February 15th, 2021
Co-authored by Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith and Bill Yarborough.
Americans are unhappy – According to the results of a 2022 Gallop Poll, Americans are less satisfied than at any point in the last two decades.
The significant decline in happiness began with the pandemic but our environment today is not much better. Many people hope for brighter days. But will better times bring about 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 well-being is the 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.
Ben-Shahar 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.
Seeking professional help from a qualified hypnotherapist can help with unconscious resistance to happiness or underlying reasons for certain behaviors that prevent happiness. There are several techniques you can employ yourself to help produce intrinsic and sustained happiness, such as prayer, meditation, deep breathing exercises, Tai Chi, self-EFT, and Reiki.
Use online resources to help you with these techniques, such as “inner smile meditation” websites. These reflective states may also lead to a greater acceptance of current circumstances with an openness to experiences you would otherwise resist.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
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 original February 2021 Diablo Gazette. Our Emotional Health Column is on page 7.