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5 Mantras For Happiness: A Guide for Anxious People

Throughout my life, I’ve wrestled with anxiety.

  • In high school, I was anxious about getting into college.
  • In college, I was anxious about getting good grades and a good job.
  • And in adult life, I’ve been anxious about crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan (marriage, kids, house, etc).

As a coping mechanism, I developed these 5 mantras for happiness.

Regardless of my anxiety, things haven’t gone according to plan and I’ve ended on the scenic route.

Maybe You Can Relate

We spend our lives worrying about things we can’t control. Because of this, our lives are full of anxiety, despair, and suffering. If everything in the world needs to happen according to our plans, life becomes a problem to be solved, instead of a process to enjoy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can:

  • Be disciplined without being anxious.
  • Plan without worrying about the future.
  • Set goals without being imprisoned by our expectations.

What is Reality?

What you call reality is an illusion shaped by your perception. Your perception is the result of your thoughts and emotions. And those thoughts are often the result of the external circumstances in your life. But you can shape reality in the space between stimulus and response.

At the time of writing this, I’m sitting by a river in the mountains of India. The river flows around obstacles and through them. It seeps through the cracks and crevices. Over a long enough timeline, water dissolves all that’s in its way. We are all the river; the events of our lives are the rocks.

Turning Inward

Throughout my life I’ve failed, lost people I thought would be there forever, and found myself in the depths of despair. ON the flip side, I’ve been deliriously happy. In an effort to be more of the second, I’ve interviewed spiritual teachers, read self-help books, hired coaches, seen a therapist, and more.

Like the building across from my grandmother’s house, I’m always under construction. When I visited in 1991, they were still working on the building. In 1993, there had been no progress. I went in 2007 and it was still not done. When I went in 2018, they finally finished it. To top it all off, the building is hideous. That’s how personal development goes for most people.

Every search for an external solution has led me inwards. What has emerged from this is a set of principles that I’ve made the inner compass of my life. But first, you must understand these principles won’t make you immune to pain and the parts of life that suck.

So Much is Out of Your Control

Part of being a person in the world is accepting the fact that shit happens.

  • Somebody will disappoint you.
  • Somebody will betray you.
  • Someone will break your heart.
  • You will fail at something you care about.

Here’s the rub. You’ll do all those things to someone else. That is the fatal flaw of our humanity. None of us are saints.

Even the priest at the temple or church might pocket a few of the donations. He might buy a round of whiskey in the name of God. Who’s to say God doesn’t enjoy a drink now and then? After all, Jesus did turn water into wine.

During my stay Mantra Surf Club in Mangalore, I started contemplating the meaning of the word mantra. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to write something about this. According to vocabulary.com, a mantra comes from a Sanskrit word meaning a “sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel.”

The 5 Mantras for Happiness

By living according to these 5 mantras, you’ll be less rattled by the external events of your life. You’ll be happier and worry less about what you can’t control. But like anything worthwhile in life, their effectiveness is based on practice.

1. Accept Everything

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Today, something is going to happen which you can’t control. Accept it.

Some idiot might cut you off in traffic. Maybe you’ll have a fight with your girlfriend or husband. Perhaps your boss will reprimand you. It’s possible all of these things will happen on the same day.

If you go through life fighting the inevitable, your whole life will be an uphill battle. You’ll have no peace at all from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. You’ll always be exhausted by the time you get to the end of the day. You’ll only relax when you’re dead.

Assume What Happens is For the Best

My dad always says, “Whatever happens is for your own good.” But it never seems like it in the moment. When I didn’t get into a top business school, I asked him, “How can this be for my own good? That’s ridiculous. You’re a professor who values education. I’m about to get one that is worse because of this.”

If I hadn’t gone to Pepperdine, I wouldn’t have studied in Brazil. If I hadn’t studied in Brazil, I wouldn’t have become a surfer. If I had a job when I graduated, I may not have started my blog. If I hadn’t done that, I might not have written a book, started a company, become a speaker and traveled the world to surf.

