Let’s face it – a lot of people come to find help from hypnotherapy because they’re not happy. Often, the source of their unhappiness comes from some problem or a toxic belief that’s held deep down in the psyche. Eliminating and replacing this toxic belief by some means, hypnosis or otherwise, is a bit step towards being happier overall.
However, sometimes, the reverse is the case, and a lack of happiness in general can create an atmosphere of low-grade stress that can build up to more serious conditions such as anxiety disorder and depression.
The Western world tends to underplay the importance of happiness somewhat. There’s something to be said for the Kingdom of Bhutan in Asia, where they prefer to measure how well their little country is doing using the “Gross National Happiness” index rather than the money-based Gross Domestic Product used by the rest of the world. Maybe this country sandwiched between India and China has something to teach the Western world.
But there are several simple things that we can do to increase our overall level of happiness. Before you start rolling your eyes and prepare to leave this article, these things are accessible to most people, if not all people. They don’t involve winning the lottery, scoring your dream job or marrying the perfect person. They don’t involve masses of money or a perfect environment. You can take these simple steps right here and now.
The key thing to remember is that your self has three parts: body, soul (the mind and the emotions that we are conscious of) and the heart or spirit (the deepest part that we are barely aware of, but holds our memories and our fundamental beliefs). If something is amiss with any of these three parts, we won’t be as happy as we could be. In some ways, unhappiness or irritability is a sign that something isn’t how it should be inside you – in your body, your soul or your spirit. The three aspects are closely intertwined and what affects one affects the other two.
Steps To Happiness: Body
• Smile, even when you don’t feel like it. Your body knows that “Those muscles move into a smile when I’m happy. Those muscles are making a smile. Therefore, I am happy.” That cheesy song about “Put on a happy face,” has some truth in it.
• Get a good night’s sleep. A wise old woman once told this writer that it’s amazing how many emotional/spiritual problems are caused by staying up too late every night. Every part of you – body, soul and spirit – needs the down time of sleep.
• Eat properly. A lot of our moods are affected by what we eat. In particular, low blood sugar makes you irritable and miserable. Keep your blood sugars at a balanced level by eating unprocessed foods and by grazing through the day – on snacks like fruit and nuts, rather than sweets and soft drinks!
• Exercise. Getting moving releases endorphins, which make you feel great. Any sort of exercise will do.
• Watch your intake of stimulants such as caffeine. If you’re in a stimulated state all the time, you become more nervous and jumpy. Yes, sometimes, stimulants like coffee in small amounts will pick you up and make you feel happy and energetic, but too much will make you feel on edge and restless all the time, which takes its toll on you physically.
Steps To Happiness: Mind and Emotions
• Choose to focus on the positive. What we think about in our conscious minds for a long time tends to sink into the deeper parts and affect our spirits. Choose to direct your mind in a positive direction by focusing on the good things. One good habit is to make a list of the pleasant things that have happened to you during the day, and to write these down in a journal (which doesn’t have to be fancy – a cheap school notebook will do). Be consciously grateful for these things.
• Give yourself some time out for fun. Constant pressure from work (paid work and unpaid work around the home – anything with a to-do list) wears you down and creates stress. Schedule yourself some time to relax and have fun.
• Curb the habit of constant worrying. Again, if worries and fears are what you think about most of the time, this will affect the deeper parts of you and become part of your fundamental beliefs about life and yourself.
• Thank the people around you for what they do when they help you – checkout operators, co-workers, family members, friends, the person who stops to let you out of the driveway when the traffic is heavy…
• Laugh. Read that funny book, watch that funny movie, have a look at silly memes and e-cards online.
• Breathe deeply from the belly. Deep breathing has a triple benefit. First, it puts enough oxygen into our bloodstream. Secondly, forcing yourself to breath slowly tells the body “I am not in danger – I do not need to prime myself for action.” Thirdly, deep breathing is very relaxing and soothing – it’s a key part of falling asleep and for entering a trance during a hypnosis session.
Steps To Happiness: Spirit
• Be kind to others. While this might not seem to make any sense to your logical or conscious mind, if you are kind to others, it picks your spirit up – the spirit seems to work by paradox in this respect. Mow the neighbour’s bit of grass verge when you’re doing your own. Buy some extra dry goods to put in a food bank. Hide post-it notes with encouraging messages in library books.
• Appreciate beauty. Beauty soothes and nourishes the spirit as well as the soul, so take time to appreciate beauty. Sunsets, flowers, delicious tastes, artworks… if you find it beautiful, take time to notice and appreciate it.
• Explore your spirituality. We wouldn’t expect our bodies or minds to thrive if we neglected them. The same goes for your spirit.
• Music. Music, as a form of beauty, taps directly into the spirit. It’s no accident that music has traditionally been used as a form of spiritual expression by all religions, or that singing is used as a way to memorize important things (memories form part of the spirit). Choose to listen to music that inspires and stirs you, makes you smile and/or has positive lyrics.