Happiness Hacks:
3 Research-Backed Techniques to Make You Feel Good Instantly

BY PAUL MCKENNA, Ph.D.

how-to-feel-good-and-happy-girl-smilinglearning how to feel good and happy consistently is less about doing something per se and more about rewiring your neurobiology and habits to consistently produce happiness on autopilot.

There is a lot more to happiness than feeling good, but it is a good place to start. More importantly, when you feel better, it is easier to make the bigger changes that install real happiness in your life.

The exercises in this article will all change your immediate physical state. You will feel better. There may still be things in your life that you are unhappy about, and there may well be a lot more to do. You may even be thinking that changing how you feel really doesn’t count for much given all the pain in your past and challenges you may face in the future. Actually, it will make a huge difference, because it gives you a safe, solid platform from which you can operate to make bigger changes. So whether you feel open-minded or thoroughly cynical, just use these techniques and follow the instructions and you will learn how to feel good instantly. When you feel good and more comfortable you will be in a better position to make good choices about what to do next.

1. The Power of Posture

The mind and body are linked. Tense your body and your thoughts become tense. Relax your thoughts and your body relaxes. Learn to make your body feel good and you learn how to make yourself feel good.

From yoga and the ancient martial arts to modern disciplines such as Pilates and the Alexander Technique, human beings have used movement and posture to create a state of calm, balance, well-being and happiness. All these techniques make use of the linkage between the mind and the body to change your psychological state and help you feel happy, generally speaking. One of the most powerful, simple techniques to improve our mood is at the heart of all of these disciplines and yet it doesn’t require any training at all.

Typically, when we are not particularly happy or feeling good we tend to slouch a bit, let our heads hang down a little, and our shoulders come forward. This posture is universally associated with low spirits. In fact, if you felt fine and then spent half an hour slouching forward you would make your mood less comfortable. Don’t do that!

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In fact, I’m suggesting you do the exact opposite. When you get into that upright, relaxed, balanced posture, your body will make you feel better—and you’ll be happier as a result.

Happy Posture

Read the whole exercise through before you start.

1. The easiest way to get into this posture and to start feeling good, whether you are sitting or standing, is to imagine there is a silver thread coming down from the sky that is gently pulling you up from the very top of your head. Imagine letting that thread hold your head upright.

2. Now let your shoulders drop down and back, feel your back being lifted up by your neck, and feel the gentle, upright, long, S-shaped curve of your back supporting you, and your head floating on your shoulders.

3. Finally let your shoulders drop a bit more. Imagine that silver thread is holding your head up and let it support your whole body. With each breath, let yourself relax a bit more, keeping that upright stance, and stay like that for at least one minute.

4. This is very, very simple and yet it is so good for you. It moves you away from a sad or depressed posture and begins to open you up to feeling happy.

5. Think about this and do it consciously for a few moments over and over again every day so that you build the habit of naturally sitting or standing in a comfortable, relaxed, upright position—this can make a tremendous difference on how good you feel. Even a very small shift towards a more relaxed and upright posture can allow a really large increase in comfort and happiness to build up over a period of days and weeks. But, just like everything else in this article, don’t just read it or think about it—do it and prove to yourself that it works—this is how you build habits that allow you to feel good consistently.

2. How to Stop an Unhappy Feeling quickly

Even after you have started this process of change, the chances are you will occasionally get surprised by unhappy feelings, just because you have accumulated habits associated with feeling unhappy. It is not deliberate; it is an accident. You notice something that triggered a feeling of sadness or feeling low in the past and it does so again, just because of the association. You have already started changing these associations, but you can’t change everything all at once, so this technique gives you an alternative if you notice that, for whatever reason, you begin to feel down.  This is an amazing practice when learning how to feel good and stay happy consistently.

The technique involves changing your habitual line of sight. People who feel low tend to look downwards, and they don’t see much further than the ground a few yards in front of them. That causes a feeling of being hemmed in with few possibilities, and it is strongly associated with feeling bad. People who look up frequently stretch their gaze all the way to the sky or the horizon and that automatically suggests space and the freedom of lots of possibilities—and this is a powerful hack that can help you feel good on demand.

These differences have a strong influence on our thinking. However, there is much more to it than that. Scientists have shown that there is a hardwired connection between our eye movements and our patterns of thought and feelings. There is an observable change in brain activity when people look upwards that is associated with the visual cortex and tends to cause the brain to generate more alpha waves, which develops feelings of peace, comfort, and well-being. If we also move our eyes from side to side, it breaks down the associations that were making you unhappy.  This is a powerful practice you can do consistently when learning how to feel good to wire in new neural pathways into your brain that literally reprogram you to feel happy.

Again, it seems almost ridiculous that something so simple can have such a powerful effect on how you feel, but the science shows that it works. People sometimes are skeptical when I tell them how powerful it is. I always tell them, “The best way to find out that it works is to do it.” You’ll see—practiced regularly you will feel better and happier.

Instant Rescue

Read the whole exercise through before you start and rehearse it so that you can go straight through the whole sequence without looking at the text. Use this to change your immediate experience and you will be free to feel something much more comfortable.

