Practical Tips On How To Be Happy, According To A Professional Happiness Coach
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley
World Mental Health day is upon us, and if the 13 million+ posts hashtagged #mentalhealth on Instagram is any indication, we do live in the time and day of awareness, and society has already started being more open with regards to open discussion of the once-taboo topic.
One scroll through social media and chances are you'll chance upon a graphic quote or meme that talks about self-care, how to kick anxiety to the curb, and how to take care of your mental health. Talks, conferences, and events that focus on mental health are starting to pop up left and right, and this only means people are searching for answers, are going out of their way to feel better, and are extending a helping hand to loved ones affected by anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and a multitude of other mental health issues.
While awareness is good, and probable solutions are being talked about on different platforms, it's still good to consult the experts, those who have trained and invested time to study this modern day phenomenon. Mental health, and more specifically anxiety, depression, and trauma are more than just a social media trend—it's a serious issue concerning millions of people today. Having this in mind, it's more important that we find ways to alleviate the burden, make things easier to handle, and find practical, doable things to help with one's mental well-being.
We talked to Kathi Rañeses, a professional Life and Happiness Coach, and asked her about the common issues brought to her by clients, how the treatment usually takes place, and yes, how to find happiness. Scroll ahead to find out more about her, and learn how you too can improve your life!
Metro.Style: Tell us about your field of expertise/practice. Did you study this? How did you become a Happiness Coach?
Kathi Rañeses: Life coaching has been around for decades, but I feel has really just started to take off in the Philippines in the past couple of years. What I do is different from therapy and counselling, given that I work with the belief that my clients are already whole and complete. I am more focused on their present than their past, working through whatever issues my clients want to talk about, and help in creating goals for them and keeping them accountable. I also believe that the best person to give my client advice, is the client—I'm only there to ask the powerful questions that trigger 'aha' moments. During sessions, the client does around 80% of the talking, which is not quite what they expect coming in! My job is to be the empathetic ear, recognizing and detecting patterns on their limiting beliefs, mindsets, self-saboteurs, processes and structures, and looking out for my blindspots.
I named my practice Coaching Happiness with its vision being to create a better world, one Filipino at a time. Us Filipinos are naturally resilient, very happy people. We can rise to any occasion, overcome obstacles, and even in life-altering situations, still have a smile on our face and a joke to crack. But there are different levels of happiness, and I've noticed we don't know how to express ourselves and communicate our feelings, and that has kept us from being genuinely happy. When someone asks us how we are, the usual default answer is, "Ok lang." A big chunk of my work delves into emotional literacy. There are a lot of collective cultural beliefs that have been holding us back from "growing up" emotionally as a nation, and that is what I really want to get stuck in in terms of coaching. Once we can start identifying our emotions and labelling them instead of hiding behind laughter when we're uncomfortable or anger when we're confused, can we truly start to uncover our real selves, and step into the best versions of us.
Aside from life coach training, I also have certifications in positive psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), neurolinguistic programming (NLP), mindfulness meditation, and emotional intelligence, and have been working as a life coach full-time for over two years. At the moment, I am halfway through getting certification with the Certified Coaches Alliance (CCA) and accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), which requires at least 60 hours of coach-specific training as well as a minimum of 100 hours of coaching experience.
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MS: How would you define this generation's state of happiness? What qualifiers do you use to measure happiness?
KR: As a nation, we are either the third happiest country (US-based firm Gallup International) or the 69th happiest country (according to the United Nations), depending on which survey you want to believe. And according to a study conducted by Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), Filipino millennials have a happiness level of 83%, making us the happiest and least stressed millennial group in the world! So that's a pretty good number to start with.
When measuring happiness in my clients, I employ a scale on five core elements of well-being and happiness, also called the PERMA Model, as stated by Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology. I ask clients to rate the following, on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest) where they feel they rate themselves in terms of 1) Positive Emotions, how naturally optimistic and positive they are; 2) Engagement, finding activities that keeps us in flow, where time "flies by" because we're happily focused on the present moment; 3) Relationships, the social connections that promote love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction, 4) Meaning, some people interpret as spirituality or life purpose; and 5) Accomplishments, having goals and ambition that you work towards.
MS: Who are the types of clients that go to you? What sort of issues or concerns are brought up?
KR: I get a mixed bag of clients from entrepreneurs looking for creative ways to grow their business or handle their employees, leaders looking to improve their team dynamics, everyday folk looking to improve their health or relationships, and even clients suffering from mild depression and panic attacks.
The first thing I would usually ask clients who come to me claiming to be depressed or suffering from anxiety is if they've been diagnosed by a psychologist, and 90% of the time, the answer is no. People need to understand that depression and anxiety aren't moods, they are serious mental issues, and with the right kind of help everyone can go on to live their best lives. Going back to emotional literacy, we have trouble identifying emotions, so instead of saying we feel stressed, sad, or frustrated, some people automatically label themselves as depressed. For those that have been diagnosed and are seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist, I would need their written consent before I take their patient on.
For a lot of the clients I talk to, the issues that usually pop up that are hidden underneath all the feelings of depression and anxious thoughts are limiting belief systems around worthiness and self-love, as well as emotional literacy. It's amazing how we automatically put other people first (which is probably why our prime export is OFWs in the service industry), leaving nothing for ourselves, and then we wonder why we' feel so empty! And guess what we say when we get asked how we're feeling? "Ok lang." We peel that back layer by layer, like an onion, until we can get to the heart of the matter. And then the work really begins.
