Recently I was discussing with a client the issue of happiness and how to have more of it. One of the questions that came up was “isn’t that rather obvious”, and it occurred to me that a lot of what I say in my work does have a feel of being rather obvious. In the treatment of depression for example we often use a ‘visual / analogue scale’ or more simply a line on a piece of paper with zero at one end and ten at the other end. People are asked to rate their depression at this point on the scale, then a second rating in answer to the question “has there ever been a time in your life when you have been less depressed than you are now?” As you can imagine most people have had better times and when they explore what was different they often say things like, “I had more friends” or “I had a job that I loved doing” or “I used to walk my dog everyday”, leading to the realization that in many cases they have stopped doing the things that gave them pleasure and satisfaction, and therefore made their lives happier.
My recent reading led me to the writings of David Myers and the subject of Social Psychology. He points out that what can appear to be common sense is that we often invoke it after we know it, this he terms a hindsight bias. So I will continue to promote the principles of happiness and how to have more of it, as I am increasingly doing in my day to day work, and if I get told that I am stating the blindingly obvious, then I will gladly accept that….