How to Increase Happiness

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed survey questions to measure ‘happiness’ in the UK.

Questions they will ask, from April next year, include: how satisfied are you with your life nowadays? How happy did you feel yesterday? How anxious did you feel yesterday? To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

Neuroscientists show that happiness can be measured by assessing pleasure. Social scientists simply ask, as well as, the questions above, people to rate their happiness on a scale, i.e. from 1 to 10.

As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, overall happiness is very subjective to individuals, based on their past experiences which influence their current / present outlook. This can be changed.

In our modern western society, we generally take for granted that we will have food, drink and shelter. This encourages us to seek other things, mainly material possessions and social status particularly comparing ourselves to others. This can result in depression and social phobias and constant feelings of lack of self-worth and love for oneself.

I recommend everyone to have a look at the website: This is the homepage of Dr Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the founder of positive psychology, which focuses on positive emotions and character strengths. On this website you are able, among other things, to find out your key strengths and values and whether your job or even your partner is matching these.

I also recommend the website: They provide comprehensive information backed up with scientific research on happiness.

In regards to the community role in relation to an individual’s happiness, scientific research (e.g.Yuen et al.,2008) has shown that people experience happiness through helping others. This is altruism (we feel better about ourselves for doing ‘good’) and when we see the effects our positive actions have on others, we too unconsciously mimic the other person(s) facial response.

Lifestyle choices can affect one’s happiness. Exercise for approximately twenty minutes a day will increase happiness by improving your mood through the release of endorphins; healthy eating and drinking will provide all the essential nutrients and vitamins your body need. Keeping blood sugar levels steady, e.g. through the G.I. diet (designed for diabetics as the food with the lowest scores are slow sugar releasing) will prevent significant drops in energy and mood.  Consistently sleeping seven hours a night also helps, providing protection against inflammation and disease, memory and alertness, and reducing stress. Power naps are also beneficial.

Other ways to obtain and maintain happiness are:

  • Goal setting – leads to a sense of achievement, in particular if the goal is something you value and / or interested in, challenging but not impossible to achieve. This can lead to what contemporary psychology describes as a state of flow (total absorption in an activity, which can be enjoyable and even exhilarating). This state of flow can also be found in undertaking hobbies / learning new skills.
  • Social interaction – especially around positive people – forming close relationships that require willingness to self-disclosure.
  • Focusing on solutions when things go wrong.
  • Spend a few minutes each day thinking about things that make you happy.
  • Meditation can be calming on the body – deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, the diaphragm presses on this nerve to stimulate the parasympathetic system, the relaxation system – reducing stress / anxiety and encourages positive thinking. For some undertaking religious activity, which itself can be meditative and if with others can provide social contact.
  • Treating yourself to a weekend break, a relaxing bath, a nice lunch, a long walk, etc.
  • Believing that you deserve happiness. For some, this might be difficult to achieve and therefore cognitive hypnotherapy may be beneficial.
  • Positive thinking can make you happy. Sometimes it’s not so easy to change one’s thoughts. However, if you were to think of ‘three gifts’ – good things that happened to you that day, e.g. someone being nice, work going well, appreciating nature, etc – before you go to sleep you will be priming your unconscious to notice on the next day three more gifts. This also works for treating depression – even if the sufferer thinks of one gift, over time the one will become two and then three.

Happiness is subjective but can be obtainable through positive thinking, charity / volunteering, social interaction, goal setting and a healthy lifestyle. Money doesn’t buy happiness but is also important as it can provide security from financial worries.

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