Can you measure happiness? And should we even try?

Two-old-people-laughingWe recently published a post on ‘let’s talk’ by Rin Hamburgh, a regular contributor to the Positive News network, which aims to  ‘inform, inspire and empower our readers, while helping create a more balanced and constructive media’. We are happier if read more positive news it seems; if we appreciate that despite what many journalists would have us believe, the world is full of good people, doing positive things to encourage global social and environmental change.

This has sparked a lot of interest on the blog, and here at The Terrace and we want to find out more. When the current UK government came into power in 2010, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stated his aim that Britain should be happier and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) now produces analysis based on National Measures of Well-Being. These measures, including economic, environmental and social measures also includes a measure of ‘personal well-being’. The latest figures, for 2012/13 were released last month and showed that overall, 77% of us are satisfied with our lives overall and that around 70% of us would describe our happiness levels as ‘medium to high’. You can find links to all the latest data here.

There is a concern that if politicians and civil servants are measuring happiness, they will ask questions that skew the results in favour of their policies, or choose a sample that includes people they know to have relatively ‘happy’ lives by any standard. So here on ‘let’s talk’ we wanted to canvas your ideas about what constitutes well-being. Is happiness our ultimate goal? If so, what is it that makes a human ‘happy’. Can any of the questions be the same for everyone?

For an analysis of happiness, should we measure things like self-esteem, number of friends (real rather than online), engagement with and kindness to, other people, love of laughter and jokes. Or should we look to practical things like money and health?

The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire was developed by psychologists Michael Argyle and Peter Hills at Oxford University and includes such questions as:

  • I am intensely interested in other people.
  • I have very warm feelings towards almost everyone.
  • I find most things amusing.
  • I am always committed and involved.
  • I find beauty in some things.
  • I feel I have a great deal of energy

Alongside statements such as:

  • I do not think that the world is a good place.
  • I don’t think I look attractive.
  • I feel that I am not especially in control of my life.
  • I don’t find it easy to make decisions.
  • I don’t have a particular sense of meaning and purpose in my life.
  • I don’t have particularly happy memories of the past

Each statement is answered on a scale of 1 to 6, strongly disagree to strongly agree. You can take that questionnaire yourself here.

carouselimage1803_tcm77-356741Do the positive statements better measure our levels of happiness? If faced with a negative statement, are we more likely to respond to it in a negative way? There are so many questions and endless answers – surely we cannot all be grouped together under such an amorphous heading as ‘happiness’. Or can we?

We find this a fascinating subject, linking as it does to our commitment to overall well-being and physical and mental health. We also love to laugh, and find it therapeutic.

Do please comment and let us know what you think. We would love to publish your ideas about what makes you happy and how you think it could best be measured.


Make St Valentine work 365 days of the year….

Valentines-Day1-300x217More relationship tips for St Valentine’s Day – and today is the day…

For many, this is a day that can really intensify feelings of loneliness, and we do recognise that.  The commercialisation of one day of the year upon which all our hopes of love are apparently supposed to hang can be frustrating and, quite frankly, distasteful. But for others it can offer the opportunity to reconnect with a partner and really notice and appreciate them in a way that compensates a little for days we take them for granted as life’s stresses take over.

Our last post gave a few first tips for real intimacy with a partner, rather than just superficial romance. Today Jane Gotto offers more thoughts to build on that intimacy.

Firstly you can make your own Day – it does not need to be the 14th. It is difficult to highlight one day of the year as the most ‘romantic’. Make sure the time feels right.

Think about what quality you would like to bring into your relationship – you can check back with last week’s relationship tip – and see how you are getting on. Is it working for you? We had a number of people get in touch about last week’s post saying how quickly they had realised that their relationship was loving but that real intimacy had drifted away. You may not be getting the response you want directly,  but stay with your desire and what you want, and resist getting resentful and critical.  Changes can take time and the response from the other person can come in unexpected ways.

Secondly, what would make this period of  St Valentine’s different and special, and even a ‘growing experience’? Perhaps  you could spend time every day for the next week telling your partner about something you really like about them –  a quality of theirs, something they have done for you, something they have thought of or taken time with. The important thing is to say it to them, in a way they can hear. Hopefully, they will want to join in and do the same for you.

Discuss what would be a fun and a novel way to ‘celebrate’ your relationship during this time. Some music, a walk, a leisurely day spent together, cooking your favourite meal, having dinner…..

