Dr Rangan Chatterjee: 3 Steps To "Core" Happiness | E129 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Dr Rangan Chatterjee: 3 Steps To "Core" Happiness | E129".
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I internalise this idea that unless I get 100% unless I win, I'm not good enough, I'm not loved. - Dr. And Broadcaster, Dr. Ronwin Chatterty. Your first book was a huge success. - My guest today is the perfect guest. - It's a really big honor to have you on my podcast. - My son, Jainen, getting sick at six months old, changed the course of my career. - You see, we need to evolve the way that we practise medicine. - Sleep deprivation is associated with pretty much every single chronic disease we have, compared to about 60 years ago, we may have lost up to 25% of our sleep. The way society is set up now is making us lonely. We've moved the way for work, we've moved away from our families, we don't have the tribes around us, and it's very, very damaging for our health. It took me ages to figure this out as a dot, so I think you can always make a change, right? You can use these moments of diversity in your life to teach you something. It's the best journey you'll ever take, but it's a journey. It's not a one hit. The first step in any change is... - So without further ado, I am Stephen Bartlett, and this is the Dyer over CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this yourself. - Dr. Rongen Chatterjee. I have to say, I have to stop this conversation by saying it's a really big honor to have you on my podcast, because you are someone, when I started taking my podcast seriously, who I looked up to and admired for so many reasons, not because you really kind of paved the way for these long-form conversations in the UK, but because you have the same very similar subject matter and apparent interest in the conversations you have with your guests, to the point that it inspired me in a really big way to start this platform. And so when I found out that you were coming in today, it felt like a bit of a, it felt like Christmas Day for me, because the conversations you have are the things that I would spend my spare time sort of watering my brain with. So thank you first and foremost for coming in today. It's a huge privilege. - I'm receiving, I appreciate you saying that, and likewise, I feel really honored and excited to come on your show, because I think long-form conversation matters, and I don't know if there's that many people in the UK doing it, like you are, like I am, and I think you're doing great things with your show, so I'm really excited just to have a long conversation with you. I don't know where it's gonna go, but yeah, thanks for having me. - So take me back to the foundations, who are you?
Personal Growth And Self-Awareness
Your early years (02:34)
- So I grew up in the Northwest of England, and you know, mom and dad were immigrants from India. You know, dad came over in 1962 for a better life to the UK. Mom came over in 1972, I grew up, got an older brother, and you know, like many immigrant families, education was king, right? It was about get good grades at school, go to a good university, get a good job. Like that was the kind of drive from home. My experience was very much, man, the culture at school was really different from the culture at home, and I didn't really think much of it at the time, but you know, now in my early 40s, looking back and reflecting as I've done for this new book is, that was incredibly problematic in many ways, because you end up pretending to be somebody you're not in order to fit in. And I can see now that's been a pattern for most of my life. I've not been myself. I've tried to be someone else. I've tried to do things to get validation and love from other people, and I've got to say it's only been in the last few years where I've managed to kind of let that go. Another piece there, which I think is really relevant to your question is, because education was such a big thing, you know, because mom and dad, dad in particular, so much discrimination he faced, right, when he came here in his job, he had to change career change, especially as a doctor, because he just couldn't advance. And so ultimately he ended up moving to a specialty he didn't like, he didn't enjoy to give his family security. So what do they want to do? They want their children to not have to go through that. So I grew up with this kind of idea that I'm only loved when I'm top of the class, right? I'd come home if I got 99% in an exam, my mom would say, why didn't you get 100? Right, if I came out with 19 out of 20 in a test, okay, what happened? Why didn't you get 20? Now what's really interesting about that is I'm not criticizing my parents, right? I love my parents. I think they brought me up really well. But it speaks to a situation there's different perceptions, right? So I spoke to mom recently, I said, hey, mom, why did you ask me those questions? You know, why did you push me so hard? And she said to me because I knew you were capable, I wanted you to be the best that you could be. So mom did it with me from a place of love, right? She wanted the best for me, but walk around to the other side of that story. I internalize this idea that unless I get 100%, unless I win, I'm not good enough, I'm not loved. And I can now see that drove me my entire life, this need for external validation, what are other people saying about you? People say nice things, you feel good. People say nasty things, you are literally broken inside. So, you know, a lot there that I've come to terms with over the past few years, but for me understanding that I can go back and rewrite those stories, put a different perspective on all those events has given me this real sense of freedom, calm, contentness. And ultimately, you know, it's resulted in me feeling really, really happy. One of the things you've said is that you believe the purpose of life is really finding out who you are, because once you find out who you are, then you can go on the journey of finding out what it is you want.
What invalidated you when you were younger? (06:15)
So my question for you is, what did you then pursue as a consequence of believing that external validation was true validation? That was true, truly your purpose. What was your, how were you misguided or led astray? - Yes, well, I went to University at Edinburgh, at a medical school, you know, left home, having the time of my life, partying, you know, whatever, you know, people when they get that sort of sense of freedom for the first time, a lot of my uni life was spent playing in bands, right? So music is a big part of who I am, what I do, you know? So I'd be practicing loads, we'd be playing loads and loads of gigs. And then it all changed, I must have been 20, 21. I think mum phoned me at like 10, 30 at night and said, "Hey, look, dad's in intensive care. "The doctors don't think he's gonna "make it through the nights, can you come back home?" And I remember seeing dad's in the intensive care unit and you know, he ended up surviving the nights. His kidneys failed, he went on kidney dialysis for the next 15 years, but basically, dad getting ill changed the trajectory of my adult life. So yes, I was in Edinburgh, I finished off, I worked there for a couple of years, but my mind was always back in the Northwest. And I moved back to the Northwest, which is one of the reasons I live there now, to help my mum and my brother look after dad. And it was incredibly stressful, particularly in the last years before dad died, really, really stressful. And I would escape periodically. So coming back to your question about how does that impacted me, I wanted to do well. Like I got my specialist exams, I got good jobs in prestigious hospitals. I got those things, I thought, "Oh, that's what I'm doing, I'm doing the right thing." And then when dad died in 2013, March 2013, it was like there was a big hole in my life. And so I would just go walking. I was just trying to make sense of everything. And the truth is, the amount I learnt from dad's death was just profound. I'm not sure why I would have learnt these things. I was asking myself, "Who's life are you really leading?" I didn't regret any of that. Now that dad's not here, I'm glad I spent so much time with him. But I think there was a real cost to me, my inner peace, my inner well-being, right? And dad's death. Here's the irony, Stephen. The things that my dad would have been proudest of, right? Indian immigrant to the UK, his son, with his own BBC One show in 2015, 2016, right? His son with four Sunday-sized bestsellers, dad would have literally been firming all the relatives, you know, being the embarrassing dad, telling everyone, dad never got to see any of that. But I know that was still alive. I'd be doing no of that. - Why? - If I was still in the mindset that I was when my dad was sick, I wouldn't have any time to engage in this stuff. Like life, if there's anyone listening to this, who's a carer for someone in their life? They'll know what I'm talking about. You don't have time, you don't have physical time, you don't have mental space. It just encompasses the entirety of your life. You're just trying to keep your head above water. You're just trying to get through day to day. You are firefighting. So I wouldn't have had the physical time, but also I think a lot of what I'm able to give to people these days, through podcasts, through one-on-one with patients, is the learnings. You know, the learnings are either quiet from going through dad's death, from going through that pain, from coming out the other side, from going, "What can I learn from this?" So I'm not sure if what I would have had to offer people back then would have been as valuable as what I feel I have to offer them now. - Why did you choose medicine? Was that again part of this broader thing of thinking that was success and that would be, that would satisfy parents or society? Because again, there's a bit of a stereotype, isn't there, with an Indian immigrant coming over? And when I sit here with people from that background, typically the narrative is, and to be fair, in my case, as well as an African immigrant, that success is doctor, lawyer, et cetera. - 100%, you know, it is a stereotype, but it's largely true for many families. You know, as an Indian immigrant's child in the UK, the three careers that generally are available to you are doctor, lawyer, engineer. That's what is valued. Of course, just to be clear, that's not every single family, but just by and large, I think that's true. But I tell you this, too, I know loads of them who are so unhappy as doctors, so unhappy, they compensate for the tedium of their work by getting smashed on the Friday and Saturday nights. Right? And they wonder why they can't give up boozing or why they enjoy it so much. Well, 'cause that's a symptom. It's not, the drinking isn't the problem. The drinking is a symptom. You don't enjoy your job. You've gone into the wrong career because you thought it was what you should do. Sometimes you're stuck now in your 30s, you've got a mortgage, you know, you've got a lease on your car. You feel trapped. But you can free yourself on that trap. You absolutely can, but you have to be honest. You have to get to know who you currently are now before you've got any hope at becoming the person that you ideally wanna be. It's so unbelievably true in every way.
How do you find what you actually want in life? (12:12)
I mean, so much of that I can relate to you for so many reasons. And you know, you were talking there about your, almost your parents missed place love. What you've clearly managed to figure out later in your life is that actually came from a place of love. - Yeah. - That's why I call it misplaced love because they were trying to protect you because they loved you. But it turns out that that misplaced love, what it's doing is it's stopping you from being your truest self. And the long-term consequences of that, when you end up living someone else's life, is what you spoke into there, the symptoms of addiction and drinking and impulsive behavior that we see in people. So my overall conclusion now was this urgent need as soon as possible in your life to get in touch with exactly who you are and defend it at all costs. If you can do it at 16, if you're 45 and listening to this, now is the second best time. - Yeah, I mean, I've got so much to say on that. You're never too late to start on this journey. But how does someone start on that journey, right? - I think it comes down to values, right? Values is what I think what sows it all up together. Right, so, you know, for this new book, I've created this new model of happiness I call core happiness. It's core happiness has three components, alignment, contentment and control. We can talk about those if you want. But one of those legs is alignment. Alignment is when your inner values and your external actions are the same. When the person who you want to be inside and the person you are actually being in the world are one and the same, that's one component. It's not everything, but it's one component. So if someone has heard what we're talking about and say, okay, I want to start, I'm not living the life that I want to lead, but I don't know where to start. There's this exercise in the book called The Identity Menu. And the goal is really that you, go through, and I picked a number three 'cause I think it's quite a realistic number for people. Out of the list of all these possible identities and values, which three do you think feel kind of the most true to you? And I've been doing this for a little while and the three that have been pretty static with me for the past few months now, I'd say. And they're right at the top of my Instagram profile 'cause I think this is what I want to give to the world and say, let's lead with our values. Integrity, curiosity, and compassion. So this is who I am, right? I'm not a doctor, I'm not a father. Now, I think this is such an important point that I've been thinking a lot about over the last few years. I have a role as a doctor, I have a role as a father, but it's not who I am. Because when we cling too tightly to our identities, we put ourselves in a very fragile position. Let's say, I go over, I'm the doctor. I'm a doctor, I'm a doctor, I'm a doctor, I'm a doctor. And I think that's who I am. Then what happens if I get fired? What happens if I get sick and I can't work as a doctor? What happens when I retire? This is real, this happens to people. They lose their sense of who they are. What about my role as a father? Right, to be really clear, me bringing up my kids well is one of the most important things to me. More important than my work, 100%. But being a good father is not who I am. If I cling too tightly to that, what happens when my kids are teenagers, and they get annoyed and they call me a crap dad? I've seen this happen, I've had patients come in, say, they call me a crap mum, but you know, that's all I do, I do everything for them. I've given everything up for them. It's like, wait a minute. You are much more than your roles. You know, let's talk about cars, right? You said when you were 20, you wrote down what you wanted, right? There's nothing wrong with having a nice car. The problem comes for your happiness at least when you identify with that car, where that car says something about you. And the problem is, you drive around, I don't mean you, one drives around in their flash, BMW, let's say. And they think, you know, that says something about me, who I am. What happens if you lose your job? What happens if you prang it? What happens if you have a divorce and you can't afford it anymore? You go from what I call core happiness to junk happiness. Junk happiness is what many of us think happiness is, right? We think it's that momentary hit of pleasure. You know, buying something online, Instagram, chocolate bar, hit of booze. Like these things can be pleasurable things. They may have their role from time to time, but don't mistake that for being real core happiness. Core happiness is, I think, what we are chasing, but I think we mis-define it. We think it's something it's not. Happiness, it's not a destination that we want to get to, right? It's a direction that you can choose to take in life. It's a choice, right? I heard your conversation with Mo in the hotel room last night, which was fantastic. So good. And I agree with what you and Mo was saying. Happiness is a choice when you understand what happiness really is. What is it?
