A UK wellbeing report this week led by Lord Richard Layard and involving surveys involving 20,000 people has found that increasing income doesn't lead to a happier society. Furthermore eliminating poverty would only reduce misery by a mere 5%.
The secret to happiness is instead good mental health and enjoying good social relationships. Researchers found that treating depression and anxiety alone would reduce misery in the UK by 20%. Therefore it is no coincidence that I am writing about this as dealing with anxiety and depression are two of the most frequent presenting problems in therapy.
The London school of economics explain that the reason raising incomes would not lead to a boost in happiness levels is because the problem is that we measure our earnings against the people around us - so we are comparing ourselves which means that if one persons income rises another persons falls in comparative terms and we are usually measuring against those better than us so this leads to greater discontent.
The study also found that being in a relationship has a greater impact on a persons happiness than getting a pay rise. On a scale of 0-10, doubling a person's income raised their happiness by under 0.2 points whilst being in a relationship increased happiness by 0.6 points.
Another key statistic from the report was that while income inequality explained only 1% of the happiness in a community, mental health accounted for around 4-5%. In the most unhappy 10% of the population, mental health was seen as the biggest factor behind it and suprisingly was seen to be a bigger factor than physical illness.
The report concluded that the best way to change this is to start early in schools and recommended a weekly one hour "Healthy Minds' lesson within the curriculum over 4 years to address the mental health issues before they occur.
This is a great idea in principle but at a time of government cuts and with mental and physical health spending constantly under pressure, the consistency and quality of provision is unlikely to be forthcoming from the state. There is no suprise then that more and more people are seeking out the services of private mental health practitioners such as myself to deal with issues.
Hypnotherapy in conjunction with other therapies that I specialise in are proving to be a worthwhile investment in the one area that can most improve your happiness - your mental health!
The other key area of forming loving relationships with a significient other also frequently is presented in therapy. Helping set realistic expectations and have the right strategies to meet people will often involve overcoming preconceived ideas and mental blocks. Once again this can help in the other key area that increases happiness - social interaction and relationships.
Hypnotherapy is first and foremost about overcoming mental barriers and unhelpful negative thinking that holds people back from being able to pursue happiness. Once through this therapeutic stage, clients are free to pursue wothwhile well formed goals towards their happiness.
Call or email me if you feel stuck and want to move on.
John Plester is the Principal Tutor of the East Anglian Institute of Hypnotherapy as well as the lead consultant at Norwich Hypnotherapy Practice.