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Choose happy




“No man is happy who does not think himself so.” — Publilius Syrus (42 B.C.), Roman writer Maxim 584

Dr. Jose Pujalte Jr.

Dr. Jose Pujalte Jr.

I find that I am happiest when work is challenging but ultimately surmountable. In fact, my personal motto is in laboresquies or “in work, peace of mind.” “Work” of course must be qualified because what if you’re a drug dealer and you are happiest when you sell crack? Or what if you’re the rider in motorcycle tandem snatching, and you are happiest when you’re grabbing an old woman’s bag?

Today, let’s talk about being happy. I am not a motivational speaker, a priest, or a pastor – they may all be in better positions to talk about happiness. But doctors, especially the happy ones (!), have their ten cents’ worth. Insights are bound to form facing death and disease day in and day out.

5 Ways to be Happy. is quite specific in the ways to cultivate happiness. Not that happiness is a science, but it turns out that it’s one’s personality – one’s thoughts and behavior that determine much of happiness. It has little to do with being born rich or handsome or beautiful (but that helps).

  1. Invest in relationships. To us Filipinos, this is a no-brainer because it is natural for

us to devote time to family and friends. We treat old relatives with respect and give them senior roles as sages or arbiters in family disputes. We don’t park them in nursing homes. Our families are so extended that balikbayan boxes may truly be a Filipino invention.

  1. Express gratitude. This may sound mushy but it takes commitment to be grateful. It

takes practice to be appreciative of what we do, what we are, what we have, and who we are sharing our life with. Most of the time, we only get to appreciate the value of a person when he or she is gone. And yes, we only appreciate health when we are sick.

  1. Be optimistic. An optimist has been described as someone who digs in a roomful of

horse dung looking for a pony. A pessimist looks at new toys and worry when they will break. Get away from negative thoughts but, should there be a crisis, the questions to ask are: Is the situation as bad as I think it is? Is there another way to look at this problem? What can I learn from this?

  1. Find purpose. The Mayo Clinic article on cultivating contentment lists three other

questions in determining the mission (in life): What excites or energizes you? What are your proudest achievements? and How do you want others to remember you? For me, I started at the end and wrote my own eulogy (though I keep revising it). There’s nothing morbid about this because we will all die someday. This exercise will demand of you to see the big picture in your life and decide what really matters and what does not.  It must be a wasted life indeed if your epitaph reads, “Here lies _______ who did nothing.”

  1. Live now. Love today. Stop worrying about the past. You can never go back.

You can only re-interpret it. Don’t postpone study, vacation, forgiveness, laughter, and sex. And chocolate. You may be dead tomorrow so be happy today.

Dr. Pujalte  is an orthopaedic surgeon and always looks for ponies in roomsful of horse shit.



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