sex, hobbies and victories by their favorite sports teams were more important to men. "This is the first equation that enables people to put a figure on their emotional state," Rothwell said. "The findings show that certain events, such as job promotion, can impact positively on your overall happiness." The study was commissioned by a holiday company that wanted to understand what made people happier.

I recently stumbled across your website and am very grateful for this. I have read mind boosters and am currently enjoying Be Happier Starting Now.

Does the act of smiling improve one's mood? If so, why? Is it neurological? Psychological?
    Yes, smiling does improve mood and it may be both neurological and psychological. The change of the muscles around the mouth and eyes can trigger changes in brain chemistry and the perception of one smiling can have a positive psychological effect.

What are other benefits of smiling? Can there be downsides? Say, in sports, where part of the game is intimidation?
    When people see you smiling, they smile back and that can improve your mood further. In addition, it can help you meet more people, engage in more conversations, and expose you to different people with different views. Perhaps it can have a positive effect at the work place and help you with promotions if upper management believes you get along with people and you can network better. The drawback, particularly in attractive people, is that it may draw too much attention to oneself and many attractive people, especially women, may have men give them too much attention or misinterpret the smile. It is difficult to say the effect of a smile in sports, it may actually befuddle the opponent, I think it depends case by case and the interpretation of the smile by the opponent.
Can smiling ultimately make us feel more connected to each other?
    Yes, because we live in an unfriendly, isolated world, especially in big cities, and it is nice to feel acknowledged by others.

The pursuit of happiness with natural supplements and herbs

Is taking immune supplement such as ahcc extract influence mood?
   I do not think it has an influence.

I take several supplements including carnosine antioxidant, Coq10 for more energy, Graviola for cancer prevention, Mangosteen also for cancer prevention. Do they interfere with mood?
   Limit graviola intake to no more than twice a week. Carnosine and CoQ10 could improve mood.

I am on a regimen of serrapeptase as an anti-inflammatory, saw palmetto for prostate health, Sitosterol also for prostate gland health, and Vinpocetine for mind enhancement. Do they have an affect on happiness?
   A. These supplement do not have much of an influence on happiness.


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