The secret is not what you do, it is HOW YOU DO IT. To help you get in the mood, here is a poem to inspire you, one that wraps you in a really intimate embrace of its own…

The Hug by Thom Gunn

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who’d showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
Become familial.
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

So do take a look at our previous post alongside this one and let us know what you think these tips could add to your relationship. Or let us know what already works for you – we would love to hear your own tips.

Psychotherapy & Complementary therapies – how to convince, not confuse

147285612There is no doubt that the world of psychotherapy, counselling and complementary therapy has much to offer us as human beings, working  towards emotional well-being and physical good health. But occasionally, it seems, the simple fact that there are so many different types of therapy to choose alongside, or instead of, conventional medicine confuses  the lay person. The language excludes them, the choices are too numerous and the benefits seem uncertain.

It is difficult to address this. Therapists often stay within their ‘modality’ or specific approach, others are happy to work across the different schools of thought. But what is most important is the eventual benefit to those who seek help.

Gestalt, Humanistic, Core Process, Cognitive behavioural, Psychodynamic, Mindfulness, Neuro-linguistic programming, Life-coaching.  Hypnotherapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Bowen, Homeopathy, Cranio-sacral, Acupuncture. These are but a few of the options open to a newcomer to the field. For many, even the apparent distinction between ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ is confusing. Some feel the therapy will prove too expensive; they don’t realise that they are also involved in the work and that often the therapy must continue for a long time. Some might need to come with a partner, or will be best served in individual or group work.

So it is really important to explain all the possibilities to a client, and offer sufficient time to make a proper assessment. Some clients will sit with a therapist, with whom they cannot properly connect, simply because they are too embarrassed to say so.   The triggers that have encouraged them to seek help are many and various and it is the skill of the therapist that ensures the interactions are successful and that sensitive issues are handled properly. An in-depth training is vital of course, but a good therapist is not born of book-reading.

Are there any therapies you would like more information about? Do you think the world of psychological therapies and complementary medicine is too confusing and exclusive?

Your thoughts?

The Terrace Humanistic Psychotherapy & Complementary Therapy Centre, Taunton, Somerset

Poetry for Mindfulness – I go among trees and sit still…..

treesOn ‘let’s talk’ we occasionally like to post a favourite quote,  a poem that strikes us as relevant to the work we are focusing on or simply words that mean something to us at a particular moment, on which we can focus our minds and enjoy ‘quieting’ our mind.

Today we thought our readers (and thank you – all those who follow us) might enjoy the following poem, by American poet, environmental activist and author Wendell Berry. Berry is a man often quoted by those who practice ‘mindfulness’, a subject we have discussed in recent blog posts. He is a man who believes in many things that relate specifically to living what he considers to be a ‘good’ life. He is a farmer, and supports rural communities, sustainable farming and the wonder of feeding our bodies with healthy food.  He is anti-war,, concerned about globalisation and the ever-growing industrialisation and technological advances in our lives. He sees connections in everyday things, and in our lives. He is a prolific writer and we intend to find out more – he is clearly a man who feels that we need to create a way of life for ourselves that takes in the essential value of the given moment, does not become increasingly complex and fraught with difficulties we struggle to overcome and in which we can learn to face and ‘befriend’ our worries, thus taking away their power to drain us.

I go among trees and sit still

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
Around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle…

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry


By Wendell Berry from Sabbaths, 1987, North Point Press

Do you have a favourite poem that when read can calm your thoughts, allow you to breathe and face the day with greater strength? We would love to hear your thoughts.


Breathing-space for your Brain – the science of mindfulness


mindfulness-at-work-compBy Celia Kozlowski – science writer

Celia Kozlowski is a freelance science writer and editor based in Somerset who completed the Mindfulness-based stress reduction training at The Terrace in Taunton and has written, through the ‘scientific lens’, how mindfulness works.

The World War II slogan is everywhere these days—tee shirts, mugs,: Keep Calm and Carry On . But how do we do that amidst a high-stress life? A popular answer is “Mindfulness.”

The U.S. Marines are testing mindfulness to help soldiers function better under fire. Studies suggest mindfulness training may help prevent or improve recovery from combat’s emotional traumas.

