As humans in a modern and consumer-led society, we spend a lot of our time chasing things we don’t have.

This might be the pursuit of material things that amplify our social status – money, property, a smart car or that holiday in the Seychelles, for example – but they’re often less tangible things such as health and happiness.

Happiness is the biggest dream that humans chase, although in most cases we don’t really understand what happiness looks like or feels like. Often – and wrongly – we seek to define it by our identifiable material achievements.

How often have you said or thought, if I could just earn another £x / buy a bigger house / go on an exotic holiday I’d be happy? If you’re anything like the rest of us, the answer is probably more often than you might think.

Yet often it’s the very pursuit of happiness that makes us unhappy.

When circumstances conspire to prevent us from getting the promotion or house or holiday that we’re so sure will make us happy, we perceive life to be unfair, and our sense of injustice or resistance to that unfairness pours petrol on the fire of our anxiety and discontent.

In my professional experience, that can then become a vicious circle. For example, I often treat clients who come to me with acute anxiety, and their stories tend to share certain characteristics.

One of these is that they become very worried about the fact they are experiencing anxiety – so, effectively becoming anxious about having anxiety.

This then transitions into a fear that the anxiety will never go away, which is also both a symptom of anxiety and the key contributor to its continued presence, until the individual becomes totally obsessed that they have lost the ability to ever feel happy again.

The problem here is not that they feel anxious, or that their anxiety can’t be resolved (it can), but that, emotionally, they’re trying to get too far too quickly and are effectively trying to skip the steps that will bring balance, order and contentment back to their lives.

In anxiety, fear is king (or queen, if you prefer). When we are fearful, everything else feels so far out of reach that we don’t know how to begin to heal and everything feels hopeless.

What we fail to understand when we’re in this state is that transitioning from a state of fear or anxiety to one of contentment or joy in a matter of minutes or hours simply isn’t possible.

It is at times like this that we also often revert to negative or unhelpful soothing behaviours – maybe we rely a little more on alcohol, comfort eat, gamble or shop a little less responsibly than we know we should.

All these things may provide a short-term numbing of the flight or freeze symptoms of anxiety, such as sleeplessness or a constantly fluttering heart, but really, they only make the problem worse.

We need time and process to heal – and that means searching for relief from the resistance that we have to the things that prevent us from achieving the outcomes we’ve identified for ourselves.

Relief is the ultimate key to rediscovering contentment – so, our first goal in finding happiness needs to be to first feel ‘less anxious’.

Hypnotherapy is excellent at creating a progressive sense of order here, because it allows you to reframe your problem, acknowledge it – because we can’t heal anxiety or unhappiness until we confront its cause or causes and then work to release it.

Over each hypnotherapy session, away from the constant pressure to feel differently, less anxious becomes a lot less anxious, which becomes not anxious, which ultimately becomes ok.

Suddenly, as you work at minimising your anxiety, you’ll start to notice there are more times when you actually feel good. And this is where happiness begins.

Expecting or demanding change without process is pointless and unrealistic. Process is what creates relief and with time and enough relief in the system, happiness will come.

If our minds & bodies are saturated with anxiety, there is no room or headspace to feel joy. Relief and space are mutually productive – relief creates space and space creates relief.   

The same is also true of people who suffer with depression – relief begins with small steps. Everyone who suffers with depression ideally wants to be rid of it instantly – that’s human nature. But really, the first thing people with depression need to expect is simply to feel a little less awful.

But in all cases, the process is a journey and like any journey, there are hold ups and diversions. Sometimes you’ll experience a setback, because that is part of the recovery process for everything, whether it’s anxiety, depression, illness or heartbreak.

When we make relief our goal, we’ll usually find that happiness comes as part of the deal.

So, if you’re thinking that you just need that one thing to be fixed in order to be happy, and you’ve found yourself in the rut of resistant anxiety, you need to re-engineer your thinking and stop putting pressure on yourself to feel loads better – because all it does is make you feel worse.

Being wherever you are emotionally isn’t bad or wrong; it’s simply where you are. Once you can make peace with that and accept there’s a necessary process that leads to change, you can start the journey to recovery and contentment.

avatar for Zoë Clews

About Zoë Clews

Zoë Clews is the founder of Zoë Clews & Associates and is one of the most successful and sought-after hypnotherapists working in the UK today. She has spent the last 17 years providing exclusive, highly-effective hypnotherapy treatment to a clientele that includes figures in the public eye, high net worth individuals and professionals at the top of their careers. An expert in all forms of hypnotherapy treatment, Zoë is a specialist in issues relating to anxiety, trauma, self-esteem and confidence. She works with nine Associates who are experts in their own fields and handpicked for their experience and track records of success, providing treatment for an extensive range of conditions that include addiction, weight loss, eating disorders, relationships, love and sex, children’s issues, fertility problems, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and sleep issues.  She takes inspiration from her own emotional journey and works with both individuals and blue-chip corporates who want to provide mindfulness support for their people either on a regular or occasional basis, or as part of an employee benefit scheme.