Dead Ends as Detours

Every dead end gives us an opportunity to take one turn in a different direction. Even if you do end up at your original destination, you might have to take a different route to get there. You might end up a better person because of it.

Dreams that Come True in Unexpected Ways

I wanted to work in media and entertainment when I finished business school. But nobody was hiring MBAs to do creative work in the industry. I wanted to work in television and choose what goes on the air. Today, I not only choose what goes on the air. I create it. I own the network. Dreams come true in unexpected ways.

  • You can always take one turn in a different direction.
  • One small adjustment makes a big difference.

My friend, CC Champan, says that amazing things will happen. It’s possible none of these things would have happened if I did get into a top business school. I might be sitting in an office somewhere about to get fired from yet another job. It’s possible I wouldn’t be here since I’ve often said that surfing saved my life.

Don’t Resist Your Circumstances

Everything you fight has power over you. Everything you accept doesn’t. Everything we are attached to imprisons us. Think of this way, let’s say you desperately want a million dollars. Then you get it, but the condition is that you must carry it with you in a briefcase that is handcuffed to your wrist. You’re now imprisoned by this thing you wanted more than anything in the world.

If you’re insistent on how it should be, there’s no space for how it could be.

2. Expect Nothing

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When we have expectations of any person, situation, or event, it’s a recipe for misery. Expectations are an attempt to control what we can’t.

I was expecting the waves to better when I got to India. But the monsoons started later than in the past, so the conditions were a mess for the first week. The rooms at the ashram weren’t ready. The crew wasn’t expecting me. So they made alternative arrangements and put me in a mansion on the beach that one of their friends owned.

I sat around reading, writing, and eating homemade dosas while staring at the ocean. I was like a South Indian, surf bum prince.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that he’s not entitled to the fruits of his labor, just the labor. This is the essence of what it means to create for an audience of one. Whether the work reaches an audience of millions is not in our hands. Our job is to do the work, put it out in the universe, and make more art.

Unmet expectations lead to disappointment. Even if all your expectations are met, nothing that happens in your life will permanently alter your self-image and lead to eternal happiness. You’ll just have newer or higher expectations.

But when you have no expectations, you have no disappointments. Anything good that happens is a bonus. Anything bad is neutral. You open yourself up to an infinite set of possibilities. The shit stops hitting the fan and instead, flows into the sewage system of life’s problem where it belongs.

As A.R. Rahman says, “When you expect nothing, everything comes to you.”

3. Respond. Don’t React.

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As human beings, we have a unique capacity that other species don’t. If you throw a ball, a dog will fetch. There’s no space between stimulus and response. But if you throw a ball and a kid is not in the mood to get it, he’ll just stare. He might make you fetch and choose to throw instead.

Don’t Overreact to Small Things

When you fly off the handle over something stupid, like your partner leaving the cap off the toothpaste again, this is a reaction. When you put the cap on yourself, that’s a response. Besides, in the grand scheme of life, what difference does it make whether your significant other puts the cap on the toothpaste? Last I checked, nobody got an award for parent or spouse of the year because of this ability.

Be Less Demanding

If everything in your life must be done according to your exact specifications, you’ll not only drive yourself crazy. You’ll drive the people in your life crazy.

When my parents ask me to do chores, I’m always sure I can’t meet their specifications. So I explain to them that I’ll get it done, but I won’t do it myself. I’ll hire someone. If I do that, I’m creating jobs. If I do it myself, I’m just creating headaches for them and myself.

They think I’m a smart ass. So, they mostly have stopped asking me to do anything because of this. Now, nobody creates headaches for anybody. If you use the mantras in the right way, maybe nobody will ever ask you to do a chore again.

Choose Your Response

Unless you’re a hermit in a cave, you’ll have to interact with other people in every part of your life. You’ll find them in airports, restaurants, grocery stores, the post office, and your own home. Some of them will push your buttons. But they’re YOUR buttons. So it’s up to you whether you go nuclear or remain neutral.

If you’re most people, you react more than you respond.

