The expert guide to happiness

Life will always have its ups and downs, pandemic or not. Here Owen O’Kane, motivational speaker, psychotherapist and author of Ten Times Happier, reveals how to improve your mood whatever life throws your way

‘For 10 years, I worked with people who were terminally ill, and I loved that work, but I realised what most people were struggling with was psychological distress,’ says Owen O’Kane. ‘I had all the medical information, but I didn’t have the tools to manage the psychological distress, so I retrained in psychotherapy.’ Since then, O’Kane has written two books, and over his 25-year career, he’s helped thousands.

Here he shares his advice on how to feel happier…

Re-evaluate what matters

‘Think about what things in life are important. What helps you function better? We’re never going to sort out all the issues in our life, and we don’t have a lot of control over what’s going to come next, so it’s about how we can manage our minds better on a day-to-day basis, to change our perspective and approach life with more hopefulness.’

Understand anxiety

‘The textbook definition of anxiety is “an intolerance of uncertainty”. If you can become more tolerant of uncertainty, your anxiety is going to drop. A lot of people are always spinning 10 plates, and it’s about thinking what one thing can you manage today? Focus on that and park all the other stuff. You’ll feel a sense of relief of not having to juggle it all at the same time.’

Take a moment

‘When we’re in an anxious state, our neuropathways are chaotic, so just bringing your attention to a point of focus helps regulate the neuropathways. I had a stressful day recently, so I stopped for three minutes and sat with a cup of tea in the garden. I came back still with loads of things to do, but I felt better because I’d taken that moment. The key is spotting that it’s time to pause and come back to a point of stability.’

Change what you can

‘Think about the foods you put into your body, the supplements you take, the exercise you do. Getting outdoors, even for a 15-minute brisk walk, increases serotonin, improves oxytocin and ups dopamine [three key hormones associated with mood and happiness]. There’s scientific evidence to back up the fact this stuff can change the chemistry of your mind. Just start with one thing and give it a go.’

Forget ‘stuff’

‘There are the clichés, “I’d be happier if I was richer or if I had a better job.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting material things but we can’t rely on them as a means of being happy. You need to connect with the inside stuff, who you are, what makes you tick, whether you are living a life that’s true to your values, surrounded by the right people, making choices that are right for you.’

Ask for help

‘If it’s impossible for someone to quieten their mind and steady themselves, they need to talk to someone. Talk to someone – start with a close friend, then there are GPs and therapists. Keep in mind that if it feels awful and overwhelming today, it’s just today. It doesn’t mean it’s the entire trajectory of your life. With the right help and support, you’ll be able to bring things down.’

Trust yourself

‘There isn’t a single human on the planet who isn’t feeling a little bit unsettled. While you may not feel in control of all the external stuff going on in the world right now, the more you can move your focus internally, take ownership for that and bring yourself into a place of trusting that the storm will pass, it will be so much more manageable.’

Want to learn more? Listen to The Wellness Edit podcast for the full interview, and loads of extra tips and tricks

Listen to The Wellness Edit
owen o'kane

Author: Owen O'Kane

Owen is a motivational mental health speaker and therapist who specialises in helping people deal with anxiety and stress so that they can live happy lives.

He is the Sunday Times best selling author of Ten To Zen and Ten Times Happier, which is a guide to letting go of the things that are holding you back.

Owen has 2k followers on Twitter, and 14.6k followers on Instagram.

Last updated: 11 December 2020

Mental Health