What happiness really is - The three core pillars (17:47)
It's not a thing that you can get to. It's not something that you can pursue directly. It's something that ensues when you do the right things. And the right things for me are when you focus on the three, I call core happiness as three-legged stool, alignment, contentment, control. You can apply it to anything in life. I think that's what happiness is. And I think we are pursuing it. Like people say, we shouldn't be going after happiness. We should be going after meaning. Have you heard that? Yeah, yeah, all the time. Right. I have a different perspective. Meaning and purpose is really important. No question. But I don't think that's happiness. It's meaning, right? It's a necessary ingredient for happiness, but it's not happiness in and of itself. And I don't mean to be controversial, but let's say a soldier fighting in World War II against the Nazis. Like one might make the case that has meaning. It doesn't mean they're happy. 100%. Right. So meaning, how is this subtly different? Have you heard of the Japanese concepts of Iki-Guy? Yes. Yeah, yeah. Right. I love Iki-Guy. This idea that we should be looking, not should be, but we could be looking for something in our life that we enjoy, that we're good at, that's what the world needs, and that what pays us money. Right? The kind of holy grailers it were. And I remember writing about this in my second book on stress. I remember the book came out and I was in London. I was giving a talk. And at the end of the talk, we were doing Q&A. And remember the back right off the hall, this young lady had a hand up. And she said, "Doc Shasti, "I'm an 18 year old Japanese student living in London. "I've grown up with the concept of Iki-Guy, my entire life." And frankly, I found it demoralizing, demotivating, too high a bar for me to get to. And that stuck with me, mate, because I thought since then, okay, that's so interesting, 'cause I love this concept of Iki-Guy, she grows up with it and finds it off-putting. I think the problem with these grand ideas of meaning, purpose, Iki-Guy, as much as I like them, they're not for everyone. Someone might be hearing that in a call center right now that don't like their job, they're doing it. They're like, "What Iki-Guy, you kidding me, mate? "I just wanna get through and pay the bills." Right? So I think, I bring it all back, is this core happiness tool that I've created? Is it applicable in all situations? I think it is, because if you look at it through the lens of what we're talking about, this comes under alignment. So that chat working in the call center, they do the exercise and they figure out kindness is something that's really important to them. Then, if on the way to work, they stop in the coffee shop and they're kind to the barista, they get on the bus too, work, and they're kind to the bus driver. They go to the job that they don't particularly like, but they are kind to their colleagues and their boss. They're living in a lined life. They're living with meaning. It doesn't mean that the job that they're in currently is the job that they love and they're gonna be in forever, but they're living in harmony with who they are. And that's going to mean that meaning and purpose come naturally as a by-product. So I want people to really focus on alignment. It's one pillar of happiness and I think your meaning and purpose will come. Can you talk to me about control as well? - I thought long and hard about this word control. And I am the nard. Was it the right word to use? And I spoke to some of my patients, I spoke to some of my friends. I don't really think it is when we understand. It's about what are the things that I can do in my life that gives me a sense of control. We know from the scientific research, when you have a sense of control, you have better relationships, you have longer relationships, you're healthier, you have lower stress levels, you live longer. So it's that sense of control. And that could mean many things to different people. For me, I'm really big on morning routines. I know for me, if I get up early, if I have time to myself to have a little routine, I've almost got this resilient bubble around me. Doesn't matter what's going on in the world. Doesn't matter how bad work may or may not get that day. I've got an element of control because I've sort of nurtured that routine for myself. So that's one way that people can think about control. And another way people might wanna think about control is there's a chapter in the book called Talk to Strangers, which is basically this idea that actually, relationships are very important, of course, but there's kind of two different kinds of relationships. They're the deep nurturing, intimate relationships, but there's also those kind of almost trivial interactions that we have day to day. So when you say hi to the barista, or I said hi to your work colleagues when I got here, those little things, they are not trivial. There's a network in your brain called the sociometer. It's constantly detecting your external world for threats. And when it receives positive information like a smile, like a bit of a nod, a handshake, it sort of relaxes. Your stress levels go down, you feel a sense of connection with the world around you. Coming back to control, you feel that the external world is safe. I've got a degree of control. There is order in the world. Let's focus on these simple things you can do each day. If you say hi to the Amazon delivery driver and smile at them, say thank you to the barista and say a few nice words to them. Say hi to the bus driver and smile at them. Thank the postman, you are working on your happiness. You know, it seems trivial, but it's not the research is so, so clear, right? Because it gives you a sense of control. Second pillar of the three. - And we've got a touch on the third pillar before I start getting into all of these topics. 'Cause it's so interesting that these are the things that we're talking about today because I think I spent all weekend reading about studies on the importance of, you call it the sociometer in the brain, but just that thing that connects you with your tribe. But please do get into the third point, which I think you said was contentment. - Contentment, yeah. - Yeah. - Contentment is about feeling calm and that sense of peace when you're at peace with your life and you're at peace with your decision. So what things in your life give you that sense of contentment? And I really feel it's these three things. When you put them all together, the side effect of doing them is you're happy. - Yeah. - Right? But also happiness is not often what we think it is, that big billboard image of the happy family on the beach with a smile on their face in the ocean behind them. - Right. - That to me is not happiness. That's a pleasurable experience. It can form parts of a happy life, but that's not happiness. You can be sad and happy. The way I look at happiness, core happiness, I was thinking about this last week. I was chatting to someone who was going through grief. Someone very close to them had died. And we were having a really long, deep conversation, but they were present with their grief and they were able to share with me exactly how they were feeling. No masks on at all in terms of these kind of metaphorical masks that we put on, they were just being themselves. That's core happiness. Because they're aligned, right? Their inner thoughts are, I feel sad, upset, frustrated for my loss. And their external actions are completely aligned with that. So I kind of feel really what happiness is about is living an intentional life. It's about taking the time to understand who you are, defining for yourself what happiness is or what success looks like, not using society's definition. You posted a few days ago, don't use society's definition of fun. Well, it was a great post, you know? Just because society says to have fun, you need to go to a bar, have loud music on and get drunk. Well, if you like to sit at home in the bath reading a good book, that's great. If you don't, that's fine as well. But it's got to be you, it's your value. So I can't tell someone what they need to necessarily do and all aspects of their life to be happy. But be intentional about your life. My girlfriend came upstairs yesterday when I was having a shower and she said to me that she tried the heel protein shake, which lives on my fridge over there. And she said, it's amazing. Low calories, you get your 20 odd grams of protein, you get your 26 vitamins and minerals, and it's nutritionally complete. In the protein space, there's lots of things, but it's hard to find something that is nice, especially when consumed just with water. And that is nutritionally complete, and that has about 100 calories in total, while also giving you your 20 grams of protein. If you haven't tried the heel protein product, do give it a try. The salted caramel one, if you put some ice cubes in it and you put it in a blender and you try it, is as good as pretty much any milkshake on the market, just mixed with water. It's been a game changer for me because I'm trying to drop my calorie intake and I'm trying to be a little bit more healthy with my diet. So this is where heel fits in my life. Thank you, heel, for making a product that I actually like. The salted caramel is my favorite. I've got the banana one here, which is where my girlfriend likes, but for me, salted caramel is the one. - You know, when people give advice in their books and when I do it online with my content, there's something which I realize has to be done first.
