Why this blog?

Because wherever you are, you can have more happiness and for more of the time than you ever imagined. 'Do more of what you like, and less of what you don't!' (c) Richard Walker, 2009. And because happiness is often misunderstood. "Do you live to work, or do you work to live?" I reckon happy people do both at the same time. Make the decision now to tenaciously seek out what feels good – and find ways of doing more of it - rather than settle for “not bad.” There's a big difference. And when it comes to making changes, that's what I specialise in at abetterlife-uk.com and http://hertscollegeofhypnosisandnlp.co.uk

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Friday, July 26, 2013

“Happiness is in the journey” - just a trite sound bite?

You will have heard it before; “happiness is not in the destination – it’s in the journey.” It’s a nice sound bite  - but what about the real world? After all, you have to have goals to achieve anything, don’t you? Well, that’s true… but what if those goals don’t make you happy? Or what if you don’t like the time spent in-between in getting there?

Psychology has begun to accept that what we think will make us happy, and what actually will make us happy, are usually two completely different things. How come? Are we so stupid? No. The problem is created mainly by our lack of conscious insight into our unconscious world.

Daniel Gilbert is professor in Psychology at Harvard, and in his excellent book Stumbling on Happiness, he explains how the single biggest obstacle to our happiness is our natural inability to think accurately about the future. The problem arises from the way in which we incompletely perceive, experience and interpret the world. 
 
A key feature of this is what he Gilbert calls “nexting.” For example, as you read this sentence, the tendency is use whatever word you are reading right now and then make a fuzzy logic guesstimate of what is coming next. This is good in that it helps us read fluently. However, it also means that we tend to predict our experience of the future based on our past experience, rather than on the present moment.

Even worse, this perception is further distorted by what we believe, as compared with the “reality” of what is actually happening. Once decided, we tend to stick with our particular kind of perception and, as a result, by far the greater part of our experience of reality is a fiction. Gilbert goes as far as to accuse our brains of being “talented forgers,” fabricating a convincing “living story” made up of nothing but memories and distorted perceptions.

As if this were not enough, Gilbert is quite adamant that we are also very poor at estimating, from our imaginings of the future, what will make us feel happy there. On the basis of these psychologically demonstrated facts, what hope is there of achieving happiness from goal-seeking?
So what is the answer? I think that is a good question. The fact that we can’t relay on our thinking mind to know what will make us happy, suggests that  we would do well to make sure that at the very least we enjoy what we are doing each day in the present moment.

Perhaps we might also benefit from making an effort to better acquaint ourselves with our innermost, unconscious aspirations. How to do that? Well there are many possible approaches. In an earlier article I introduced you to Sir Ken Robison and his ideas on finding your “element.” Another approach is to begin a routine of regular meditation; or simply paying more attention more to what truly makes you feel good or are drawn to, and keeping a journal; or a dream journal. Patterns will emerge.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

“Unthinking” intelligence

What if we have misunderstood what we want out of intelligence? What if, in fact, less is more when it comes to true creative thinking ability? That’s exactly what was implied by a recent BBC Horizon programme, “How Insight Works.” Turns out that the left side of your brain grows into a rapid switching network, connecting up what you have already learned and making it almost instantly available to you. But the other way of interpreting this, is that it is like a “habit” monster.

The right side of the brain is wired differently. It is less densely packed (less “white matter”), and has lots of extended and convoluted connections. It seems that this causes ideas to “collide” with each other, and push new insights into our conscious awareness. In other words, this side is more creatively intelligent. Left-brain dominance means “more of the same” and no new solutions; right-brain intelligence is about problem-solving ability.
Trance-inducing drugs have long been used to loosen up old thinking. In fact, much of the modern advances in psychotherapy came from using LSD and the like in the 60’s. Naturally induced hypnosis, or meditation, is far safer, and allows new ideas to appear and take root. The key question here is, do you want to think in the same old familiar straight lines, and see things the same old way, or do you want to access more of your creativity? 
Accessing your creativity is good in itself; however, you could also interpret it as getting around the left-brain "sentry", guarding your deeper abilities and keeping them under lock and key. But where do happier times lie? In more of what you know? Or getting in touch with new ideas? Love your right brain and nurture it with meditation, self-hypnosis and the like.
Watch the Brief Clip the Horizon programme or the Full Episode by following the links.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Screw it up as fast as you can?

In my last article, I talked about how your personal happiness may well not be what others might like, nor even approve of. In fact, this opens up an even more thorny problem, the idea of “happy for good reason” versus “happy for bad reason.”

