Is there a formula for happiness? The reality of life vs our expectations.


It would seem that there are so many people out there in the world today who are seeking this wonderful yet highly elusive thing we call ‘Happiness’. But how many of us actually find it? Can it be found? Can we grow it or manufacture it? Is it something that’s hereditary? Maybe there is some secret formula that some people have figured out, but the greedy rascals won’t tell us what it is!…..

Each person will follow their path in life and look back with a different perspective. For some, childhood could have been a particularly hard time, for others perhaps puberty was associated with being most difficult, and the transition from adolescence into adulthood certainly isn’t easy. For most, the mid-to-late 40’s are the toughest time for our happy-o-meter readings and a very common time for people to reach out for help. Sadly, this age is is also a time when men are most likely to commit suicide.

‘Peak happiness’ occurs statistically at around 74 years old in the UK, according to recent research. The simplicity of retirement could be a factor, or improved finances for many, but the reality is that as we age we become less critical of ourselves and our expectations of what we hope to get out of our remaining time are far easier to achieve. The simple pleasures of seeing family and friends, a nice cup of tea, or the ability to enjoy a walk in nature replace the often ridiculous ideas and expectations of what we often feel like we ‘should’ try to achieve when we are younger, in order to make us happy.

The human brain is easily fooled sometimes. Often those people around us with the biggest, happiest smiles and most electric positivity are not so happy behind closed doors, when nobody is watching or taking photos. We see a wonderful human being such as Robin Williams who seemingly has it all, the money, the fame, and the personality that could light up any room in the world… yet, sadly, behind the smile was a very unhappy man. How easy it is for our eyes and ears to be deceived. How often do we see this theme on social media? Does anyone really buy into that anymore? The heavily edited photos, the rented Lamborghini, the spotless house, the dream holiday snaps, the ‘perfect life’? With the social media trickery, marketing teams and advertisers brainwashing us daily into thinking that everyone has it better than us, or that some new ‘thing’ will make us just as blissful as the beautiful couple in the advert, is it any wonder that so many people are unhappy?

But if it’s that easy for our eyes and ears to be fooled, could it be possible to ‘trick’ our brains into being Happy?….

The crazy truth is yes! Various studies and experiments have proven that certain simple techniques can be sufficient to change our brain chemistry and ‘trick’ our brains into feeling happier. Posture is key - adopt the body language of someone who is sad for any length of time and see what happens to your thoughts and feelings….. The opposite can be true. And key components of certain therapies such as NLP involve addressing body language and posture to create a change in state sufficient to influence the mind. Believe it or not, in now famous experiments, the simple act of getting participants to hold a pen or pencil between their teeth, forcing a smile on their face, results in greater feelings of happiness and well-being. To see how it’s possible to change someones state that quickly…. try this:

1 - Sit up straight or stand up / Pull your shoulders back / Chest up / Chin up

2 - Eyes focused on something above the horizon

3 - Now….. Smile like a friggin Cheshire Cat or put a pencil between your teeth & keep smiling. See what happens to your thoughts and feelings in that moment!

(If you are having a lot of internal dialogue at the same time that keeps spoiling the moment, then give this a go…..)

‘Drop’ your tongue to the bottom of your mouth like it’s fallen asleep!

You’ll find it hard to continue with those nagging thoughts and doubts. I love seeing the look on peoples faces when they try that for the first time. The wry smile as if to say “Ahaaaaa! That actually works!”

Yeah. Ok. I see how you can alter your state in any given moment but what about long-term?

Addressing areas of your life where there your needs are not being met is a good start. Sometimes these needs are being met, but in a destructive or unresourceful way. For example, a paradoxical relationship between our needs for Security / Certainty and the need for Uncertainty / Variety can be challenging, and without a healthy balance, one can seek such things in unresourceful or destructive ways or be failing to satisfy those needs entirely. Learning to get a healthy balance and see which areas of your life can be tweaked and changed can make a HUGE difference to someones happiness and sense of fulfillment.

These processes are not often conscious, our minds have weird and wonderful ways of executing decisions and behavioural patterns sometimes and having a good coach or therapist to help you unpick these. Just starting the conversation is a major step forward as you can always change direction as you need to moving forward. Often our own personal ‘blinkers’ and defense mechanisms make it impossible to figure out what’s really going on by ourselves. But there are so many people out there that can help you, it’s well worth investing in yourself if you have things you would like to address.

We do get incredible results for our clients, but we certainly don’t have the definitive formula yet. So maybe there are other secrets to happiness?

Some words of wisdom from our audience perhaps?

‘Have fun no matter what! Accept the way you feel, don’t try to fight it straight away. Let it be. The harder you fight it the harder it pushes back.’
‘Stop worrying about the end result and enjoy the ride!’
‘Get a puppy’
’Improve your sex life’
’Get out in nature more often’
’Eat 40 wagon wheels’…… (actually maybe don’t)
’Delete all your social media’

How about something as simple as: Do more of the things that make you happy and remove the things from your life that make you unhappy?

Ask my 2 year old what makes people happy and you’ll probably get an answer like “Ummmmm….. Eating blueberries!?” I suppose, if you look at how simple life can be when you see it though the eyes of a happy toddler, maybe we’ve got a lot more to learn from them than we think. On that note, I’m off to get me some Blueberries!

A very happy new year to each and every one of you.

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Ed Smith