How does one build self awareness (28:09)
So as much as you could have told me to get into alignment, the counterforce that was saying, fuck that, was this deep sense of insecurity and that piece of work I had to do as you describe it to heel first before I could start looking with a clear view at the way I was living my life. Because if you'd asked Steve Bartlett at 18 years old what his values were, you know, he would have said, "Lambagini, "next question." He would have said, "Money." Right? I know there's not even values, but that's what he would have said, right? So I'm interested to know how you think someone can go on the journey of healing and understanding themselves and self-awareness, which I think is the foundation of all the pillars you mentioned of happiness. - It's a great question. I don't think it's gonna be, you listen to this conversation, you watch it on YouTube, you get the book, whatever. I don't think it's that you do that. And then you're like, "Oh, I've got it. "I've figured it out now. "I know my values." Okay, great. No, no, this is a journey. It's the best journey you'll ever take, but it's a journey. It's not a one hit. The first step in any change is awareness. All behaviors serve a need. Where every behavior we have is there for a reason. You can't just, I can't just tell the patient you should drink less alcohol without helping them understand why do they need to be drinking that alcohol in the first place? Right, it took me ages to figure this out. So I think, why am I struggling? Why did they stop for two weeks? And then they get back on the horse. It's like, "Oh, we've not dealt with the underlying need." It's like New Year's resolutions, right? No one has a problem going spending four times a week for the first two weeks in January. But third week, fourth week, when life gets busy and life gets stressful or they can give it booze for a couple of weeks. And they just can't keep it going. It's like, I need it to unwind from my workday. That's because your alcohol consumption is a symptom of the way you're living your life. If you want to change that, you can try and wipe knuckle it and reduce it. Sure, you might be successful for a short period of time, but you'll always go back unless you understand the behavior. Same thing kind of works for food cravings a lot of the time. So if someone's listening to this and they go, "Okay, I want to know what to do." But even if they're starting to challenge themselves already and go, "You know what? I'm pretty interested what these two guys are saying. I don't kind of know what my values are, but I've got a feeling that I'm not living life in accordance with them. Like I think I'm chasing the wrong stuff, but I don't quite know what to do about that." Even that awareness is progress. Right, so I think it's really important. We can't always just find it out, get to the solution, go and live happy lives. It doesn't work like that. So step one is awareness. Now, if you have that awareness and you want to go further, a simple thing you might want to do is what I call the identity menu in the book. You might literally want to try and write down three values or even one value. Start with one. Right, start with one. Right, just write down one value. And then in a week's time, ask yourself, how often in that week did you live in accordance with that? How often in that week did you live in a way that was not in harmony with that? Okay, it's not about beating yourself up. It's not about holding yourself to this unattainable ideal. It's just, ask yourself the question. Just gently start compassionately probing what's going on. Right, so I think that's a useful exercise and build up to three values if you can. And these things need reassessing. The other exercise I like, which I think is really practical, it's got two parts. It's called Define Your Happiness Habits and Write Your Happy Ending. Right? And if you want, we could try it actually. Just do it. If you're up for a save. I love doing this one. So I would ask you, Steven, think of three things. Yeah. That really bring you a sense of happiness, deep calm and contentment. I mean, you really feel good. So I think one of them which I've actually read about in your book is about serving others and helping others. It feels to me like a happiness rush or a sense of fulfillment or contentment that I can't seem to get anywhere else. The other one is like pursuing my artistic interests. So things like when I can see my DJing equipment over in the corner there, when I do my DJing or when I give time to myself to write or create. Okay. I call that like expression. That's like, yeah. And then I think the third one is, is what I think you call in your book like movement. So moving. So exercise. When I go to the gym and I, and I'm not sure why that is because this might fit into a number of categories because in part it's like meditative when I'm on the running machine or on the peloton, it's really meditative. On the other part, it's has this obviously physiological impacts, biological impacts of the exercise. And then on the third part, it might just be because I'm giving time to myself. So I'd say those are the three that came to mind straight away as. Yeah. Okay. So you've picked what I call three happiness habits. Right. So each week, and please correct me if I've misinterpreted any of this, each week, if you could do something that serves others, if you could engage in your artistic passions. And you could do a form of movement you enjoy. Yeah. There are three things that would give you, you know, a real sense of happiness. So I believe. Okay. No, no, I think they probably are. And I'll share mine in just a second. So let's go to the second part of the exercise. Okay. It's called right, you happy ending. So imagine now you're on your death bed. Yeah. Okay. So at the end of this is it. Right. Look back on your life. What are three things you will want to have done? So that's really interesting because it's funny because the answers are different. One of them is definitely about connecting with others, my friends, so that my friends, my family, my niece. That's like, that's in fact so central to my happiness. The third is helping others. That gives me a real sense of that. I spent my time in a worthwhile way. And sorry, the second and the third would be. The third is a personal one. It's the feeling that I've done my potential justice. Yeah. Lived up to my potential. Done myself justice. Yeah. Yeah. I love them. I mean, first of all, thanks for sharing that. So what's really interesting when you do the second part now, you can go back and redo the first one. And what's really beautiful, I think there's, I think there's a real deceptive simplicity with this exercise. It gives you the granular day to day, look at your life and happiness. And it gives you the 30,000 foot kind of big picture view. And you can see if they're aligned. So if you do the three happiness habits each week, doing something for someone else, sorry, serving others, engaging creatively and, you know, moving, will that get you to your happy ending? No. So I was missing one. You're missing one. Yeah. The relationship piece. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And so this is not about catching anyone out. This is something I think we can all benefit from, myself included on a regular basis. It doesn't mean you can automatically change the entire trajectory of your life, but it does mean this is about intention, right? It's like, if that's what the goal is at the end, well, like for me, I know three happiness habits for me are what number one, spending undistracted time with my wife and my children each week. That's really important. Number two, doing something that helps improve the health and well-being of others. Really important. Number three, having time to pursue things that I'm passionate about. But it's kind of my three. I'm doing the final piece. The 30,000 foot. Yeah. So I know each week then for happiness habits, if I have, let's say, five meals around the dinner table with my wife and kids, that's where there's no phones, and we're totally understrats and in the moment. Right? I know that I'm doing that. I know if I record an episode in my podcast each week, I know that I'm doing something that's going to improve the lives of other people. And if I have time to, I don't know, play guitar, play snooker, whatever, I've got all kinds of creative passions each week, then I know that if I just consistently do that, just a little bit each week, I'm getting to the happy ending that I want. And for that person who may be listening to this and struggling, that may be something else that they can start doing. And what's really interesting, Stephen, is we think we're all quite different. There was a study from last year which showed us that actually, despite all our differences, we feel as if we're being our true authentic selves when we're being kind, compassionate, doing things for others, enthusiastic, present, and in the moment. Right? All of us. And what I love about these exercises, they really bring awareness and attention to your life. You could say, yeah, I really value health. I really value my health and well-being. And then they can assess their life and go, I'm doing nothing each week to support that. I say that's who I am, but I'm not. You can say, as I differ many as I valued my friends, you know what, I got so busy with work, I wasn't making time to see them. And again, it's not about beating yourself up. This is really, really important point. This is about honesty and awareness. Right? You're never going to become the person who you want to be until you know who is the person you are right now. It's not about guilt, it's not about shame, it's about just transparency going, okay, all right, I'm not aligned at the moment. Okay, fine, no problem. I'm going to take one step this week. I'm going to make an effort once a week. I'm going to phone one of my best mates just for 10 minutes, just to say hi. Even that is, it's helping you become more aligned. It's helping you get to that happy ending. So, you know, maybe there's some useful stuff in there for people to kind of take and actually start applying. It's so funny because when you said that exercise, you know, I could spend a lot of time, as I think I have in the past trying to figure out who I was and the techniques are complicated and they're largely influenced by who society thinks I should be and what my values are.
How changing your perspective makes you happier (38:41)
But the minute I did that exercise, it was so clear. It was so unbelievably easy to do and so clear. And then as you said, when we zoomed out to my death bed and said like, what are the things on your last days that you're going to value? To see how obvious it was that I'd left out something so, so, so fundamentally important, which is like my friends, my family, my relationships in my sort of, you know, the things that make me happy, it was like alarming to me. It was like, how are you not living in alignment mentally? How did you not know that that was so fundamental? - But I think you just be specific to it. It's something that we can see it brilliantly in other people. - Oh, 100%. - But I could see it in you, I could see it in my patients. But you know what? It's pretty hard sometimes to put the mirror up and see it in yourself. Do you know what I mean? - 100%. - I think the other, you know, I think you've asked a brilliant question. What can that person do? I think the other thing, probably arguably the biggest, this is the biggest thing I think that's had the most impact on my happiness and why the health over the past few years, is this understanding of perspective, that there are multiple perspectives on the same situation. And I think this is a really important point for people to get. So let's say someone's stuck in their life. I think, look, I don't know what to do. I'm trapped here, right? I don't know, I get up, I go to work, you know, I try and look after my family, you know, I don't know this stuff about values and all that kind of stuff. Okay, fine. If you just forget all that stuff for a moment and go, okay, let me just see if I can start broadening my perspective. Because once you start broadening your perspective and start seeing things from somebody else's perspective, it changes everything. So one of the ways I do this is to understand that this phrase, yeah, I'll go as far as this, this phrase has had the most impacts on my health and happiness above anything else. If I was the other person, I would be doing exactly the same as them. Again, a very simple phrase, but when you really, really get it, you're basically saying, if I was that person, with their childhood, with their parents, with their life experiences, I would be acting in exactly the same way as them. And if you think you wouldn't, I would very gently invite you to consider that this may be your ego talking. If they could at differently, they would. And what that does is it brings such a deep sense of compassion to every single day of your life. You can start to have a perspective for them. For example, it could be maybe their daughter was sick last night and up and they didn't get much sleep. Maybe they think they're going to lose their job and they're late for work. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. The truth doesn't matter, right? For your happiness, the truth, I would say, doesn't matter. Again, I don't mean to be controversial, but I think some people will take that. I think that's quite controversial. You're a football fan, right? There was a study done. Football match, one incident, right? Two sets of fans, they were interviewed about the incident. Both of them had a completely different perspective on the same incident, right? We all know that. There's a foul or one, one, two, that's definitely foul. That's a foul and a yellow card. The other side, that was nothing. He didn't touch him. We know that anyone who's got a partner, or had a partner, you have a row, you have a disagreement. Well, depending on which side of the table you're sitting on, you have a completely different perspective of the same situation. Right, so why say in any situation, choose a happiness story, right? I give you no example. One of the most profound conversations I have ever had on my podcast was with this lady called Edith Eager. When I spoke to her last year, she was 93 years old. At the age of 16, she was getting ready that evening. She had a date with her boyfriend, knock on the door. Her parents, her and her sister get put on a train, taken to Auschwitz. Within a couple of hours of getting there, Edith's parents get murdered. Somehow she gets through. The next few years, she survives. What she has taught me is that you can always create a different story on any single event. She said when she was in Auschwitz, she was totally free. The prisoners, they weren't free. They were the ones who weren't able to act and behave the way that they wanted to. They were trapped in her mind. She was free. After her parents had died, she had to dance for the guards. She said the last thing my mum said to me was, "Edith, nobody can ever take away from you what you put inside your mind." She's dancing there. She knows her parents are dead. But in her mind, she said, "Wrong and I was dancing in Budapest Opera House. There was a full orchestra, there was a full crowd. I was dancing there." The other thing she said to me, is I've been in Auschwitz, but I can tell you the greatest prison you will ever live in is the prison you create inside your mind. So, for people who are listening, who struggle to forgive, who struggle to see the other side, who see someone put a tweet up and then spend an hour getting agitated and frustrated, I humbly suggest to you if Edith Eager can write a different story in the hell of Auschwitz, I kind of feel weak probably can as well. It's so true that the greatest harm we cause to ourselves is our own negative or illogical or self-harming stories. As you were saying that, I was thinking about even the stories I've told myself in the last 24 hours or the last week, which have like tormented me mentally. In the sense of they've just like bothered me unnecessarily and how much of a choice it was for me to focus on those stories. If you know what I mean? Like as you say, like someone tweeting something or leaving a comment and then that you then give 48 hours of your happiness to just this