1. Use this technique whenever you feel low and want to feel good. To practice it now, remember a time when you felt unhappy, just enough to have a bit of that feeling again.

2. Now look upwards at the ceiling for at least 30 seconds as if you were trying to see the tips of your eyebrows and you sense just a slight strain on your eye muscles.

3. Now, keeping your head still and keeping aware of that feeling, slowly move your eyes from side to side, so that you are looking up left and then up right, back and forth 20 times.

4. Now, with your head still, look up and down 20 times.

5. Now, still keeping aware of the feeling, even as it is diminishing, move your eyes in a figure eight 20 times, and then in a figure eight in the other direction 20 times.

6. Now look straight ahead and notice how much you have reduced the feeling. If you want to reduce it further repeat steps 2, 3, 4 and 5.

7. Do not let yourself look downwards for any length of time until you feel okay again.

8. If you feel any miserable feelings coming again, look up again and go back to step 2.

Any action you repeat often enough will strengthen the neural pathways that drive it, so as you do this more and more often, you build up new neural pathways and new associations that move you automatically away from miserable feelings towards good feelings. You rewire your brain so that the original pattern is interrupted and the trigger actually becomes associated with moving towards feeling better.

As soon as you have mastered the Instant Rescue technique, you can boost its effect by developing a habit of looking upwards frequently each day. Look at the sky and admire the clouds. Look up at the tops of buildings and notice all the architectural features up there. It is quite interesting looking up, but much more important it continually triggers your brain to reinforce good feelings. There you have it—another simple, but extraordinarily powerful technique that allows you to feel good and happy on demand.

3. Havening

Havening therapy was created by my friend Ronald Ruden, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific studies have shown that it is amazingly effective at relieving sadness and reducing stress, trauma, and compulsion. Dr. Ruden’s work has been hailed as a remarkable breakthrough. He discovered that patterns of repeated touch to parts of the body combined with specific eye movements and visualizations have a rapid, reliable, and predictable effect on our feelings. His years of research have created a significant advance in what is known as “psychosensory therapy.” The patterns of touch used in Havening are what enable a mother to comfort her baby and are hardwired into every infant. Havening combines these deep-rooted patterns of reassurance and comfort with sequences to break down the associations that triggered unhappy feelings. As a result, in just a few minutes we can now reduce the intensity of an emotion or feeling of unhappiness and establish calm, robust relaxation. This helps you learn how to feel good rather effortlessly.

This technique is not merely a distraction. Studies have shown that when we use the Havening technique, we reduce stress chemicals in our body and produce states of relaxation and calm. We also change the way our brain processes thoughts and feelings. The effect of the specific sequence I will share with you is to reset the way your brain interprets and responds to stress. Over time this actually alters the neuronal pathways in your brain which causes you to feel happy far more often. It’s one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal to reprogram yourself to feel good consistently.

A Safe Haven

Please read through the following exercise before you do it. You should practice this sequence of eye movements, body touches, and visualizations several times until you know it by heart. Then you will be able to use it any time you need to get rid of unhappy feelings and swiftly feel happier, calm and relaxed.

1. Notice how much unhappiness or sadness you feel and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. This is important, because it lets you measure how much you reduce it.

2. Now clear your mind, or just think about something nice.

3. Next use both hands to tap on both your collarbones.

4. While you continue tapping on both your collarbones, look straight ahead, keep your head still, and close and open your eyes.

5. Continue tapping and, keeping your head still, look down to the left then down to the right.

6. Continue tapping, keeping your head still, and move your eyes in a full circle clockwise and then counterclockwise.

7. Now cross your arms, place your hands on top of your shoulders, and close your eyes.

8. Now stroke your hands down the sides of your arms from your shoulders to your elbows and up again, down and up, again and again.

9. As you carry on stroking the sides of your arms, imagine you are walking down a flight of stairs and count out loud from 1 to 20 with each step you take.

10. When you reach 20, hum “Happy Birthday.”

11. Now let your arms drop and relax them, and open your eyes and look up in front of and above you.

12. Move your eyes slowly from left to right and back three times.

13. Close your eyes and stroke the sides of your arms again five times.

14. Now open your eyes and check, on your scale from 1 to 10, what number the feeling is at now.

If it is way down at the bottom, congratulations—you have personally changed your own feeling state. If you think the unhappy feeling is not yet reduced enough, just repeat the Havening sequence until it is reduced as far as you want. When it comes to feeling good and happy, this is one of the most powerful techniques I know.

This article on how to feel good and happy is excerpted with permission from I Can Make You Happy by Dr. Paul McKenna.

About The Author

Paul McKenna, Ph.D. has consistently astounded his audiences and clients by proving how small changes in people’s lives can yield huge results, whether it’s curing someone of a lifelong phobia or clearing up deep-seated issues in a matter of minutes. He currently hosts his own TV show on Hulu, where he interviews the most interesting people in the world. His guests include Simon Cowell, Harvey Weinstein, Rachael Ray, Sir Roger Moore, Roger Daltrey, Tony Robbins, Paul Oakenfold and Sir Ken Robinson. Visit his website: paulmckenna.com

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