A quick way to unlock happiness? Try joy.

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I have one specific tweet that I tend to re-tweet a lot. And that is this one which reads as below:

“2 kinds of happiness: Worldly happiness is reward from our evolutionary program. Get praise, money, drugs, sex. It busies the mind w/ craving & anxiety. Internal happiness is reward from being in flow. Create, meditate, love, play. Clears the mind & leaves us in peace. -@naval

In this meta tweet about internal happiness, Naval talks about how to unlock that state using 4 inexpensive ways.

  1. Create

  2. Meditate

  3. Play

  4. Love

On the first glance, the message looks very simple and straight forward. Almost to a point where you might doubt it’s effectiveness since it is THAT simple. Like with most things, I like to experiment, learn through direct experience and share my findings.

So today, I am going to cover the impact of “Play” mode in this blog post and we’ll review the rest at a later time.

This past Saturday, one of my childhood friends was in town in Atlanta and so we decided to head to a park nearby. One sport both of us love so much is India’s favorite pastime. You may have guessed it, Cricket. We not only relived our childhood memories but also engaged in a pretty intense 2 hour play with just a 5 minute break. It was super riveting, fun and exhausting by the end of the whole session. It was an incredible workout but that’s not even the biggest take away.

Here’s what I learned: The thing with Cricket (and any sport for that matter) is that things happen so quickly. The game play is fast and if you are participating as either a bowler or a batsman, you’re going to have to focus VERY keenly on the “play” at hand. I enjoy bowling medium to fast pace which means I have to run a lot and make sure the ball lands at a good length in a good line (cricketing terms for a perfect ball). My friend’s job is to hit it well in the designated areas. He’s a fantastic player so it was fun watching him practice his shots. The biggest thing I noticed while I was in the game was that I was only focused on “one moment” at a time. There was NO time to dwell about sh*t. No time to worry about my finances, my goals, my aspirations, my setbacks or even my own ailments. There was even slight pain in my right shoulder but the “focus” was so driving that I was able to ignore it and just play. It was brilliant and unbelievably satisfying. I didn’t care about proving anything to anyone and after the game my friend agreed he played with the same mindset — just to enjoy each ball. There were no expectations, no desires and hence no suffering. I felt if this was not the “realest” metaphor for living life then I am not sure what is.

Here’s what I experienced: Joy

It was there from the first step. I experienced a combination of excitement, thrill and joy. It felt like I didn’t care about results at all. I was seeing and feeling the joy of bowling, batting and fielding. I felt a great sense of joy in hitting the ball around the park. I felt a great sense of joy of limiting my friend to only a few runs. I even felt joy when he hit me to sixers over my head (a sixer is six runs, kind of like a home run in Cricket). I forgot my worries and just loved what I did.

Here’s what I unlocked: Happiness

We hugged it out after the game and went home. I took a shower and my heart was still thumping with joy. After a relaxing shower, I felt a strange sense of happiness. It wasn’t coming from any external validation, any praise or money. It was coming from within. It was coming from the fact that I gave my all in to the game I love the most and voila found joy. This feeling lasted for about an hour until I had dinner and moved onto some other life thing.

So, the bottom line is there’s probably no direct path to happiness. It is likely a by-product of “first finding joy” in doing what you love and giving your all.

I wonder if Steph Curry feels the same every night he enters a basketball court. In many interviews, he and Steve Kerr talk about how the Warriors look for joy in the games and not to break NBA records. (although they end up doing that!)

I learned such a valuable and insightful lesson through a simple exercise. I hope you’ll get to taste what I am describing here. If you need to think of this in math terms, let’s turn this into an equation. If you want 1 hour of happiness, find joy for 2 hours in “PLAY” mode.

What do you think? What are your experiences while playing a game/sport that you enjoy? Before and after?