when you could, as you've expressed so eloquently, choose compassion for the person and you could choose to try and find the best intentions in any behavior, right? Yeah, the way I put it in the book, there's this little section called Make Everyone a Hero. I think it's such a great sentiment in life. Whenever something happens, you don't like, make them a hero. Make them a hero. I challenge people, try that for seven days, if your life has not been improved in any way, fine. Forget it. Say the guy was spouting nonsense, I'm not interested. I'm getting back to my cynical nature. I'm going to see the worst in everyone, right? Fine. It's up to people. Make them a hero. The person who cuts you up, find a way to make them a hero in your heads, right? March 2020, what happened? Everything's getting locked down. Toilet roll shortage on the shelves, right? So what do people do? Now I understand that was a very unique situation. People are getting, trigger people are getting scared. I understand that, but let's look at what was happening. People were bad mouthing. Who are these people who are taking all these toilet rolls? It's so inconsiderate. You know, they shouldn't be doing that. Okay. Okay, fine. Let's just see, could we write a different story? What might have happened? Well, it could be that every shop of that day took one extra roll. And so by the end of the day, when the TV cameras came in, no one actually did anything that bad. They just took one extra roll. And the supermarket stock was all planned around average shopping habits and behaviours. Okay. It could be that someone was really, really scared and anxious. And let's say they've got ulcerative colitis and they have the go to the toilet 20 times a day and they're petrified. So maybe they did go and buy 10 packs. Or maybe, let's take it to another extreme, maybe someone is skint, right? They've got no money. They've got no prospects in life. They thought, you know what? I can make a fortune here, right? So I'm going to get them all. I'm going to sell them on eBay. Okay. Whatever you think of that, if you can have compassion for that person and understand if I was them, I'd be doing the same thing. It changes everything. It changes your physiology. It changes your perspective. And why I think that's so powerful, particularly now more than ever, Stephen, like we seemingly were in a very divided and toxic world, right? Seemingly. What we need is more compassion. Right. But how do you get compassion? We can't just say, you know, I want to be more compassionate. That can work for some people. Use this, right? Make them a hero. Ask, say to yourself, if I were them, I'd be doing the same thing. You know, it really helps humanity. It helps you feel better individually, but it will help connect you with people around you. People who've got different views and perspectives. It allows you to sit alongside them. So this is probably one of the things that I use the most, along with, which sort of goes along with this. And this is sort of the big heading in Chatsify with a book which is called Seek Out Friction. Right. Look, this is when you become a master of your own happiness. Right. The whole goal of my work at the moment is to, I don't want people to be dependent on the actions of other people for them to be happy. Right. If you constantly are getting triggered and frustrated by the tone of your colleagues' emails, or the way that your partner is talking to you, right. If you're waiting for them to change in order for you to be happy, well, you could be waiting a long time. And if we go back to my core happiness stool, you've lost control. You have no control because you're dependent on other people. So I talk about this as social friction. Right. Just as in the gym, you know, you can do physical friction, you can push up, you can press up against your body and you get stronger. I'm saying you can press up against other people and also get stronger. So every time you get triggered, I actually do this. I do this every single day. Let's say, let's say social media. Let's say you get a negative comment. Let's say I get a negative comment. In the past five years ago, when I, you know, was first on BBC One, seven years ago now, actually, I would have got triggered. I got so frustrated. I would have felt really bad. What's going on? Why is this happening? You know, all I'm trying to do is help people. I would have created this narrative. Now it's like, oh, why is this triggering me? Is there some truth to it that I can learn from? Or is it because the other person is having a bad day and they're taking it out on me? And you become a master if you practice this every day, right? Because what happens is that you take control over your inner thoughts, you take control of your own happiness because it's like, okay, it doesn't matter. You're being given opportunities every day to learn something. For me, I can speak, but I know this to be true for most people. It's because it's pressed on one of your insecurities. When you get truly secure in who you are, what other people say, it doesn't affect you. Like I've noticed this in my own life, right? We started off the conversation talking about external validation. Like the problem when you need external validation for your self-worth is that when you get it, you feel great or you think you feel great. It's a very fragile way of feeling great. But when you get criticism, you go to the other extreme where you feel worthless and you turn to whatever your junk happiness habit is, Instagram, gambling, drink, porn, whatever it is, right? You turn to that as a way of compensating. But when you do the work, when you look for social friction and you allow it to become your teacher, you start to process your insecurities. Then if people praise me now on social media, they'll say, "Oh, wrong in that podcast changed my life," or, "Your book has really had an impact on me and my mental well-being." I like hearing that, but it doesn't artificially elevate my ego like it might have done a few years ago. But at the same time, if I get criticism, right, if I get criticism, it doesn't drag me down to those depths either. I can, I'm just a lot more level. That makes sense. 100%. 100%. As you were saying that, once again, my mind sat there and thought, "How does he know all of this stuff? And how has he gotten to a place where he can be so empathetic and he can understand others to the point that you can, as you say, make them a hero and practice that. What seems like a pretty radical form of empathy in situations where others would resort to blame and antagonism and attacking others?" And it appears to me that is because you've understood yourself and actually being able to see the, you know, what people might describe as the insecurities or the flaws in others or the triggers in others is only possible once you've understood yourself. And it's funny because when I put certain things on Instagram, I know that I'm going to get backlash. So if I say personal responsibility is really important, you can choose, for example, in the case of what you've said there, you can choose to make someone else a hero. If someone cuts you off, it's a choice as to whether you're happy or you're triggered. I know there's a small proportion of people who will slide into my DMs and go, "You're wrong. If they've cut me off, that's forced me to be unhappy." Or, "I'm not at fault for being unhappy, right?" And it tends to be the case that those that are able to make that person a hero or to practice empathy are those that have actually done the work to understand why they are triggered, why they were insecure and why they react in the way they do. So again, it feels to me that this really underlying foundational piece of work that is the catalyst for being able to do all of these amazing things that you've written about and that you understand again is that awareness, as you described it. Yeah, I think he's spot on, Steven. It also comes from having lived through the mental turmoil of taking a different path of blaming others and seeing yourself as a victim. And often we absorb these sort of patterns from our parents, right? I can see clearly now how mum and dad would react to the world. And I can see how I absorbed a lot of that. And I thought that's how you show up with the world. But we can all choose to approach the world differently. Just because you have approached the world a certain way for all the years you've been on this planet, let's say until this conversation, right? Everyone listening or watching has a choice at the end of this conversation. They can decide whether to act on something they've heard or not.
Being a victim (54:18)
Can I just press you on that one on that point there about your parents? Because I think it's touched on something that I really relate to in my, in one of my parents, which is, and this might be an immigrant thing. My mum was pretty badly racially abused for living in Plymouth. She's a Nigerian woman. I really didn't see anyone else in my city that looked like her if I'm honest. Once upon a while I might once a year. But she was an anomaly in appearance. She was a Nigerian woman with long Nigerian hair. And I grew up, I have to say, because she was often racially abused, seeing a kind of bias in her towards thinking that the world was out to get her. And I don't think that served her, if I'm going to be completely honest. If you do you know what I mean there that, and you see another people, that kind of sense that they are a victim. Do I ever, you know, I would say this is how my mum very much has shown up with the world. And similar stories, you know, there is all kinds of reasons for that. And you absorb that. You think that's the way, you know, that's what your parents, how they react. It's often what you absorb as a child. You think that's the way. So I can't believe they did that. They did that differently. I would feel differently. And it's really on something that you have a choice in how you show the world. You have a choice in how you feel about a situation. You can choose a different story. Mum, to be fair to Mum, Mum's now 81, she's pretty immobile. Me and my brother give a breakfast on most days. She is changing. Right. She, it's so wonderful to see sometimes it's like, oh, well, well done Mum. Like, you're not, it's just so wonderful to see that any one of us can change at any age. Right. We can make subtle choices, small things that make a big difference. You know, I also grew up very protective. You know, you'd see things that weren't there. You know, man, if someone cut me up in my 20s, I'm not sure I should even say what went through my mind. Right. You know, I wasn't calm. It content, you know, at all. I'd get triggered. I think they were, you know, whatever, you know, I may even shout in my car, you know, for the sake of my career, I should probably just not go any further. But I'm joking, you know, I'm saying I probably said things in my head or screen them out that I'm not particularly proud of now. But I can see that I didn't have the emotional maturity and the emotional awareness to do anything different. What is that? What is that victimhood in your view often like an ill thought through form of self-defense? That, because I'm thinking about why say our parents, say our mothers who were subject to a lot of abuse or whatever, why did they make the choice that the world was not on their side? And how? Because that seems like maybe in the short term, it might help you. So if something happens to you, you know, you know, you're unsuccessful in business, you can say, well, it was the bank, they're racist. How, what is the cycle, the psychology there and the human that's choosing to default to victimhood? And you see it in a lot of my, I see it in a lot of my friends, actually, when they fail at something, it appears that they use, they use blame as a way to protect their self-esteem or. I think you just nailed it. That's what it is. It's protection. It's, it's to give you that feeling of safety. That's what we're always craving. We want to feel safe. It makes you feel safe. Actually, it's not, it's not me. It's out there. It's not in here. It's out there. That's the problem. If that changed, I think that's part of it. So, but is that because those people can't, they could, they can't deal with more, that they're too, they're too fragile, that they can't deal with more, what they perceive to be evidence of their inadequacy? Yeah. Absolutely. And it also comes down to any trauma that they may be carrying from their childhoods. This is the other thing I've learnt, Stephen, is that, you know, without going to details on mum and dad's that I don't have permission to share, you know, there were traumatic things that happened early on in mum's life. And so now I can look at that with a deep level of compassion that, oh, that's why mum behaves the way she does because actually she got programmed at a young age that I have to be a certain way. Right. And then you pass it on and that thing you said about your mum and my mum. Let me share something from my life that maybe just fits in there a little bit, which is we create these behavioral patterns, usually in childhoods, right? Because we want the love and affection of our parents. We want the validation because there are caregivers. Right. We need that to feel safe. So touching on what we said earlier, I knew that if I came back with 100%, they'd be smiles at home. Right. Everyone's happy. Wrong as them well. Right. So I internalised that. I think that's the way to be loved in life. Fast forward. I'm at university. And there's a pattern here in all aspects of life. Like whether I was seven and if I lost at Ludo, my mum says I would literally toss the board up and storm out the room. Like I was furious if I lost at Ludo. Right. And it sounds like a funny thing that your mum embarrasses you with in time. So now actually now that I've unpicked it, it's actually very serious. I remember I was at uni. Maybe second, third, fourth year at uni. I remember on a Sunday often after the passing of the Friday and Saturday night, we'd end up in Diane's pool hall in Edinburgh, a game with one of my mates. And I'm a pretty decent pool sneaker player. Right. If I was ever losing, I'd go into the toilets and look at myself in the mirror, give myself a talking to him, give myself a little slap on the face, come back out. More often than not, I would go on and then win the match. And I thought I just liked winning. And I was competitive. That was all a story, complete nonsense. It wasn't that I liked winning. It was that the pain of the losing was too great because it reminds me on a deep, primal level. I'm not loved when I lose, when I'm not the best. Right. So it's about feeling of safety. And here's the other thing. If I did win, I wasn't happy that I won. I was just happy that I didn't lose. Right. And then you compensate. You don't realize it. It might be a bit more sugar that evening. A few extra beers that night, a little cheeky tricks of the casino on the way back because you've got this discomfort in your body, in your soul. Right. That you need something, you need a junk happiness habit to deal with it. But we're all going through that. My parents, your parents, right. They've also had childhood programming that they're playing out. And I think when we really get that, we can be compassionate. I have to say that was just outstanding, beautiful, the way you articulated all of that. And it really did bring me back to this sense of empathy, which links to something you said earlier, which is, if I'd gone through what my mum had gone through, coming from Africa to the UK at God knows what age she did, I think maybe 17, having left school and then having to fight for survival in the way that my mum did. And I what, my mum is the single hardest working person I've ever met in my entire life. I would have behaved in the exact same way. And that really, it does a remarkable thing for your perspective on them, how you view their struggle and how you view their current behavior, which I think is actually a really good pathway to engaging with them and then being able to have conversations. And it is such a beautiful sentence that one of, had I been through what they've been through, I would have behaved in the exact same way. And that is completely true of my mother. I did not, I did not have to struggle in the way she did because of her struggle. It's true for all of us, actually.
