February 15th, 2021
Co-authored by Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith and Bill Yarborough.
Americans are unhappy – this according to The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In their report in June 2020, the American public’s happiness is at a 50-year low with only 14% of people saying they are very happy.
Much of this low score is due to the isolation and anxieties of the current pandemic. Although there are still grim months ahead, the kickoff of a Covid-19 vaccination program brings about hope for brighter days where you can more safely re-engage in your cherished activities. But will that bring a return to happiness? For many, it certainly will, at least initially. But the science of happiness tells us sustained happiness requires more than an external event.
Many people have looked forward to a graduation, job promotion, dream vacation, or artistic achievement in anticipation of a happy future, only to find the elation to be short-lived. Many assume that financial wellbeing is a key to happiness. Savvy employers know the path to a happy workforce often has more to do with meaningful and rewarding work than the size of a paycheck, providing the compensation is competitive and allows a decent living standard.
So, what goals and activities can lead to sustained happiness?
Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard professor, became interested in happiness when his lifelong dream of winning an athletic championship failed to produce lasting happiness. So, he introduced a course at Harvard covering the topic. Not surprisingly, it quickly became the University’s most popular course. In his book “Happier”, Ben-Shahar presents four different approaches to life that can have varying impacts on happiness, represented by four archetypes:
Have you fallen into one or more of the above archetypes during your life? Record your daily activities and evaluate them according to how pleasurable and meaningful they are. Based on your findings, establish short-term and long-term goals designed to bring about pleasure and a sense of meaningful activities that lead you to the happiness archetype.
He offers several exercises and meditations as well as suggestions to create rituals to transform your life, like keeping a gratitude journal. Learn more on his website happier.tv.com.
If unhelpful habits such as negative self-talk or routinely comparing yourself unfavorably to others bring you down, consider combating them with tools such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or hypnotherapy.
EFT is an easy and proven method, and there are many sites on the Internet that show its use. It involves tapping on body pressure points to get release from negative emotions or compulsions. Gary Craig, the founder of EFT, has a website: www.emofree.com. (click Gold Standard EFT Tapping Tutorial on the website’s bottom right).
Seeking professional help from a qualified hypnotherapist can help with unconscious resistance to happiness or underlying reasons for certain behaviors that prevent happiness. Practitioners are available online or in person using the above and other therapeutic techniques to assist you. Teaching professionals often have interns who charge minimal amounts.
There are several techniques you can employ yourself to help produce intrinsic and sustained happiness, such as prayer, meditation, deep breathing exercises, Tai Chi, and Reiki, an energetic palm-healing technique to name a few.
Use online resources to help you with these techniques, such as “inner smile meditation” websites or Reiki classes. These reflective states may also lead to a greater acceptance of current circumstances with an openness to experiences you would otherwise resist.
As the Partridge Family theme song goes, ”Come on, get happy.”
By Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith, D. Min., MFT, Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Bill Yarborough, CHT, and Certified EFT Practitioner.
Below is a link to the February 2021 Diablo Gazette. Our Emotional Health Column is on page 7.