Over-obsession With Happiness Is Misery: Gaur Gopal Das
Conversations around anxiety, stress, and depression have gained prominence. Reports suggest, six to seven per cent of the Indian population suffers from mental health issues
The World Health Organisation (WHO) data indicated that in 2019, one in every eight people around the world was suffering from a mental disorder, anxiety, or depressive disorder. This meant approximately 970 million people around the world were impacted. The pandemic drove this number up by 26 per cent within a year. The thing about anxiety is that it is sneaky, one doesn’t realise when it creeps up on you and becomes a way of life. There is a similar pattern with stress, and over time we become ‘okay’ with it.
Depression too has roots in everyday life stressors in addition to genetics and other factors. The key here is awareness and conversations about not feeling okay. There is help available and it is generally quite effective as long as the issues are identified early. India too has seen improvement, society has been transforming and conversations about stress, anxiety, and depression have gained prominence. According to the WHO data, economic loss due to mental health conditions, between 2012-2030, is estimated at USD 1.03 trillion. As per the national mental health programme 6-7 per cent of the Indian population suffers from mental health issues. A Blume report suggests the mental health market in India is around USD 3 billion, with self-help apps constituting USD 130 million, online therapy USD 1700 million, and offline therapy USD 400 million for the adult age group between the ages of 25-65.
Gaur Gopal Das, the Indian monk, lifestyle coach, and motivational speaker in an exclusive conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld, spoke about the inspiration behind his app, Monkify. The app provides affirmations, therapy sessions, laughter therapy, sleep tools, guided meditation sessions, music, that help people relax and unwind themselves out of stress and anxiety. “A lot of times we are not in the place to get professional therapy or medication. The reason we are launching Monkify is to help people, so they can take charge of their mind and feelings,” says Das.
The world sees you as a monk who advises people to live a better life. How do you see yourself?
I see myself as a servant to this world. I am here to serve in whichever way, and in whatever capacity I can. I am here to see if I can help someone, and add value to their lives.
What is in your book ‘Energise Your Mind’ that will help a person live a better life? Why should one have the app and the book?
‘Energise Your Mind’ is a book that has four sections. The first section called ‘Me and My Mind’ is about how choices affect the mind. The second section, ‘Others and My Mind’ dwells on how the behaviour of others, criticism, and toxic behaviour affect the mind. The third section, ‘Me and Others Mind’ is about how one can affect the minds of other people. And, the fourth section called the ‘Universe and the Mind’ talks about the way universal forces affect the mind. So, the idea behind writing this book was to help people process guilt, criticism, different feelings and emotions. Having the app along with the book will help. The book is probably more about philosophy and thought processes though it has some interactive exercises. Whereas, the app is like a tool that can be used. One can practise an activity, listen to an affirmation, etc.
What do you have to say about the pursuit of happiness? Is it healthy or just a normal thing for a human being?
I think pursuing happiness is a normal thing, everyone wants to be happy. Whatever a person does is for pleasure. But one thing I do want to say is that we should stop obsessing with happiness. Over-obsession with happiness is misery because there is not going to be a time when you are happy every moment. Some days you may feel low, and it is alright to be so. One must accept the reality that one cannot be happy every day, cannot be positive every day, and cannot be on top of the world every day. If one realises this then the pursuit of happiness is fine. One must accept both happy and low moments of life.
In the book, you write about guilt as a very powerful emotion. How should one deal with guilt?
In the book, I have written about two types of guilt; reasonable guilt and unreasonable guilt. Guilt is very good if it leads us to a path of reformation. Similarly, guilt is terrible if it is taking us into a downward spiral of negativity. So, there is a positive side of guilt as it makes the society conscious and aware of their deeds, but unreasonable guilt can put people in the loop of negativity that is self-defeating.
Everybody has some level of patience, but at times they break down, how do you overcome that breakdown to get back on that journey of mindfulness and consciousness?
Practise! Like when you start doing something you want to do better. Only when you start practising you get better. So, the more you practise, the better you get at it. What we are trying to talk about is to uncondition ourselves from the way we have done things, and to recondition ourselves. When we decide to change things, there will be many challenges. If we fall it is okay, but we have to get up and walk.
We live in the era of social media, and vanity has always been important. Are you affected by vanity or it doesn’t matter to you?
For me, the only thing that matters is how lives and hearts are touched. When you find the purpose of your life, what gives you the greatest joy is that your life is touched and reformed. If that is achieved through numbers, there’s nothing wrong with it. It also means more lives are touched and impacted. Even if ten people are impacted, it is a big success for me. If not, one still continues to do the work.
What will we see Gaur Gopal Das achieving in 2023 in the framework of contributing meaning to someone’s life?
In 2023, I want to see if I can meet people personally, and interact with them not just through an app or book. I hope this book and the app can add value, but most important of all, I would like to help people in whichever way it is possible.
Please tell us about people you look up to.
There will always be people who may know more than you, or be better than you. There may also be people who may not be better than you or know more than you, but they may know something in their space that you don’t know, and it can be anyone. I would not like to take names but there are many people I look up to, and it is a joy to learn from them.
If you weren’t a monk, what would you be doing?
If I weren’t a monk, I would still be doing something to make a difference in the lives of people. I wouldn’t want to just make money or compete with others.
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