Taking time to reflect (01:03:03)
I think we can all apply that to every single interaction in our life. And in fact, my challenge would be try it, suck it and see, see what life feels like. See what your experience of life physically, viscerally, emotionally, see what it feels like when you start to show up like that day to day. Right. If you're skeptical, okay, I hear you, skepticism. My challenge to you, if you're skeptical is try it for three days. Just try it. Because I'm not here to try and convince people. I'm not here to tell people what to do. I know this has literally transformed the way I show up with the world. And try it with your enemies. Right. Yeah, sure. Try it with your parents who hopefully you love. Try it with your enemies. Try it with that person at work you don't like. Try it with that boss who really pisses you off and riles you up every time to try it. Maybe you can't do that straight away. Maybe you have to work up to that. This is a skill. Right. Happiness is a skill. You can get better at it. But how would you know how to get better at it? When did you get taught the skill of happiness? I didn't get taught it. Right. They don't teach it at school. They don't teach at university. I didn't learn it from my parents. I didn't learn it from society. In fact, the lessons I learned from society were that you need to earn more money. You need to get a better job. You need to get a nicer car, a nicer holiday. Those things are signs of success and therefore happiness. And it's a myth. I think that's the biggest myth we fall for. We think that's what happiness is. Success is success. Happiness is happiness. They can sometimes coincide, but they don't always. But they can do, if you back up, if you take a pause, you start to do some of the things that we're talking about. You start to have a bit of time to reflect. You know, solitude, Stephen, is so important. Every bit of our free time now is sucked up. Like, I went to this gorgeous coffee shop, next to your studio just before I came in. Right. Now, I imagine 15 years ago, you go into any coffee shop in London. You'll be standing in the queue. You'll be waiting. You know, there might be five people in front of you. Fine. You'll be looking around. You'll be, you might bump into someone you know. You might be daydreaming. Now what happens if you go into any coffee shop? Everyone's head down, stuck in their phone. Right. You're looking. You're trying to catch up with your emails, just have a quick cheeky look on Instagram. I'm not criticizing anyone for doing that, but that comes at a cost. It means these little micro moments of downtime where your brain is trying to solve problems for you and process life. They're being lost. If you're constantly consuming, right, you're constantly consuming content from outside. Whatever it is, even good content. Right. Even nourishing content. If you're constantly consuming, you're not allowing your own thoughts and emotions to come up. You know, every summer now, I take a social media break. I tried it two years ago for the first, I think three years ago for the first time. It took me a few days to really get into it. Then after two weeks, I didn't want to go back on. Now I'm not anti-social media, right? I can see the value that it has. I use it to try and spread helpful messaging as you do. But I felt really good in what I really experienced to him. And as I allowed these deep innermost feelings to come up, I started to figure out what I think. What I think, not what the world thinks. Because that's half the problem. Going back to what he said, that person who's confused, right, and doesn't know where to start, there's another tip for them. See if you can have 10 minutes a day without your phone, without music on, right? Without an app that you're looking at, without distraction, just sit. Maybe with a journal if you want, but just sit, see what comes up. Because often we're so scared of what's going to come up, we distract. And I would say, you know, for me a daily practice of solitude, for me typically it's first thing in the morning, is so needed. Right, the way I describe it to people, it's like an early warning system. Right, so when I was a junior doctor at Edinburgh, I remember being taught, when you're looking after sick patients, if you do regular, what we call ops, so heart rate, respiratory rates, you know, temperature, depending on what parameters they fit into, we could detect several hours beforehand, who was going to end up needing high dependency beds or intensive care. It was like, it was really a simple concept that by doing this regular checks, we can then take aversive action and make sure that person doesn't end up going downhill. And I see my daily practice of solitude, as my early warning system, like it allows me to see what's coming up, right? I know for years, Stephen, I say, I know, I know now, but I didn't know then, when my stress load was going up, work, family, pressure, I'd feel this real tightness to my right upper back, but I was so busy, I didn't even notice it. Now I notice, I know. If in the morning, when I'm doing my solitude practice, I feel that I'm like, oh, okay. There's stuff going on, right? What is it? Is it work? Is it emotional? And it allows me to intentionally say, okay, do I need to cut out some commitments I've got? Do I need to have a conversation with my wife about something that's been bothering me and I haven't said anything yet? Everything I recommend to you in is simple. I don't think anything I've suggested so far costs any money at all. None of them actually take that much time. I'm really, really passionate about making sure this information is accessible to everyone. I've worked in affluent areas. I've worked in some very, very deprived areas, right? And actually we're all, of course, there are different pressures, but actually we're all having the same universal human experience. The same ingredients are there in all of us that when we apply them, they make our lives better, no matter where we are, right? Someone, when I was working in olden, right? An area of low socioeconomic status, a lot of my patients want benefits, very poor income levels, you know, you would say a very, you know, struggling area financially. I can't take away their poverty and their stress from life, but if I can help them have 10 minutes of themselves each morning and do some breathing practices or even write in a journal what they're feeling. That is going to lower their stress load and that means they're going to be better able to show up in their life and deal with their stresses. Right? So when people say, "Oh, health happiness, it's the preserve of the middle classes and the wealthy," I disagree. I absolutely disagree. And I'm so passionate to get that message across. Health and happiness can be accessible to everyone. Yes, it can be challenging for some people. No question. There could be lots that you want to change. There could be lots that you ideally would wish it wasn't the way it is. But you can choose your response to every single one of those things. You absolutely can. And when you learn to do that, that's freedom. You know, what's the Victor Franco quote? "In between stimulus and response is a space. In that space lies your power to choose your response. And with your response lies your growth and your freedom." One of the things you touched on there, which was really foundational to everything you went on to say, was this idea of a morning routine.
Morning routines (01:10:53)
And you know, when I do Q&As and stuff like that on social media, people will always ask me, "Steve, what's your morning routine?" My morning routine is pretty shitty. I'm going to be completely honest. I would never lie to anybody about that. It's really, really shitty and it's inconsistent and it's quite... It's unthinking. So it's kind of being dragged into the day. You describe these, the three M's of a really good morning routine. What are those three M's of a good morning routine? What can I do today? How long is it going to take me? And what do you believe a good morning routine contains? Yeah. So a big picture of you here. I have a bias towards morning routines because I have found in my own life, they've really, really helped me. So let me just talk about stress for a moment because this really plays into why I think morning routine is so important. I've got this concept of micro stress dosage and stress thresholds. So every one of us have got our own unique personal stress threshold. Right? That depends on your life, how you deal with things and what's going on. And what we get to that threshold, that's when things start to go wrong. That's when we snap at someone. We have a fight with our partner. Our net goes or our back goes into spasm. Right? That's when you're at your threshold. Right. So... I'm saying to people, and I've really found this to be true for pretty much everyone. Let's hit you wake up and you are far away from your threshold. You've had a good night's sleep. Right? So you're feeling good. What's the average morning for a lot of people these days? Okay. Let's say the alarm goes off at 6.30. Right? So they're in a deep sleep. Alarm goes off, jolts them out of that sleep, they have to get it. Okay. That's micro stress dose or MSD number one. Okay. Pick up the phone. Oh, man. I'm just going to put it on snooze. You know, I need a bit more snooze. Put it back. Six minutes later it goes on again. MSD number two. You leave pick up your phone. You go, "I'm just quickly going to check email." Oh, man. There were these three emails. I didn't get back to yesterday. Oh, man. I need to do that. MSD number three. Have a quick look on Instagram. Someone's left you a snarky comment. MSD number four. Then you realize, "Oh, man. I've been in bed for 10 minutes. I had to get up, get ready. I've got a guest coming to shoot a podcast with." I'm not talking about your life. I'm just saying anyone's life. You are talking about myself. Right? And so here's the point. At me, Ron. Each one of those things is a micro stress dose. And each one of those is getting you closer and closer to that stress threshold. The mistake we make is that when something happens at three o'clock in the afternoon, right? When that email from your colleague frustrates you, you think it was that email. But it wasn't the email. It was the fact that you've already acquired 20 micro stress doses. You're right at your threshold. You've got no capacity to deal with it. So that email now bothers you. So what I suggest to people is many people leave the house in the morning having already accumulated about 15 micro stress doses. So they're already a lot closer to their threshold than they would have otherwise mean, which means they've got less resilience. They won't take much for them to get triggered. So why I think morning routines can be so valuable is they can reduce how many micro stress doses you're exposed to first in the morning. So you are going into your day with much more headroom and much more resilience. But I think they're also useful. If you're feeling quite stressed when you wake up and anxious, I think they help almost undo the damage of micro stress and bring you back to baseline. Was that clear? - Perfectly clear. - So that's my kind of overarching view on why the sample is going to be a little bit more important. So for me, I know if I do that morning routine, yes, it gives me perspective on my life. It allows me to reflect, but it also feeds the control leg of the core happiness stool. But it also means that I'm not exposing myself to micro stress doses. In fact, I'm getting back to baseline or I'm going into negative. I'm actually giving myself a lot more resilience and capability to face the day. So I was trying to simplify things to people. So I think a complete morning routine for me has got these three M's. Mindfulness, movement, mindset. And that's how I orientate my own morning routine. So I started with mindfulness. Now, I've been doing this for a few years, right? And currently my morning routine is about 30 minutes. But that's because I've created a life where I can do that and it works for me and I get up silly early. That's also because my kids have always been early risers. And