How life coaching can increase happiness

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smileIn this article April O´Reilly discusses some common reasons why we may not be as happy as we might like, some coaching solutions and why they work.

Why do we do anything? If it is not purely for survival, then it is because we believe it will make us happy.

Everybody wants to be happy

Everybody wants to be happy, but we are not taught in school or from our parents how to obtain or sustain it. Also there is evidence to show that modern life is increasingly succeeding at making it more difficult, as Michael Foley demonstrates in his book, the age of absurdity.

There are many pitfalls, which are not obvious to even the most intelligent of us, such as the power of our subconscious mind. Did you know your subconscious can work for or against you, without you even realising?. A lot of what we do, say and feel is largely affected by our subconscious mind. Your subconscious can create happiness, success and wealth or it can keep you miserable, unsuccessful and poor.

We may have unhelpful beliefs such as “I am always late“. We could set ourselves a goal to be early every day for work, we could be determined try our best and have good intentions.
However, without the conscious reprogramming of our subconscious belief, “I am always late”,  the subconscious will be working in the background to make sure your belief stays true.

Many of us think we need circumstances to change before we can be happy. But did you know that after our genetic predispositions only 20% of our happiness is determined by our circumstances? The other 80% is determined by our mindset, beliefs and choices, which are all under our control. Also, studies has shown that big events in our lives such as redundancy or divorce usually only affect us for a limited time before we go back to our “set-point” which is determined by our genes.

Happiness is a choice and many of us don’t give ourselves permission to be happy until, for example, we have that promotion or new car.

Now that you know happiness is largely under your control, I will discuss how coaching can help.

How coaching can guide you to greater happiness

Ann Betz, CTI neuroscience consultant,  affirms that coaching works neurologically by helping to reinforce neural pathways in the brain. Our habits and beliefs are some of the strongest neural pathways because every time we repeat habit or reinforce a belief we strengthen the myelin which covers our nerves. The more developed the myelin, the easier it is to recall and use these pathways as the brain prefers the path of least resistance.

So how coaching can guide you to greater happiness? :

Step 1 – Be Aware 

A big part of the solution is awareness. You need to be aware of what your own happiness means, and find out if anything is blocking your happiness.

The first thing can be achieved by discovering your values, life purpose and dreams with various coaching tools and skills. There is evidence to show that just talking about your values can reduce stress and increase overall well being.

One way the second can be found is by exploring your current beliefs or an area of life you may like to improve, by asking powerful questions, which takes us to step 2.

Step 2 – Explore you Beliefs

Getting in touch with your whole body and listening to all the messages it has to tell you is very helpful, as scientific research has now discovered the presence of neurons in our hearts and abdomen, as well as in our brain. The information from these neurons are collected in the right side of the brain, the creative side, which is not proficient at putting the information into language.

So, by exploring our physical feelings in coaching we can gain access to an untapped resource. You can find out what is and is not working by using coaching tools such as “meta view”, “metaphors” and other empowering perspectives to embody and try on different ways to look at the same topic or situation. These tools give you more choices  and insights in order to broaden your current belief system.

Step 3 – Reinforce motivation and determination

After you have challenged your old beliefs, the next step is reinforcing motivation and determination for what you want to achieve, and your belief in yourself to do so. In coaching, you are also encouraged through championing and reminded of what is already working well.

Throughout the process, what is not working will be also addressed. Also your saboteurs (limiting or judgemental thoughts) will be challenged and changed for uplifting beliefs. There are specific exercises to challenge and name your inner critic or saboteur which takes away its power, giving you freedom to act from an empowering place.

Coaches challenge their clients and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone to reach their dreams, this not only increases happiness in their lives but releases chemicals in the brain which supports the development of new neurological pathways (1).

Blockages can be addressed through experiencing thoughts and feelings of a topic or issue, in the moment. They can also be used when the coach notices something the client is avoiding, with the client´s permission, the client can experience and open up to areas which they could not before, allowing them to experience more areas of their life.

Step 4 – Make happiness an habit

Then, you make happiness both, a mental habit and a real action by practising what makes you happy, and planning your continuing happy future. This is effective as happiness is both a state of being and a process at the same time, illustrated by the Greek term “eudaimonia” which translated means to flourish (2).

Also this can be applied in your normal life as well as during a coaching session, because another great thing about coaching is that you develop sustainable skills to use in-between sessions and beyond.

When planning for the future, it is important to have realistic goals that you truly want. You know what you are saying no to, as well as yes to. So, you may want the higher paying job but does this mean less time for your hobbies or family?

Step 5 – Build up commitment 

After planning new habits, it is the time to build up your motivation and explore your commitment to your new goals. You also need to explore anything that may stand in your way. Accountability is very helpful here, as having someone to report back to can make the difference between doing something you have always wanted to, or letting your saboteurs talk you out of it!

Big changes will cause the largest results, but the good news is that even very small and almost effortless changes can, in the long term cause a significant shift towards happiness (3).

While I have divided the article in steps for simplicity, the coaching can repeat or return to different stages depending on what the clients needs in the moment.

Closing thoughts

Reprogramming your unconscious mind involves using your conscious mind to find your limited beliefs and or current thinking, challenging them and change your thought patterns. When you have repeated this enough, your unconscious mind will happily run in the background in support of your new mindset and goals.

With commitment and a coach on your side supporting you and holding you accountable you can create dominant neural pathways and transform radically and quicker.

Coaching can be used to improve your circumstances, but it is much more effective for your happiness and your success with your goals to also explore your mindset, beliefs and choices.

Happily, happiness is a positive feedback loop which increases your motivation and volition which in turn increases your happiness and possibilities an added bonus (2).

So, what is your next step towards increasing happiness? Share your thoughts below and let’s all start smiling more together!

 April O’Reilly
18th November 2014


DSC_4575April O’Reilly Bsc Hons, is a trained co-active life coach, specialised in enhancing your happiness and working with the gifts of dyslexia and ADHD. Her goal is to create your most fulfilled life. With a background in science and psychology, she implements her ever increasing knowledge to further enrich her coaching. April discovered coaching on her own journey towards happiness; she found what she was looking for and longs to share it with others.
Find out more about April here. Contact here on Twitter and LinkedIn.



1. Anne Betz (2012)
Co-Active Coaching and the brain: Neuroscience research supports the efficacy of the Co-Active model
Available at (Accessed 18 July 2014).

2. Michael Foley (2010) The age of absurdity- why modern life makes it hard to be happy
Great Britain: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

3. Paul Dolan (2014) Happiness by design
New York: Penguin group

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