Paul McKenna’s guide to getting happy

Paul McKenna is giving MailOnline readers life help techniques in his New Year – New You series 


You are about to have a life-changing experience. It doesn’t matter whether you are sad, bored, down, doing alright or quite happy – this system will help you become a whole lot happier very soon.

You can watch a video where we do a thought experiment, a technique that will you to feel more optimistic and positive that was developed by my dear friend Dr Ronald Ruden. Also you can listen to a hypnotic trance here at Mail Online for the next 7 days for free to help. 

If you are or even suspect that you are clinically depressed you can use the techniques here, however please seek help from a qualified medical professional.

The scientific research shows that happiness levels are not fixed. To increase your happiness levels takes a small amount of regular effort over a few days, following simple instructions and using some powerful psychological techniques. You can transform your life. You will create a strong underlying feeling of happiness every day and have more and more times of realizing rich, deep, fulfilling happiness throughout your life.


Happiness is a natural human state, like hunger, anger, excitement, boredom, neutrality and alertness. Absolutely everyone can be happy. Happiness is how the mind and body guide you towards what is most rewarding for you. Happiness is not just a pleasurable sensation. When you are on a path that brings you happiness it will guide you, perhaps in surprising ways, to more happiness.


Just in case you think this is all too good to be true, let’s also get clear what this means. Increasing your happiness does not mean we can get rid of all the pain, difficulty, irritation and suffering in your life. It does not mean I can make you permanently ecstatic all day long every day. Also it doesn’t mean being up all the time.

Happiness is a natural human state, like hunger, anger and excitement. Absolutely everyone can be happy

I know what it’s like to feel totally and utterly depressed, to see no point in anything, I have spent time feeling life was pointless and I have found my way back to everyday life and on to real lasting amazing happiness. On the way I created a map of how I found my way back, I have tested it on people who were in dark places and helped them. My approach is not a bunch of theories, it’s practical. I want to help you find your way to a richer happier life today.


From time to time people tell me that they believe ‘something inside them is broken’. However you might feel, YOU are not broken. You have simply picked up some unhelpful ways of thinking and acting that are making you feel bad. They have been reinforced and this affects you brain chemistry, which in turn continues the pattern. The system in this book will help you to interrupt that pattern and change it. You will replace them with habits that create happiness. By practising the Havening technique and using the hypnotic trance every day you will reinforce a new set of thoughts and feelings so it will become natural to feel better and better.


The mind and body are linked. Tense your body and your thoughts become tense. Relax your thoughts and your body relaxes.

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 and well-being. Typically, when we are not particularly happy 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! In fact, I’m suggesting you do the exact opposite.

When you get into that upright, relaxed balance posture, your body will make you feel better.


Whenever you smile you release serotonin which is a neuro-transmitter that makes you feel good. It may seem ridiculously simple, but people who smile and people who are smiled at both report that they feel happier. The serotonin is a signal from our body which lets us know that something good is going on.

The more you smile at others, the more they smile at you. Once it becomes a habit to be smiley it adds a steady stream of happy moments to your life and it helps you to permanently raise your overall levels of happiness.

Laughter also releases serotonin and endorphins. Research has shown that it boosts the immune system and helps the body to clear out toxins. That means that by laughing a lot you will have better digestion and fewer colds and flu. The key for us however is that your body releases neuro-chemicals that make you feel good.


My friend Dr Robert Holden, who is often referred to as the ‘happiness psychologist’, has conducted an amazing experiment to show that we can easily and completely alter levels of happiness just by changing our habits. Rather than trying to break habits, he replaced the old ones with new ones. He just added experiences to people’s lives that make them feel good.

Robert’s work was the subject of a BBC documentary. He took a group of depressed people through an extraordinary experiment that lasted for several weeks. At the beginning of the experiment all the subjects were all given an MRI scan. The scan focussed on the activity in the left pre-frontal lobe in an area that corresponds with happy thoughts and feelings and it showed they had the signs associated with depression.

Robert ‘s remarkably simple formula to increase their happiness was to ask his depressed subjects to do three things:

  • Smile or laugh for at least 20 minutes a day
  • Take at least 20 minutes exercise every day 
  • Place coloured dots around every room of their home and at their work. Whenever they saw a coloured dot they had to think about a positive memory, event or possibility

His subjects followed this regime for a month. At the end of that time, every single one of them reported that they felt happier. They were all then given another MRI scan and it showed that they all had increased activity in the left pre-frontal lobe area significantly. In one month, Robert’s subject had changed the physical activity of their neural networks and brain chemistry by changing their habits of thinking and behaviour. They had moved from being depressed to extremely optimistic.


Laugh 20 times a day

Smile 40 times a day


Little dots can change your life. Robert asked his subjects to stick little coloured dots all around their house and their workplace, for example on the mirror, on the fridge, on the bathroom door and in the hall.

Whenever they saw a dot, they had to think a positive thought. Here is an easy way for you to do exactly that and make it a really powerful force in your life. 


1. Stick at least a dozen coloured dots around your home where you will see them as you go about your daily life, on the mirror, the phone, the computer etc.

2. Make three lists:

  • 3 people whom you love or who love you and
  • 3 things that could make you happy in the future

If you find it difficult to find or remember five things for each list, make up some situations or possibilities that would make you happy.

3. Imagine or remember each item on each list as vividly as possible. For each memory, in your mind’s eye see it as if you are in the situation, hear what you heard and feel what you felt like you are back there again now. For each person imagine being with them, hearing them and feeling how good they make you feel. For each situation in the future, imagine it happening – see it, hear it and feel it as though it is happening now. Take as much time as you need, right now, to work through your list. Notice how good you feel at the end, as you do this more and more it has a cumulative effect and you will start to feel amazing!

4. Whenever you see a coloured dot, think of one of the items on your list.

This exercise has a very powerful effect because it does not try to stop you thinking about anything, you just repeatedly add in to your life a strongly positive experience.


Being happy is simple. Being unhappy is complicated. Happiness teaches us that deep down we are all already connected to each other, and it reminds us to enjoy that.

Happiness reminds us that every day is precious. Not one day of our life will be repeated. Each day we can choose happiness, we can choose to live by our values and we can choose to be grateful for the amazing possibilities we are given.

Over fifty scientific tests have shown that when large groups of people are peaceful and happy there is a measurable reduction in violent crime. Every day you are happy increases the sum total of happiness in the world. When enough of us live happily by our values we actually make a real contribution to everyone’s happiness. So don’t keep your happiness to yourself. Spread it around and it will make you happier still. There is an old Chinese proverb that I’d like to leave with you:

  • If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap
  • If you want happiness for a day — go fishing
  • If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune
  • If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else
  • I Can Make You Happy is published by Bantam Press. For more information go to Paul McKenna’s website.