I know if I don't get that time to myself, I'm just not as good a dad and I'm not as good as a husband. So my bedtime has got earlier and earlier. So I can get up earlier and earlier before my kids do. Right. So I start off with mindfulness, which at the moment is a practice of breath work and then meditation. Then what I do, I go to my kitchen and I put coffee on. And I wrote particularly with how I do my coffee. I weigh out 15 grams in the French breast. I pour 250 grams of water in and I put a timer on for five minutes. Why is that important? It's not. It's the way I like my coffee. But the point is I know for five minutes, my coffee is going to bruise. In those five minutes, I don't go on Instagram. I don't check my email. I do a workout in my kitchen, in my pajamas. Right. I'm in my pajamas. I'm not a to put on any fancy gear. I might do a bodyweight workout. I might have a kettlebell kicking around. Whatever I feel like, I will do. And then I get the gorgeous rewards of a hot fresh cup of organic coffee that I like. And I sit there and I'll read something positive. Like I've got a few books kicking around in my living room. I'll just pick one that I'm drawn to. I'll probably read for about 10 minutes while I'm sipping coffee. Something that's not negative, that's uplifting. Right. So that's what it looks like for me. Now, sometimes my daughter is currently nine. She's got a six cents that daddy's up and she creeps in with me. If she gets in with me, well, two things I want to say about that. The old wrong good from a few years ago would have got frustrated. Man, I kind of need to get in space. You know why? You know, I should have got up earlier. I don't do that anymore. I'm a lot more compassionate to myself. I use that. I go, OK, great. OK, great. She's here. OK, OK. OK, darling, just sit here. Daddy's just finishing off my meditation. And she sits there and I think, OK, this is cool. Like, I don't need to look at it. It's a problem. This is the life. Right. If we think life is going to be great when everything goes our way, we're going to be waiting a long time. So I embrace it and I'll go, fantastic. And then I also think as a dad, well, she's also now seeing daddy prioritizes his health. He thinks it's important to look after his mental well-being every day. I'm hoping that she also absorbs some of these ideas as she grows up. But the mindset piece, I don't sit there and read. If my daughter's there, we instead do affirmations together. So there's really good research on affirmations in terms of what they do for us. Just short, positive, powerful statements. So the one we do together is we just say, I'm happy, I'm calm, I'm stress free. Right. So the two of us sit there, we hold hands and we say that for a minute. At the end of the I feel brilliant, she feels amazing. No, I get it. Some people hear that. I go, that is cheesy as anything. And maybe it is. But you know what? There's good research on it. Undergraduate students who did affirmations before their exam, perform better. Right. You know, how you program your mind matters. So that's what mine looks like. Right. It used to be about five, 10 minutes. Now, yeah, I can do half an hour. Right. But I've also become aligned. I've now, I go to bed earlier. Right. And let's all forget Stephen, you're at a different stage in life to me. Right. I'm in my early 40s. I'm happily married. I've got two young kids. Right. You're in your late 20s. Right. Was I doing morning routines when I was 29? No, I wasn't. It's like clue that I texted you at 2am last night, isn't it? Yeah. Why, why, why, why, because like, oh man, like I'm getting up to do my routine and seeing was just going to bed. But, but. Let me tell you about a patient who I saw many years ago. Karma, how old she was, she'd probably around 42. Really bad skin. And I strongly felt that stress was exacerbating and really aggravating his skin. And she said, that's a time for any of this stuff. Right. I'm busy. I've got two kids. I've got to get out to work. And we tried various things, but I managed to persuade her and inspire her to try a five minute routine. And this is what she did. She did the three M's in five minutes. It's just one minute of what I call three, four, five breathing. Right. So you breathe in for three, you hold for four and you breathe out for five. Anytime you're out breath is longer than you're in breath, you help to lower your body's stress response and activate its relaxation response. Okay. There's many ways you can do that, but I like this breath that I call the three, four, five breaths. So she did one minute of three, four, five breathing. She did two minutes of yoga. Right. She had some of her favorite secrets. She had two minutes of yoga. And then she did two minutes of affirmations. That's it. And then she got on with a day. She came to see me a few weeks later. And she stopped. She actually, I just feel so much better. And her skin complaints had gone down by over 50% and over the course of the next few months. She was hardly getting any flare-ups at all because it was a ripple effect. It wasn't just that. But by doing that, giving her that little bubble of resilience first thing in the morning, she would then go out for a walk at lunchtime instead of just sitting in the canteen on her phone. She'd go, how would we go for a 10 minute walk around the block? You know, so for me, it's just you showing yourself right at the start of the day. You know what? I'm worth it. I'm worth spending a bit of time on today. And for me, I've got a buyer's say because if I don't do stuff like that in the morning, I don't do it. What's the day start? Forget it. And something that might have value for your audience, Stephen. And I, you know, I guess I'm coming and thinking Stephen Bartlett, successful businessman, loads of entrepreneurs listening, thinking about, you know, business and stuff. And I'm, you know, I kind of want to help people and let's zoom into the middle and movement. Why is it that I'm able to do a fine minute workout every day? I've rarely missed a day for three years. That's not because I've got more motivation than anyone else. It's because I understand the science of behavior change. Right. I think it's going to, I hope it's going to have value for people. There's two big rules that I've learned about human behavior. Number one is if you make something easy, you will do it. So what's that got to do with my morning routine? Well, I made it so easy for me to do right. I don't need to buy any equipment. Everything's there. I don't need to get change. I don't need to look up a workout. I don't need to do it. It's, it literally happens because I don't have to think. I've made it really easy. And to zoom this out to business for a moment, it's reported that when Amazon went to one click ordering, it's reported their profits went up by $300 million a year. Right. So let's rewind 10 years when they didn't have it. What did you have to do? Put in your order, go to the next screen, you know, type in your card deals, go to the next screen, confirm order. Right. Every single step is a reason to procrastinate, pull out and not make the purchase. So what do they do? One click ordering boom before you blinked. Something's coming that evening. Right. So they're doing what I think they should do for their business. Why did Netflix roll one video or one show into the next one? It's not out of the goodness of their own hearts to go, Oh, you know, let's help people. No, they're using the sites of human behavior. Before you realize it's 12, 30 at night, I need to go to bed. I've got to get it for work. You are straight into another episode. So you don't stop. That's why YouTube roll into the next video. Right. So these guys understand human behavior when we as humans, trying to apply it to our own health, we throw it out the window. We think, Oh, it's got to be hard. It's got to be really tough. I've got to go running one hour four times a week. And we, again, first two weeks in January, we managed to do it. Then we fall off the wagon because we think motivation is going to last forever. And it doesn't in the science. It's called the motivation wave. Motivation comes up. Motivation goes down. Plan your behaviors for when your motivation is down. Not when it's up, then you will still do it. So number one is you make it easy. I've made it easy. Number two, which is just as important as where are you going to put this behavior? You can't just think about it. Oh, I'm going to, I'm going to meditate. I'm going to move. No, you need to be very intentional. Now every single behavior we do needs a trigger. Right. So a trigger could be, oh, I remember to do it. Sure. That works. It's just the most unreliable trigger that exists. The next best trigger is like a notification. Like, you know, oh, you've got to be here to record a podcast with Stephen. Okay. Great. I know I've got to do that. Or you put a post-it note on your fridge. That's great. But the very best trigger as evidenced by the research. And a lot of this comes from Professor BJ Fogg at Stanford. Instagram was literally invented in his class as an assignment, essentially. He has shown that if you stick on your new behavior onto an existing habit, it's much more likely to happen. Like the coffee. Like the coffee. I don't need my PA to phone me at five in the morning. So hey, wrong and listen, you must remember to make your coffee. I don't need my Google calendar. No, notifications pop, say, hey, wrong and don't forget to make your coffee. I'm going to do that. It's locked in as a habit. I don't have to give it any contrast. It's going to happen. So therefore, if I stick my workout on there, I vastly increase the likelihood that it's going to happen. Add on to the fact that I keep kettlebells and dumbbells in my kitchen. My wife used to say, can we not just put these away in the cupboard? And I said, listen, babe, here's the thing. I've seen this with patients. If you put this stuff out of the way so that the kitchen looks nice, right, I'm never going to lift up that weight. Out of sight, out of mind, we need to constantly trigger. So the kitchen is not a mess. It's just in the corner. There's a kettlebell. So as I'm making the coffee, I can see it. It's looking at me. Even if all I do is pick it up to move it, I've picked it up. And what it does, Steven, is that on a very, on a very base primal level, it shows me each morning that I have value, that I'm worth treating with respect. You know, Chapter 3, the book is all about treat yourself with respect. Many of us, as I've done for much of my life, don't. We struggle with compassion for ourselves. We struggle to be kind to ourselves, right? But the researchers really clear people who are more compassionate to themselves. They're healthier. They're happier. They're more successful at work. We think we've got to beat ourselves up inside to do stuff, right? It's a myth. It's a short term when. It's a long term fail. And there are simple things that we can do. Quick one. As we all know, energy independence and living a little greener has never been more important for a better future. It's a journey I've been on over the last couple of years that I've shared with you sporadically. Ever since I sold my Rangeover Sport and bought an electric bicycle. And there's a lot of people out there that listen to this podcast that are looking to make that sustainable switch in the things that run their daily life, whether it's their home, their car, their vehicles, whatever it might be. So when a good friend of mine at a company called My Energy, called Jordan, told me she was interested in sponsoring this podcast, I jumped at the opportunity. So for those of you that don't know, My Energy are a UK renewable energy brand whose mission is to increase the usage of green energy, helping people like you and I to save time and money when it comes to making sustainable switches in our lives. So if this resonates with you and you're the type of person that's been looking or thinking about going on your own sustainability journey, I highly recommend checking them out at MyEnergy.com. A lot of people when they talk about health and happiness in those topics, they tend to focus on things like what we eat.