Whilst you might agree with Marci Shimoff’s popularised message of “happy for no reason”, the fact is, that we each face life with our current personality, complete with our unique personal perspectives, motivations and values.

In other words, if you happen to like helping others, even if you overdo it, it’s where you are at right now. By contrast, if you happen to enjoy winning at all costs, even if sometimes you find yourself disliked, it is nevertheless where you are right now.

That’s not to say that we can’t evolve our personality; we can. But why would you? Well, I go along with the notion that we change when we have “had enough;” when things get too painful or our ways no longer deliver the happiness.they once did.

Of course, this does not guarantee change - most of us still won’t change even then – but it is the first requirement. Deep and influential thinkers and researchers such as Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi, Claire Graves and Ken Wilber all support this “model” of change.

But in the meantime, you are left with doing more of the same. Because here’s the thing; if things need to start going wrong in order to evolve to something better, then you had better crack on with doing what you already do, so that you have a chance of getting tired of it!

Of course, I would recommend always doing your best to figure out the consequences of your intended actions for all involved, and then asking yourself if you are happy with them… but even so, they are still unlikely to please everyone, and may even upset or displease some. This is a difficult and inescapable fact that is seldom recognised or discussed. In fact, there’s an argument here for making things worse in order for them to get to something far happier.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Big Happiness Myth

Have you noticed how happiness books tend to have one kind of message, according to which “club” the author hails from? There’s the psychology or science message, the mystical message, the religious message, the Buddhist message, ancient Eastern spiritual message, and various messages from philosophy. We might add more, or you might argue for subcategories in each.

However, a different kind of main message can be found in each of these basic categories. But that’s not even the real problem; there's a big hole in happiness guidance - a kind of myth that all happiness is wholesome and basically similar
I’ll save you thinking too hard and give you a quick summary of each route to happiness. 
Psychology: happiness is a state of mind that no one thing in particular significantly influences, and we tend to settle back to our “inherited” happiness level. The big new idea over the last ten years is that leading a purposeful life, or flourishing, is important.

The Mystical Message: you are pure light, and interconnected to all that exists. Develop yourself to reveal your inner spirit and return to source.

The Religious Message: commit to serve God and your reward will be in the afterlife.

The Buddhist Message: strive for enlightenment, which is a transcendent state of awareness beyond the everyday world. You should strive to benefit your karma to break the cycles of reincarnation. 
The Ancient Eastern message: this includes Hinduism, which says that you should do things to help others and for the good of the world as part of achieving happiness and maintaining the world itself. Also believe in karma and reincarnation.
Let’s leave aside for today the question as to which one is right - a big enough problem in itself! Here’s the really awkward question that never gets addressed. What about the guy pushing the brush outside Tesco’s, or walking his rottweiler down Borehamwood high street, or an at-home Mum bringing up her four kids, or the lifelong banker, or Sir Alan Sugar?  What makes them happy? Is it spiritual enlightenment or doing good for others or achieving your deeper purpose? Really?

Let’s try historical figures: what was happiness for the Duke of Wellington, or Sir Walter Raleigh, or Napoleon or Churchill during WWII? For each of these cases, how many – if ANY - of the above happiness messages apply?

Most happiness messages – from whatever “club” – only apply to a minority of people, even taking them altogether. Probably those who buy the books, or who support that group – whether the science club, the religious club, the New Age set, the whoever club. But not necessarily you.

You are not like others, yet you will also strive to improve your lot – your happiness – doing whatever makes you happy. Even if your happiness is not what others might like, or even approve of. Who says you shouldn’t? I grant you that the Law may have a say – but even that varies from country to country. So who? The government? The Religious leaders? The Inquisition? The scientific “Emotional Police”? We won't begin understand people, nor happiness, until we grasp this thorny issue.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

If this doesn't get you thinking...

When neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor experienced a massive left-brain stroke, she was able to observe in amazing detail as her own mind deteriorated to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. In the absence of her left brain's function, Jill's consciousness shifted away from normal reality, into right-brain intuitive present-moment thinking, whereby she experienced a profound sense of deep inner peace, feeling herself 'at one with the universe'. Even more fascinating, her perception of the boundary between her body and outside seemed to go fuzzy; the molecules just seemed to merge….
Her story can be taken to question what is “true” reality, if our reality depends on our perception? And what of purpose and happiness when you take this sideways look at things?