MS: How would you describe your process for treating your clients/patients? Is it a fixed program or is it customized on a per patient basis?
KR: There really is no fixed program for life coaching. I work with whatever issues are popping up for the client (I usually start by going through the intake form and how they scored their happiness there), and tackle each one at a time, getting to the root of limiting belief systems, addressing self-saboteurs, bringing attention to blindspots, and celebrating wins.
I usually recommend clients to go on a three-month program with me if I feel they would need structure in their lives or want to create new habits, meeting every other week with support via WhatsApp or Viber in between sessions. Others just want to work on a short-term goal or project, like mentally and emotionally preparing for a 10km marathon or a big concert, and they'd come in every week for a month and we'd unpack whatever is going on for them at that time. I also have a few clients who sign up for an entire year's worth of coaching, meeting every week, and once we've reached one goal, we go for another, and then another, until they feel they're happy with the life they've created for themselves.
MS: Mental Health is such a big issue these days. What for you is a healthy mental life?
KR: A healthy mental life, for me, is to be able to stay positive and naturally optimistic regardless of what's going on around you. It isn't the absence of mental illness or being happy all the time, but our ability to process our feelings, understand where they're coming from, and quickly bouncing back. It's looking at my PERMA Model scale and rating everything at least an eight or higher.
MS: If there are top three tips you would give to anyone looking to improve their thought life and happiness in general, what would they be?
KR: I love this question! There are so many things we can do to improve our well-being. The ones I recommend you start right away are:
1. Establish a morning routine. It's amazing how grounded and in control of our day we feel when we have a morning routine. Mine is waking up and chugging down a big glass of water, meditating for 20 minutes, getting a stretch in, spending quality time with my dogs, and enjoying a cup of coffee while I work on an online course that interests me (right now it's a mindfulness practitioner course), and journaling. That's around two hours of my day that I dedicate solely to myself and filling up my own love tank before I start the day to be of service to others. Yours doesn't have to be so long, but include something that you feel is a bit of a treat.
2. Start a gratitude journal. It can be something as simple as keeping an ongoing note on your phone or buying a notebook dedicated to your attitude of gratitude. Every day, list down three things that happened during the day that you're grateful for. This helps with your brain's neuroplasticity, or rewiring your mind to seek out the positive things in your day you were grateful for more than the negative.
3. Sweat it out in the sun. Look for activities that get you outdoors and working up a sweat - It can be anything from walking the dog or a morning jog. The combination of exercise and being out in the sun releases happy hormones, specifically endorphins, which helps us cope with pain, and serotonin, which helps boost our mood.
MS: What for you are some of the biggest things that steal joy in this generation?
KR: Complaining is probably the number one joy stealer across all generations. No one wants to be around a complainer, they suck the positive energy right out of the room, and everyone around them gets affected with their misery. Another one is negative self-talk. No one can talk about us as badly as we can. We nitpick about the littlest things about ourselves and we really are our harshest critic. But if you look at those thoughts a little closer, you'll realise all of them aren't really yours. They stem from family, friends, co-workers, social media, movies, books, and advertisements that we take on and use to judge ourselves so critically. And the last one is our attachment to our gadgets. Put your phone down, close your laptop, give your gaming console a rest, and unplug at least once a week. We're so glued to our screens, at times we completely miss out on the beauty of the world around us, too engrossed with selfies, about other people, and too immersed in online conversations to genuinely connect with the people who matter.
No one wants to be around a complainer, they suck the positive energy right out of the room, and everyone around them gets affected with their misery.
MS: How can one stay happy daily?
KR: By carrying a grateful, loving heart! Having an attitude of gratitude, being completely present in those moments, and expressing your gratitude fully.
MS: Where can our one contact you for consultations?
KR: You can book a private coaching session at Centro Holistico's Alabang branch on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and their Pasig branch on Thursdays or online via Zoom. I also do corporate training focused on creating Loving Leaders and Thriving Teams. For more information on my services, please visit my website at coachinghappiness.ph or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MS: Any upcoming projects/seminars? Any last words of advice and enlightenment you may want to share?
KR: If you've been wanting to expand out of your comfort zone, improve your thinking, eliminate limiting beliefs, clarify and work on your goals and priorities, develop empowering new habits and rituals, strengthen your core values, upgrade your social skills and strengthen your relationships, or unlock your life's purpose, and you are willing to put in the "heart work" to do it, then I would love to sit down and see how I can work with you.
If you don't feel like private coaching is quite for you, but still want to experience me as a coach, I have two online masterclasses which will start in November: Hacking Happiness, which offers tools and techniques on being happier and resilient based on positive psychology, and Manifestor Masterclass, where I teach participants how to make the laws of attraction and vibration work for them in creating their best life ever. These are 10 and 8-week 90-minute teleclasses that you can join in and sign up for the entire Masterclass, or pick and choose which classes you join depending on the week.
At the end of the day, what I do is simple: Get you back to a human 'being' instead of a human 'doing'. And that takes a lot of love, a lot of listening, and a lot of holding space. I have nothing to teach you that you don't intrinsically already know. My real job is to love you. Love will teach you.