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Paging Doctor Happy

Dr. Bob Nozik of Lafayette Offers a Prescription for Happiness— with Refills


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You don’t really want a bigger house, a better job, or a faster car: You want genuine happiness. And Bob Nozik, MD, is here to help. Since his retirement from the faculty of the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, the 70-year-old Lafayette resident has devoted his life to teaching others how to boost their inner happiness. Nozik has developed a 12-steps-to-joy program and recently published Happy 4 Life: Here’s How to Do It. He also lectures on the subject through the Association for Happiness Advancement.

Diablo: Are people just born happy?

Dr. Bob Nozik: I like to use the "happiness factory" simile: We are born with a happiness factory that is fully functioning; but for most of us, it comes preset to deliver too little happiness. The trick is to learn how to get your happiness factory to produce more happiness by making internal changes.

D: Can you give an example?

BN: Most of us have a severe inner critic. Most of us don’t even hear it, but having that screaming banshee in your head has a cumulative effect. The first thing is to hear it. Then you correct it. Converting your inner critic to an inner colleague will have a real effect on raising your level of deep, inner happiness.

D: If you are, say, in debt or unhealthy, how can you be happy?

BN: That gets into the negative emotions. When something is bothering you, that’s an indication you ought to devote your attention to it in a positive way. I don’t tolerate worrying very well. To me, it’s a useless emotion. If I find myself worrying, I’m either going to do something about it, or accept it.

D: You make it sound easy.

BN: Attitude is the [key]. If you want to get to happiness, it means that you have to give up a lot of neurotic things.

D: What obstacles do people face on their way to happiness?

BN: Being judgmental is practically a complete block to inner happiness. The person who is judgmental sees only one way is right. So everything else is wrong. In a life where there are an infinite number of possibilities, that person will always be making many more negative judgments than positive ones. And when you make negative judgments all day long, it sucks negative emotions in with it.

D: What role do alcohol and drugs play in attaining happiness?

BN: Drugs and alcohol play little role in happiness. And when they are used to escape reality or anesthetize oneself from pain, they work against happiness, because happiness delights in what is. You can get a pulse of joy or a temporary high from them, but never true happiness. True happiness is a state of being, not an episodic or occasional thing.

D: Any quick fixes for happiness?

BN: The thing I really like to leave people with is Pollyanna’s game. It’s based on the fact that in life there is almost nothing that is either all good or all bad. Immediately ask [yourself], "What is there about what just happened that I can like?" And start looking for that. If you get your mind to do that, you cut off so much negativity. It’s meant for those everyday things—for example, when a pipe broke in my house and water was spewing out all over.

D: You liked a plumbing disaster?

BN: I was home when it happened. It could have been much worse.

D: How can people justify having personal happiness in a troubled world?

BN: If I have happiness, I have more energy to do something [good]. I know people who are so miserable over terrible things going on that they can hardly get up in the morning. Those people are not going to help anything.

D: Why spend all this time teaching happiness? Why not just play golf or travel?

BN: My intention is to live to 126. I believe we need a purpose to keep vital and excited about life. I can’t imagine doing anything more purposeful than to bring more happiness to people in the world. I’m probably working harder since I retired. I loved my medical career, but I think I’m shooting higher now.

To participate in a happiness workshop, or to arrange private coaching, contact Nozik through his Association of Happiness Advancement at www.happinessadvance- ment.com. 

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