How To Be Happy

November 18, 2011

Dr. Andrew Weil, author of the new book Spontaneous Happiness, chats with friend and colleague, Dr. Mehmet Oz, about the blues, beating afternoon sugar cravings (yes, he gets them too), and why he was once known as ‘The Mad Turk.’

Andrew Weil: You have an incredibly demanding work life and you’re always expected to be positive. What do you do to maintain your emotional equilibrium? Do you ever get down?

Mehmet Oz: Oh, I get down. It’s interesting, I don’t know anyone who puts themselves out there who doesn’t feel insecurity, who doesn’t feel a sense of doom and gloom periodically. Folks are always coming up to me and saying, “You have a charmed life and you’re lucky about this or that,” but most of my days I spend thinking about worries that could easily get you down. You know, I did an aortic valve operation this morning. We did a stitch to repair a hole in the heart, and it didn’t work. That is not a calming moment. But what I’ve learned, and a lot of folks have wandered down this path with me, is that you can develop some equipoise, some ability to understand that it’s never as good as it is or as bad as it is either. Find the blessings in the people around you because they’re the ones that support your life. It’s the nurse that says, “Here, I’ll do this stitch for you,” and it’s just in the calming way she says it that brings you comfort because she has confidence in you. And on the show — you’ve been to our stage many times — it’s nice to have a stage manager because she’ll point you this way or that, she’ll cover you, and those kinds of little efforts I find hugely valuable. It gives me this sense of calm in the middle of a storm.

AW: What are some other tricks in your daily lifestyle that you think help you maintain emotional equilibrium?

MO: You know that I have not always had this level of…calm. They used to call me “The Mad Turk” because I would lose my temper so often — I’d get thrown out of sporting events because I’d get into scuffles with the other players! But I realized I needed automation in my life, some constancy so that I didn’t have to keep making decisions every moment of the day.

If you examine your life, think about all the decisions you had to make today but you didn’t really have to make. For example, What am I having for breakfast? What am I going to do after this event is done? All those things force you to expend chi [or energy]. For me, it’s not about time management, it’s about energy management. If I lose energy deciding things I don’t have to decide, then I wear down my reserve and I start making poor decisions. We’ve seen this in multiple studies, by the way, which is why you get those mid-afternoon downs, because you’ve depleted [energy making decisions] and you need sugar to make additional decisions.

I don’t know if you saw this remarkable piece recently. They’re looking at parole boards in Israel, and it turns out that the parole boards give far more paroles in the morning than the afternoon. It’s irrational because they’re the same kinds of cases, but what happens is what happens to all of us: The judges get tired. And as you get tired toward the end of the day, you’re unwilling to make creative decisions. So just to keep your brain moving, you feed yourself some sugar — which y’all out there do, and I do. It’s not the best thing to do late in the afternoon but we all do it….

I try to automate my life. I get up in the morning and I do my seven minutes of yoga and my calisthenics. I think it’s hugely valuable for bringing a sense of calm, because one thing you do control is your body — even if you don’t control things around you. And then you know what you’re going to have for breakfast, you know when you’re going to get into work, the first things [you’re] going to do [when you get there]. I don’t change those things ever, so when it gets to midday, I haven’t made too many decisions. I’ve done lots of things, but haven’t made many decisions. Then I can use the information that’s coming in throughout the day to guide my decisions more rationally.

Read the rest of the Dr Oz interview at Everyday Health.

For more information on Dr. Weil and Spontaneous Happiness, visit

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