Part of building a career in the arts is accepting that people will hate your work. Only crazy people will sit around reading their reviews and fighting with their critics. That’s a reaction. A response would be to say to yourself, “Fuck the critics” and go make something for your fans.

I’ve shouted 4 letter expletives in traffic at people who can’t hear me. The only person I’m swearing at then is myself. I like the sound of my voice even when I drop an F-bomb. But, not when I’m telling some jackass who can’t hear me to fuck off. That just stresses me out. In the car, it’s a reaction. But if I drop one on-air during a podcast episode, it’s a response.

How do you learn to respond instead of react? You meditate. No need to go to an ashram, join a new religion, find a guru or buy overpriced shit at a new age gift shop. Close your eyes for 2 minutes a day. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this for longer. You’ll learn how to stress less and accomplish more.

4. Ditch Your Baggage

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Everything that we carry (resentment, anger, regret, etc) weighs us down.

In the movie Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino says to Chris O’Donnell, “The room feels heavy. You know why? You’ve got the fucking weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Humans are notorious for carrying excess baggage. Imagine if you needed a suitcase for your problems. You have one for your resentment, another for your grievances, and a few more for all your other bullshit. Add a carry-on to that and it’s no wonder you feel like you’re getting nowhere with your life.

I used to tell my mom, “You guys travel to India like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. 7 suitcases full of shit for other people—all of which is now available in India.”

This is how most people go through life. We:

  • Carry around and nurse the injustices of our past.
  • Bitch and complain about the problems we have in the present.

This weighs us down so much we make progress to the next chapter of our lives at snail’s pace.

  • You can’t get into a new relationship because you’re still pissed off about the old one.
  • You can’t start a new creative project because you are disappointed by the results of the last one.

I could give you examples for days because these are all examples from my own life.

Travel with Less in Life and in Airports

If you’ve ever traveled with nothing more than a carry-on, you notice how much faster everything is. You get to the gate, on and off the plane much faster. You’re not sitting around waiting to collect a bunch of shit. You walk off the plane with a smile on your face and get out for your adventure.

Your life could be that way, too, if you weren’t carrying so much baggage.

Is your baggage making your life lighter or weighing you down? Think about all the baggage you’re carrying that is not serving you. What if you just drop and choose to travel a bit more lightly? You’d probably be a hell lot happier.

5. It’s All Temporary

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The only constant in life is change. It rains today. The sun shines tomorrow. Today, you’re in love; tomorrow, you’re heartbroken. Money comes. Money goes. Eventually, darkness becomes light.

All of what’s going on around is going to be over at some point. We live in a world of diminishing permanence.

Even love that “lasts forever” is not going to look the way it does when you first fall in love with someone. That’s because humans aren’t static. We’re dynamic.

Your Temporary Circumstances are Not your Permanent Reality

But people make permanent decisions based on temporary experiences and call it wisdom. It’s a bit like my decision not to date Indian girls after a bad breakup with one. You can’t call that wisdom. That’s ignorance. If I weren’t Indian, it might even be racism.

I’m the least likely person in the world to have become an avid surfer. I didn’t stand up in my first lesson or the 15 times I got in the water after that. But if I made a decision based on that first lesson, my life would look quite different right now. This is why mentor Greg would always say, “Your temporary circumstances don’t have to become your permanent identity.”

Every time we make a permanent decision based on a temporary experience, we invite limitation into our lives. Every time we don’t, our sense of possibility expands. By all means, learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. But be wary of turning temporary experiences into universal truths.

You may not know it, but you’ve already lived according to these 5 mantras. You just haven’t done it consciously. Just think about those times in your life when you feel like you’re firing on cylinders.

  • Your dates can’t keep their hands off you (in a good way).
  • Your work has resonance to it.
  • Opportunities and money flow into your life without much effort.

Write it down and remind yourself every morning:

Accept everything.

Expect nothing.

Respond instead of react.

Ditch your baggage.

Make peace with the fact that it’s all temporary.

Do this, and you’ll be free from the prison of your mind. You’ll become the architect of your reality.

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