“I’ll be happy when……..”
“I get that promotion at work”
“I pass my exam”
“I find my perfect new home”
“Society sorts itself out”
“The sun comes out”
“My inbox is cleared”
“I can get my children into a good school”
Does any of this sound familiar? Many people believe that if they work hard they will be more successful and if they become more successful they will be happier. But we now know that the converse is true, if you are happy then you will be successful – in whatever it is you want to achieve.
And there are ways to become happier!
The urge to pursue goals, or to externalise our happiness is a natural one. We are mammals whose primary aim in life is to survive. Your brain is hooked on ‘doing something’ and driving us towards goals that mean we do something good in the world, or at least leave some kind of legacy. I’m not saying that goals are bad things, far from it. Science tells us that having purpose in life is a key determinant of health, well-being and even longevity! And all of my work as a hypnotherapist and coach involves working with clients to take steps towards their own goals. But a goal can also be a double edged sword: on the one side, it enables the release of happy chemicals in the brain with each step we take that gets us closer to our goal. But conversely, when we find an obstacle in our path, unhappy chemicals such as cortisol are released, making us feel frustrated and in turn making us work even harder to reach our destination.
Do you find yourself being unable to stop or take a break until you get it right, or finish the task? That’s the effect of cortisol. Some cortisol is a good thing. It drives us to succeed. But too much and we feel the negative effects on our brain and in our bodies. It even changes the wiring in our brains. You might find that you have trouble sleeping, or that you can’t stop thinking about all of the things that could go wrong. You might find that you are picking up infections more easily than normal or you might feel anxious or stressed.
The good news is that you can manage your neurochemical ups and downs. In writing this blog, I was reminded that I am at my most creative when I take short breaks and take a little time to do something different at regular intervals. In ‘7 Habits of Highly Healthy Brains’, Dr Sarah McKay (www.yourbrainhealth.com.au) urges us to see sleep as a necessity, not as a luxury and explains how sleep, dreaming and day-dreaming are essential for consolidating memories and draining waste products from the brain and even recommends taking afternoon naps. In hypnotherapy, we use trance as a simple way of mimicking the day-dream or dream state; the time when the brain is most receptive to suggestion.
So what else can you do? Small bouts of regular exercise increase the flow of blood to the brain and releases hormones that promote neurone growth, reduce inflammation and help with memory. Exercise also helps with mood and a walk outside might just be the time when you do your best thinking!
And make those thoughts positive ones! We are apt to think that our thoughts are fact. They aren’t. So many things shape our thoughts, our fantastic imagination for one! Close your eyes for a moment. Picture yourself on a beautiful tropical island, the sea is lapping gently against the shore line, the sand is soft and dry underneath your feet, you can hear the sounds of seabirds calling faintly in the distance… We can do this. But thinking it doesn’t make it true. So if you sometimes find yourself in a negative thought spiral (and most of us do from time to time), just notice your thoughts and acknowledge that your thoughts are just a point of view. You can be sure they are coming from a place deep inside our brains where sits our fight, flight or freeze response. Take a moment to relax, take some deep breath’s, let the thoughts go and ask yourself; “so what’s good about this situation”? In this way, you will stimulate the more rational part of your brain to make a proper assessment of the situation or thought.
It takes just 45 days to re-wire your brain and take advantage of your brains neuroplasticity – its ability to build new pathways. So start today. Take a small notebook and commit to writing in it every day, at a regular time so that it becomes a habit. Perhaps at the end of the day just before you go to sleep. Write in it three good things that you have noticed or experienced today. We can all do this and it will take you one step closer to feeling greater happiness.
Simply by reading this, you have started on the journey of making a new neural pathway and being happier. For some people, that will be enough to get them back on track. But for others, the support of a hypnotherapist will open up a new world of possibilities. Solutions Focused Hypnotherapy helps people to overcome things that are holding them back, to cope better with the difficulties that life may have thrown at them, to stop being afraid, to break unwanted habits and to become the positive, coping and courageous people that they want to be. And we do this through relaxation and trance, a pleasurable experience that you can’t help but enjoy!
I hope that this blog has increased your appetite for more. Please do get in touch for a confidential and informal chat.
References and further reading
‘Habits of a Happy Brain’ Loretta Graziano Breuning 2016
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor 2011
7 Habits of Highly Healthy Brains Dr Sarah McKay www.facebook.com/YourBrainHealth