How Happy ‘should’ we be?

15 May 2017
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Knowing when it’s enough for you

A recent newspaper report states that on average people feel happy 8 times a week – so how does that compare to you? Just how happy ‘should’ we be?

Happiness comes in many forms: what makes one person happy is the next person’s dull! And it’s a fleeting thing, moments of happiness are meant to shine and burst, it is impossible to remain in a state of sheer happiness for a long period of time.
So what is happiness and should we worry if we’re not ‘getting enough’?
On a physiological level our bodies produce a cocktail of chemicals (hormones) throughout the day. When we feel anxious or stressed we release adrenaline and cortisol; when we feel hungry it’s because of a hormone called grehlin; when we’re in a peer group or with someone we love we release oxytocin; and when we’re feeling happy we release serotonin. It’s our go-to hormone for staying on an even keel, coping with life in general and it’s one of the key factors missing in people who suffer from depression.
Like all hormones, serotonin is designed to flare and dissipate, it is not a constant, and in order to make more of it we need to stimulate the brain in such a way that it produces patterns that activate the production of more.
Going way back to our early caveman ancestors, when they carried out certain evolutionary processes they got a chemical reward: when they hunted and gathered, when they successfully supported themselves and their families, and when they interacted with others. It’s the reason they survived and why we’re sitting here today.
This chemical response motivated them, but also provided a coping mechanism. It helped them cope with day-to-day activities, it helped them cope with fear, it made them feel braver, it even helped them cope with physical pain. We now know it’s when patterns in the brain release various neurotransmitters that act as catalysts for this sort of mentally healthy behaviour – and the more they got the ‘reward’, the more they wanted it hence as a species we developed social structures, communication, better hunting methods, successful agriculture, etc.
It made them feel good – or happy.
So back to being happy… everyone has a sliding scale of happiness and it’s unique to each individual. My happiness is not yours, although you might find family or friendship groups share similar scales. We feel happy in a variety of ways: through our own achievement, when we’re with people we love or respect, when we feel satisfaction (such as completing a difficult task), when we’re proud (especially as parents of something our offspring did, or of ourselves), during relaxation – think back to your last holiday and it’s bound to bring a small surge of serotonin when you imagine those feelings of walking along the beach or swimming, lying in the sun, etc.
We can feel happy on a superficial level such as watching a funny film or hearing a joke, or at a deeper level when we share events with our loved ones. It ranges from firework moments – getting the keys to your first home, your wedding day, holidays, the birth of a child, celebrations – and those smaller things we notice, the everyday stuff – a hug from a partner, a stranger’s smile, blue skies after rain, enjoying a walk with the dog…
And it’s these smaller moments that make up the fabric of our lives with those fireworks sprinkled through.
If we only see the fireworks we miss the very essence of our lives.
Sometimes we come across people who we think of as ‘happy’, these people aren’t waiting for the big events, they enjoy the everyday, the little things. And funnily enough their happiness is catching – just as we know people who seem to walk around with their own little black cloud, those who are just plain hard work to be around – there are those rays of sunshine who lift your spirits and make your day with a smile and a cheerful word.
So, how can you find your ‘happy’? By focusing on the positive aspects in our lives we can train our brains to avoid the negatives. This doesn’t mean we go around in a perpetual state of euphoria but rather we appreciate the small things in life. This has two benefits:
– we build in spare capacity to cope when we need to, after all bad things do happen but it’s the state we are in that dictates how we cope with it
– we enjoy our lives more
In effect we can learn to become happier – and who wouldn’t want that?
As a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist I can help you find your happy!
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