The importance of sleep (01:27:33)
That seems to be a really big factor in health. One of the things we've talked about there that I also read about in your work is you would actually suggest that the maybe the most foundational thing to all of our lives. And it's kind of clearly one of the things that I've not been so consistent with is sleep. So why is sleep so foundational and so important? I actually read that you said if there was one sort of health recommendation you would make to everybody it would be to try and get more sleep. Why do you prioritize that so highly? Why is that so important? I think the reason why sleep is so important for society at the moment is because of how much we've lost. So depending on which study you read, you'll have a slightly different result, but essentially compared to about 60 years ago, we may have lost up to 25% of our sleep. Right, so on an eight hour sleep cycle, we may have lost two hours of sleep. Right, now when you think about what sleep does for the body and the brain and the mind, you'll be like, well, actually that is going to have a consequence. So in the short term, we all know what does it feel like when we haven't slept well? Okay, do we feel like our best selves? No, we're a bit irritable. We're a bit moody. What are we like with those closest to us when we haven't slept well? Are we patience and calm? Are we a bit ratty and a bit angsty? What do you crave when you haven't slept well? You don't crave fruit and vegetables and whole foods, you crave sugar and cakes and candy. Right, because your hormones change when you haven't slept properly, right? You're less able to resist temptation when you haven't slept, right? You're much more likely to get emotionally triggered when you haven't slept. So sleep is really, really important in the short term, but in the long term, sleep deprivation is associated with pretty much every single chronic disease we have. Heart disease, Alzheimer's, autoimmune disease, all these things. Now, we're pretty sure are directly, not just associated with sleep deprivation is thought to be causative. Right? So this is why we think I'm just going to crush it in my 20s, 30s. You know, I sleep when I'm dead. I sleep later. I get there are phases in our life where we have to probably work harder than we would ideally do. We get opportunities. We have to take it. We feel we have to take advantage of them. Fine. I get that. I'm not saying you're going to sleep seven to eight hours every single night. I don't manage to and I do prioritize my sleep, but by and large, the biggest problem we have with sleep is that we don't prioritize it. We've never lived in a society where there are this many distractions from sleep. A million years ago, you didn't have, you know, what do you do? It gets dark. You have a campfire, you sit around and chat and then, yeah, you get to go off to bed, aren't you? It's so true. We live as if sleep is the only optional thing. It's the thing that can we could do one hour, two hours, three hours, but we then over-priotize, but I can't miss that appointment. I can't miss that work commitment, but the sleep can come and go. It's optional. Yeah. And it's, and I get the temptation. There's always something you could do. You could watch a YouTube video. You could watch a new bots series. You know, I understand that there are distractions. I totally get that, but if you are struggling in life, if you can't focus as much as you want to at work, if you've tried going on diets before, and you can't stick to eating the right kinds of foods that you're trying to choose, you may be better off focusing on your sleep. I've helped people lose weight. I've helped people improve so many aspects of their health by not changing their diet. And I'm a big proponent of whole food based diets, right? But I've gone, what's the lever I need to turn here? Not what can I lecture the patient about? What is the lever I need to turn here? So, I took about these four pillars of health, certainly for physical health, food, movement, sleep and relaxation. And when my first book came out talking about this about five years ago, people say, "Don't show you where should I start?" And I said, "Well, look, we're all different. Ask yourself this question. Ask yourself, which of these four pillars do I need the most help with?" Because we all kind of intuitively know, for me, it's probably stress. My diet movement's pretty good. I'm pretty good in my sleep, but if I could do more to manage stress, that would have a huge impact on my health. But we don't do that. We go to our favorite bit, right? So, people who've already pretty good with their diet, they try and make it 5% better, negating the fact that they're only sleeping 4.5 hours every night. But go to your weaker link, make a small change there. I'm not talking about 7, 8 hours. If you can even sleep for 15 minutes more a night, you will have a noticeable and measurable impact on your physiology and the way that you feel. And the other thing we're now learning about sleep, particularly, I think it's the REM, the REM phase of sleep, is it's what sleep researchers are calling emotional first aid? Right? It allows you to process and kind of regulate emotions and memories. So, we are living in this time of a mental health epidemic. I'm very concerned over what the impact of the last couple of years is going to have on people's mental well-being. But a lot of people don't realize that sleep, when you sleep more, when you sleep of better quality, you actually do emotional first aid, you actually are better at processing emotions, your relationships will be better, your mood will be better when you slept more. So, the number one thing we don't do is prioritize it. So, the most people, if all they do is prioritize it, that would be a big start. And then, I always think I need to say when I'm talking about sleep, I don't want to stress people out because some people may hear that, Stephen, and go, "Oh, my, now I'm stressed out." Right? I've heard what you just said sleep's going to do, or I've got a young child. I can't sleep through the night. That's okay. We all have phases like that. This is day in, day out, over a period of years. I'm talking about it as a chronic disease. But there are small things that you can do, right? Getting outside in the morning for even 10 minutes and seeing natural light. That will help you sleep better at night. That is free, and it's accessible to everyone, right? Why? If you think about what I said about a million years ago, we have evolved as humans to have a big differential between our maximum light exposure and our minimum light exposure. Typically, in the day we'd be outside and at nighttime, we'd be completely dark. So, light is measured in a unit of light called Lux. Completely dark room, zero Lux. If you go outside on a cloudy day in the UK, overcast cloudy day, for 10 or 15 minutes, you're going to get about 10,000 Lux through your eyes. Go back on a sunny day, you're going to get about 20 or 30,000 Lux through your eyes. Go into the most brightly lit office building in the UK. You're probably going to get between 500 and 700 Lux. It's not much. Even on a cloudy day, you're getting so much more than you would get inside. So, for some people, all they have to do is get outside in the morning for 10 minutes or even a lunchtime. Go for a walk outside for 10 minutes. That will help set what's called your circadian rhythm, which helps you sleep better at night. So, that's a simple one. Caffeine's a big one, right? You know, I love coffee, but I don't drink it after midday. I'll drink it in the morning. I won't drink it after midday. There are genetic differences between different people and how we process it for sure. But, you know, by and large, the half of the six hours. So, that means if you have a large coffee at midday, at 6 p.m., half of that caffeine is going around your brain, and it could be at midnight, a quarter could still be going around your brain. So, this is not about lecturing. This is about hopefully empowering people to go, "Oh, maybe that 3 p.m. coffee I take to get me through the afternoon." Oh, maybe that's why I can't sleep well. And then, I'm even more tired than next day, and I'm stuck in this vicious cycle where I need the caffeine to keep getting me through. And again, if someone's listening to this and they're not sure, I would say, "Okay, why not try for seven days only having caffeine in the morning?" I just see what happens. Observe. Do you feel better? Does it help? Do you have more energy? Great. And if you think you're somewhere and you really think it's a problem, you might want to wean down and try seven days without. I never tell my patient to stop drinking coffee or to stop drinking alcohol. I want to help show them the impact it's having. Right. So, let's say a patient's drinking too much alcohol for their health. I want to help persuade them to go for seven days without and see how they feel. Right. If they can experience how they feel differently, and then they go, "Yeah, I love it." But you know what? The amount of fun I get on a Friday night hanging out with my mates, having a few beers, it's worth the hangover and the fatigue and the irritability on Saturday. If they say that they're happy with that trade-off, okay, fine. But a lot of people are not aware of the trade-off. Like with coffee, a lot we are drinking so much. We are a nation of caffeine addicts. We're a world of caffeine addicts, frankly. It's a psychomatistimulants. It's a beautiful one, but it's a psychomatistimulant. So, I'm all I'm saying is if you're struggling with your sleep, you might want to reduce it. You might want to knock it back a bit. And there's plenty more we could talk about with sleep, but all I want to say to people is, small changes to your sleep make a difference. Don't set the goal that's going to be eight hours a night. Sure, if you can do that, wonderful. But even 15 minutes more a day will absolutely make a difference. One of the moments in your book that you describe as being really pivotal, and you've referenced it earlier as being pivotal to your life was the moment your child got ill, your sixth month old child got became unwell, and the kind of, that became a catalyst in your life for, I guess, many things.
The moment your child became ill (01:38:05)
Can you talk to me about why that was so pivotal and why when your child became ill, you know, that was in part what I understand is part of the inspiration behind many of the thoughts in the book. My son, Jane, getting sick at six months old literally changed the course of my career. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today had that not happened. So rewind 2010, I become a father for the first time. Right, super excited. Right, it's amazing. We're new parents. Everything's going well, bloody, bloody, blah. And that December, the end of December, we were, we decided to go on holiday for a week in France. I've got friends out there, one of them's got a house out there, we were going to go and stay there. And we flew out just after Chris was my wife, myself, and my son. And we got to my friend's house, they weren't going to be there till the next day. And we're meant to sleep downstairs there. That was the room that we'd been allocated at my friend's place. And normally my wife would have probably gone and put him to sleep, but she said, she didn't feel she wanted to. He was a bit sniffly. He wasn't, you know, she mother's intuition called whatever you will, she didn't do it. Anyway, we're upstairs in this kind of open-time kitchen. I think I'm doing some washing up and then she calls out to me says wrong and he's not moving. I drop everything, turn around, see him. And I think he's probably choking because he's had a lot of phlegm all day. So I take him, turn him over, I try and clear his airway. Nothing's happening. I probably froze. I can't quite remember now with clarity. But my wife said, look, we just got to get into the hospital. So we got to the hospital, which is two minutes away. We got in, and you can see how scared the medics were because it's not uncommon for children at the age of six months to have a convulsion. It's something we call the febrile convulsion. There's a fever that causes the convulsion, but he had no fever. Well, why on earth is a six month old kid? Just stop moving and had a convulsion. So he got blue lighted down there because it was a little mountain resort down to the valley. My wife's going in the ambulance. I'm like following in the car. I think what on earth is happening? We get there. He's motionless. We're super scared. We thought we might lose him that night. He had two lumber punctures. He had all kinds of blood tests. Then it turns out later that he had very low levels of calcium in his blood, which is why he had a convulsion. But why has that happened? And it's a lot we're still waiting for more tests. A few hours later, it comes back. He's got no vitamin D in his body. Well, very low levels of vitamin D. That's why his calcium drops. Thankfully, he got a calcium infusion. He got vitamin D. Five days later, we get discharged. But why did that have such a big impact on me? Well, eight, of course, I nearly died. But I thought I'd let him down. That's the true statement. I thought my son has nearly died from a preventable vitamin deficiency. I've gone to one of your most prestigious medical schools at Inbrea. I've got an immunology degree. I've done my specialist exams, done my general practice exams with all my so-called qualifications. I was unable to prevent my son from getting sick. So I took it personally as if I had messed up. And actually, with the enough a few weeks before that I'd become aware of this Monday, I'd gone. I remember thinking, shouldn't my son be on this Monday? This was years ago. I remember, phoning my wife from work said, "Hey, can you go and take him to the doctor?" We're told as doctors not to make medical decisions for our own family. It's not deemed good practice. I sent her a protocol to just show that to the doctor, say, "Your husband's a GP." He's just thinking about this. And the GP just left her out, said, "You could have just printed. You could have just typed this up on Word. This is nonsense. He doesn't need anything." Anyway, two weeks later, he's in France. Convelation nearly dies. Why does that have such a big impact on me? Why has it had such a big impact on me? Because I thought it failed. My whole identity is around being perfect at