What makes you happy?

On 24 July this year the Office for National Statistics released its reports its subjective well-being study it has carried out. If you really want to read the study you can access it here.

Two of the questions particularly caught my eye specifically:

  • How happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

I have two problems with these questions, the first problem is that happiness and anxiety are both states. States are something that can be accessed at will, and at any time. All one needs to do is to know how to access the resources that allow you to enter those states. Accessing these resources can be taught and is a big part of NeuroLinguistic Programming.

The second problem, and this applies specifically to the anxious question, is that the question itself implies that the person answering was indeed anxious the previous day-and the only thing the respondent needs to do is to ascertain how anxious if they felt. The question therefore is a completely leading question, as it implies the existence of anxiety.

Many people talk about happiness as though it is something that they feel as a result of an external event. “Seeing X makes me happy.” The truth is that nothing makes a person happy, happiness is a response to an external stimulus, and that response is made up of a great deal of internal self talk, and checking against past experience. This means that sometimes X will make one person happy, and not another. If this is true, then it is not the ability of X to make anyone happy, it is the ability of the individual to interpret what X does in a certain way and to decide to be happy.

If X truly made a person happy, then it would be repeatable for everyone. And we all know that we respond to things in different ways and so the argument that X makes me happy is false.

Once we realise that it is not an external event that makes you happy, and that it is your own internal representation of things which enable you to access the state of happiness this is a very enlightened and joyful place to be.

The same goes for other states and emotions. Nothing makes you angry, anger is a result of how you choose to represent that external stimulus. You can choose to change how you represent that external stimulus and decide that there is another option other than anger. This same principle works for all other emotions and states.

Now you have realised this, you are able to decide now to be happy.

The question is, have you?




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