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Book Review: Happiness at Work

Mindfulness, Analysis and Well-being

by R Anand

Review by Minakshi Balkrishna

The pursuit of happiness has been a quest for man from time immemorial. Man’s search for meaning in defining happiness has a huge repository of solutions and remedies. There are many self-help books and videos suggesting a myriad of ways of seeking happiness. However, many a times it is this one book on the shelf that meets your requirements.

R. Anand in his book decodes happiness at work, along with our conscious and unconscious behaviours and actions at work and at home, giving tools for introspection. The writer has explored multiple areas of scientific research for enhancing individual happiness and well-being. The book weaves through the realm of understanding the very nature of the self -

what it means to be human. In the journey of our life, if there is a single learning which needs to be strengthened, it is for the leaders to be conscious of the emotional and psychological quotient of themselves and their team. This in turn will bring an impact on happiness and success in their areas of work.

The book unravels the very meaning of well-being. The definition of joy and ‘the will to be one’s true self.’ The Stoics believed that virtue is the path to happiness. Freud felt that to be healthy is the ability to ‘love, work and play’. He gives tools to understand the unconscious psyche. On the other hand, Bertrand Russell suggests embracing a zestful engagement with what the world has to offer, using one’s skill and constructing something worthwhile. The mind-body connection is about emotional and psychological health. Body is not merely a lever for the mind but also a medium of expression for the mind. The body communicates what the mind feels and thinks.

The writer discusses the United Nations Report on Happiness which has six variables as the key determinants of happiness and misery. They are income, education, employment, status, relationship with a partner, physical & mental health. Over the years, there has been an explosion of literature and surge on well-being, now regarded as the umbrella concept. Happiness, engagement, positive emotions, feeling secure, fellow mates accepting unconditionally and overcoming one’s unique strengths are components of this conception.

The writer embarks on giving plentiful prescriptions like a stress profile, along with analysis of understanding our well-being quotient and suggestions on how to untangle them and improve our well-being.

The underlying fact we all know is trying to understand our sources of stress. Appropriate anecdotes and stories weave and substantiate the external and internal stressors, and how they manifest in our daily life - How did this creep into my life? What can I do about this and create a happy life in the outer and inner realms of my life? The writer gives doses of the ‘Happiness Mantra’ to introspect and take an objective view of handling these ‘stressors’.

Going further, the writer says that there are three types of stress. Stressed individuals either have anxiety about the future, of grief about the past, or discomfort about the future. The external and internal stressors lead to poor behavioural responses giving rise to a vicious cycle of escalating stressors.

The happiness mantra given by the writer is to engage in joyful attention. Observe an object in front of you and notice the details, wonder what caused it and how it will change.

This was beautifully summarised by Stoic Seneca ,“It is ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery. For such a soul will never be at rest by longing for things to come, it will lose the ability to enjoy present things.” Similarly, Mark Twain remarks about anxiety and worry, he says that, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”

The writer then unfolds the quintessential question. Do I know myself enough? We think we know ourselves. Modern psychology has shown that the motive source of our behaviour or logic used is demonstrated as some kind of distortions in the choices that we make. Well- being requires us to see the world truthfully. How can we spot universal distortions? How to spot personal distortions and why should we have personal distortions in the first place.

The writer suggests using the mental subtraction every day to feel good. He proposes that you imagine as if you have lost a possession, how would you operate? Picture the difficulty of doing things that you have taken for granted. The simple mantra is to discover them in your possession, and this will boost your well -being. Many a time it is important to have varied personal interests. Lest not believe that one’s work is so important that could lead to a starting point for nervous breakdown.

The writer expands his thoughts about the personalised analysis of the working professional. Through the array of a prism, the distortions of the self can be understood by self-analysis and self-introspection. Recording our private space helps us to facilitate deeper understanding and that lie in the hidden corners of our psyche. Transactional analysis can also help in understanding people and the games they play as parent, adult or child and the dynamics of the interconnectedness. This reveals a lot about the person and his ego.

The writer forays into the world of dreams. Every dream is also a distorted neurotic expression of a forbidden thought and emotion. Dreams express a person’s hidden wishes and according to Sigmund Freud, Dreams lead you to a royal road to the unconscious. Thereby the interpretation of our dreams is a royal road to our well-being.

Finally, the writer connects the biochemical markers of well-being. They are four biochemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals help in well- being.

Endocannabinoids also called the bliss molecule helps in feeling good. GABA is an anti-anxiety molecule which lowers the anxiety and calms the person. It is prescribed as a sedative. Adrenaline or the energy molecule is the antidote to boredom, it provides the rush of energy and makes you alert and active.

The Japanese conception of Life’s purpose is ‘Ikigai’ which means the reason to live. When one has found their Ikigai there is no longer any stress or strain in any striving.

Mindfulness in eating, cultivating pro-social behaviours, nature walks, collective prayers, showing gratitude help in mindfulness and meditation which in turn helps in the person’s well-being.

The writer gives types of meditation to enhance our well-being. Vipassana, Japa, Zen, Chakra, Sudarshan Kriya, Transcendental and Vichara to name a few are ways to understand the mind and body. Meditation is an inward journey of contemplation. It provides clarity on how we engage with the world and how we deal with ourselves. Our perceptions of how we see the world is how we have been in our domain of life. The interactions of the outside world are greatly influenced by how we think. Meditation helps in removing the unnecessary from your thoughts thereby giving a clear picture of your thoughts and feelings that arise in the consciousness.

The writer finally defines happiness and well-being in the sense of eudemonia and less as a high or a hedonic state. Peace, tranquillity and life in happy anticipation is what we seek.

The writer tells us to create an architecture for happiness in life where the peak of freedom and joy will escalate in society so that everyone is happy. Spaces for promoting pro-social behaviours finally making the world a happier place to live in. The effort in this direction is for the common good for the common number.

This book is a must read for all wanting to have a well-balanced life. In the end, the pursuit of happiness lies in our innate being of who we are and what it means to be human.

Afterall who does not want to be happy?


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