that point. So I want perfection in every aspect of my life. I wanted perfection in every aspect of my life. Of course, my darling son, I thought so guilty, Stephen, I became obsessed. Modern medicine saved his life. But that's it. Modern medicine often stops at that point. I was asking him, "Well, what happens if he's not had Vitamin D in his system for the last few months?" Which he didn't. Vitamin D is critical for our immune system. It's critical. Could this be why he's got eczema? Could this be a contributing factor? So look, he's fine now. And I thought, this is not good enough for me. So I made it my mission. I said to myself, internally, I don't think I've verbalized it out. I said, "I am going to get my son back to full health as if this had never happened." I became obsessed. I'd read up about Vitamin D. That led me to the gut microbiome. That led me to all kinds of stuff that I never learned at medical school that I've used to help him. He is a thriving, happy, healthy, strong 11-year-old boy. The principles and the tools that I've learned are what I've been using with my patients for years. It's what I used on Dr. Inhouse on BBC One to show people all around the country. And it's gone to 70 countries around the world. They're all kinds of conditions, tattooed diabetes, fibromyalgia, panic attacks, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome. Can all be either reversed or significantly improved by making small changes to our lifestyle. That moment drove me to learn all this stuff, which I now share and help, arguably millions of people now. For years, I wished it didn't happen. But I've changed my view. For two reasons. One reason was that guilt I felt Stephen I carried in as a dad. He doesn't need his dad feeling guilty. That doesn't make me a calm, present, attentive father. That brings baggage into the relationship. I could see that. I'd like to think, particularly these days, I've got a high degree of self-awareness. I could see that. See, wrong, this is guilt. It's not his fault. He doesn't need a guilty dad. So that was a stimulus to go inward and figure some of this stuff out to figure out where does this come from. But it all plays in, Stephen. As we talk, you can see the theme in the start of our conversation, in the middle, now talking about my son. I have expected perfection of myself in everything I've ever done. That's been my identity. With my son, I felt as though I let him down. Now, I've let go of pretty much all of that. I say pretty much because it still pops in. So in my role as a father, I think I do a good job. They're kind, considerate kids. They're happy. But could I do a better job? Probably. I'm not going to beat myself up on that anymore. But I want to work on that. So now I look back and I've now told myself a different story. It's true. You can tell me if you think it's true. I now think that was meant to happen. That happened so that Daddy could learn all of the tools that I've learned to help him and now help thousands of people, hundreds of thousands. As I say, arguably millions. I wouldn't have had those learnings had it not happened. And when I started thinking like that, I would think, "Yeah, but why did he have to go through that in order for me to learn this?" But again, that's me putting a story. What do you mean, go through it? Maybe he doesn't know he's been through anything. Maybe that's his life journey. Maybe he's going to learn loads from that experience. Do you know what I mean? And that's the perspective choice. I guess you talked about earlier. It's almost like making an incident, a negative incident, the hero of your own life as opposed to the, you know, shrouding it with guilt and blame and resentment. Yeah, it's choosing a happiness story about it. Because ultimately, I can't change the reality of what happened. Whether I wanted it to or not, of course, at that moment, would I want it to happen? No, of course not. But now, given that it can't be changed, given that it has happened and is now in the past, how now to show up in my everyday life and be happy, be content, help people, serve people, serve my children as a good father. Well, it's to let go of that and move on, choose a happiness story. We can all do it. It's hard sometimes, but it doesn't mean it's not possible. And what is your mission now? As you look ahead to the future, you've achieved so much across such a diverse range of pursuits, you know, everything from your TV to podcasts to books and everything in between your work as a GP, your medical practice, everything.
What is your mission now? (01:47:35)
What is your mission now as you look ahead to your future? The mission that I have stated publicly for the last few years has been over the course of my career. I want to help 100 million people live better lives. I want to help them with their health and their happiness. But you know, over the last few months, that's not been sitting that well with me anymore. I mean, I'm really good friends with my videographer, Gareth, he films every podcast that I do. We've been chatting a lot about it. And, you know, when I first stayed to that publicly for the first time, I was so scared. Well, people think he's got a big ego. You know, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't want, part of me didn't want to share that. I thought, what people think of me, right? Why that's been so good for me is it's helped me make decisions as you know, the amount of incoming into our inboxes and what we could be doing is vast. So the 100 million figure allows me to think, okay, is this going to get me closer to 100 million or not? So I think it's served a really good role. I think missions can do at particular moments in life, but we don't need to be stuck to them forever. So, you know, that figure, you know, I thought, well, 5 million people each week are watching Dr. Andhausen, BBC One. Okay. That means if only 1% of people watch that and make a change in their life, that's a lot of people, right? And now that's gone to 70 countries around the world. I'm like, okay, so this is how you can use the media to amplify your message and help people with hopefully a strong, simple message all over the world. Right now, I think, and that's helped me do things like, you know, I'll be honest, like when I saw my podcast, it was just a bit of fun, right? I didn't have a name. I didn't have a logo. I just thought, okay, this would be cool. I didn't know what the name was when I was interviewing people, like the first six interviews, but it's evolved into, you know, like your show, I guess, like a juggernaut show, which has a huge following that impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each week. Right. So the mission served me, but it's not sure. Like, I don't have a new replacement one at the moment, but I almost think 100 millions of them would say, well, why 100 million? Right. That's not said with any level of arrogance. It's just like, well, every human has unlimited potential. You know, this is what I always try and do. I want every person who reads my books or listens to my podcast to feel that they can be the architect of their own health and happiness. That's not me diminishing the fact that your environment, the society plays a role. No, but even if it does, I still want that person to feel that they have agency and they've got an element of control. So if I think about short-term goals, you know, I very much want this book to be a success, not so that it can feed my ego, but because I genuinely think the 10 chapters, the 10 life lessons are universal. So whoever you are, wherever you are in life, I think these 10 chapters, these 10 lessons hold true for everyone. If anyone disagrees, I'd welcome a conversation about it, but I really think they do. And I think they're sort of things that people can revisit. They use them then in a few months when life goes off track, they can come back. That's one immediate goal. But I think going beyond that, the mission's about conversation. Right. Conversation matters. Long-form conversation, like what you do on this show, like what I do on my show, that matters. We need that now more than ever. Everything is reduced down to that smallest soundbite that we can get out there. The problem is that comes at a cost because we lose perspective. It doesn't make us compassionate. It makes us angry. Right. People are isolated. There's a lack of community. People feel lonely. It's driving them to junk happiness habits. I've got so many young men who've come to see me, who've got pornography addiction. Right. They can't even look me in the eye when they tell me that that ashamed and embarrassed. They've not told anyone. They've not told their friends. They've not told their parents. There will be someone, Stephen, listening to this right now, who's got an issue with pornography. And they don't know where to turn. Picking up on that point of loneliness, I think in our society, we view loneliness as a sad thing in the sense that when someone's lonely, it almost feels like it's a sign of their inadequacy, or their lack of attraction, or then they're not a compelling human being.
The Perils Of Loneliness
The dangers of being lonely (01:52:34)
They weren't able to forge interactions. So although I've now come to learn that it's in fact a signal to get back to our tribes, we don't treat it like other signals. We don't treat it like thirst. We don't treat it like hunger. We will say if we're thirsty or we're hungry, but we won't say if we're lonely because it's stigmatized. Right. I came to learn from the research I've done, and I saw similar stats, which were terrifying in your work, is that loneliness isn't a sad thing. It's actually a really dangerous thing. So can you speak to the negative consequence of loneliness? The way society is set up now is making us lonely. We've moved away for work. We've moved away from our families. We don't have the tribes around us, and it's very, very damaging for our health. Right. Some research suggests that the feeling of being lonely is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, one, five. Right. Increases our risk of heart disease strokes. You're more likely to die earlier if you feel lonely. Why is that? Right. Think about it a million years ago. You're with your tribe. You're with your community. Right. If a wild predator is approaching the tribe, your stress response kicks into gear. That's a good thing. It's going to help you take action to keep you safe, brilliant. All kinds of things happen in the body when that happens. Loneliness is also a signal. Think back a million years ago. If you were out by yourself, you don't have your tribe around you. Your body is clever. Your body knows you are at risk. You are vulnerable to attack. So it activates your stress response. Your blood sugar goes up. Your blood pressure goes up. Your blood becomes more prone to clotting. Right. Your amygdala, your emotional brain goes on to high alert. So you're hyper vigilant. You become anxious. Right. All these things happen when you feel lonely. Right. You have physical changes in your body. Now, loneliness is hard. If people are suffering, I understand. Right. I really understand. But small things make a difference. You can start off by saying hi to the barista at the coffee shop. Right. But maybe you've got a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Maybe you've got busy with your life. They've got busy with the hell I've given them a cup. Right. That's all it takes. It's a ripple effect. Start small. And I promise you will start to feel the difference. Dr. Rungin, I couldn't thank you enough for the wisdom and for the time that you've given me today. It's really, really, really special. I sit here sometimes with guests and I think, you know, I think they've written a book and it's very nice and everything. But having experienced the way that you've done the self work and having had a taste of the way that you have empathy in your approach to causing behavioral and lifestyle change to people, I feel like this book is just critically important. You know, it's funny because I was thinking, I'm going to end this podcast by giving the book a compliment. But I don't think I have to. I think if people see who you are today, the wisdom, the empathy, the experience, the vulnerability, I think any person that is sound of mind and that wants to improve their life will know that this book is critically important to them, that it is inclusive, that is relatable, and that it will hold their hand through change in a way which is empathetic. And those are my favorite books. And I was sat here and I'm going to be completely nuts because I don't bullshit people. I just don't say things. I don't believe them. I was sat here thinking, fuck Steve, because I've only been it. I was only given a small taste of the book by your publisher. I need to read this book. And if that's the impact you've had on me, I know it's going to be the impact you've had on my listeners. So thank you because you know, that really, really is, you know, understanding where we are in the world and culture. We need more books like this. We have a tradition on this podcast, which is the last guest writes a question for the next guest and I don't actually get to read on my mother's life.
The last guests question (01:56:44)
I don't read it until I open the book. So I've just opened the book and seen what our last guest is written. So my last guest wrote the question and I've not read it yet. So here we go. But he's got great handwriting. So what is something that people value that you no longer value? An attachment to truth. I no longer value being white. I no longer value having to know the right answer. I no longer value thinking, this is the truth. And I'm going to hold on to this at all costs. And I think many people do. I now value curiosity and being the learner. I just want to learn. I want to explore. I'm happy for pre existing assumptions I've had in my life to be shown to be incorrect. I'm not attached to being right. I'm not attached to being wrong. What I am attached to is learning. And that's working for me at the moment. Dr. Rongen, thank you. You are simply amazing. And you are really the gift that keeps on giving. So I can't wait to read the book in its entirety. Happy mind, happy life, 10 simple ways to feel great every day. Thanks, I haven't me. Thanks. I can't wait to read the book in its entirety. Happy mind, happy life, 10 simple ways to feel great every day. Thanks, I haven't me.