Google’ Inc.’s headquarters — a high-stress workplace–has offered employees mindfulness since 2005. Their “Search Inside Yourself” improves workers’ performance, productivity, relationships, and job satisfaction while lowering stress, absenteeism, and employee turnover.

Scientific reports on Mindfulness show it can help people with a range of health challenges – anxiety, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, insomnia.

Mindfulness can ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, eating disorders, hypochondria, mental fatigue following stroke, and recovery from substance abuse. Data show Mindfulness improves quality of life after treatment for breast cancer and blocked arteries.

The teacher at The Terrace, Psychotherapy and Complementary Health Centre, Dr Miranda Bevis, a former NHS doctor, told us her first exposure to Mindfulness was through her late husband. As he coped with motor neurone disease, he tried Mindfulness, which transformed his experience of the rest of his life.

Scientists are starting to understand how Mindfulness works. By studying the brains of Mindfulness practitioners, researchers detected changes in structure and function supporting theories that could explain the benefits. These suggest Mindfulness reshapes the brain for better control in sorting out emotions and signals from the body – like pain.

Instead of reacting automatically, a brain toned by Mindfulness chooses more deliberately what impulses get attention, and then crafts a healthy response. But there IS a catch. To realize the benefits of Mindfulness, you have to keep practicing.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness Groups

Dr Miranda Bevis

The Terrace is running taster sessions Tuesday 9th April 6.30pm and Wednesday 10th April 9.15 with Dr Miranda Bevis. Book on 01823 338968, email

Creating a connected circle – an Advent ritual

The Terrace Advent candle

The Terrace Advent candle

This is another Christmas tip from Jane Gotto at The Terrace – a rather special one that you could use in a family group, in a circle of friends or in a workplace.

December begins on Sunday and with it comes the thrill of the Advent Calendar. Sadly, the ritual of opening a door a day to reveal the Christmas story, or if preferred, the classic pagan and secular images of Christmas , has been overtaken somewhat by commercialised chocolate calendars. It can still be fun, but essentially it means little and can’t even evoke feelings of nostalgia for Christmas past. Of course, that nostalgia can be a sentimentalised version of the festive season and depicts a celebration many have never enjoyed. So perhaps it is time to do something different? To create a new meaning, or rekindle old feelings?

A regular December ritual of giving at The Terrace involves the distribution of Advent candles. All in the connected circle lights the candle for the day marked (being careful to blow it out as the next mark is reached!) and takes time to contemplate what this time of year means to them and the things that are important to them. It doesn’t have to be at the same time of day and no-one is checked up on so everyone loves it and feels connected through the Christmas period – thinking of each other and the year travelled, and offering a reminder of years past.

So why not pop out and buy some candles to offer to your own ‘circle’? They aren’t expensive and don’t tempt you to eat a week in one go as some of the chocolate calendars do! Perhaps some people won’t be able to engage with the idea – that doesn’t matter. It still offers them the chance to think about the people they connect with and could prompt a rekindling of relationships that have drifted over the year.

Touch For Health – an approach to wellness

touch-for-healthDriving home the other day I pulled the lever to wash my windscreen and nothing happened. The windscreen wash bottle was empty.  It was empty because I hadn’t thought to check it while it was still working.

Cars are a bit like our bodies. While everything is ok and they’re working well we don’t really think about them. Both need fuel at regular intervals and benefit from regular cleaning! It is only when you hear an unusual rattle or rumble coming from your car that you think that it might need some attention. Our bodies give us clues too. A headache, insomnia, stomach problems, a cold or a stiff neck can sometimes be early warning signs that the body is needing some attention.

Touch For Health encourages you to think about how your body is working beyond the anatomical and physiological aspects. A Touch For Health balance allows you to explore what is happening in your life in three dimensions – physical, physiological and psychological. By identifying what you would like to change about any of these dimensions you are working with the Touch For Health practitioner towards a state of optimum health.  In reality achieving this perfect state is difficult given all the challenges that life puts our way each day!

Try to imagine the three dimensions as each side of a triangle. Excessive pressure on anyone of these dimensions completely distorts the triangle and the body gives signs of dis-ease. An example is where emotional/ mental stress impacts on the functioning of the endocrine and nervous systems which in turn causes a negative impact on muscles and the body’s vital organs. Touch For Health works with the body’s energy systems to encourage healing and restore harmony.

If you would like to find out more about how you can influence your own health using the Touch For Health approach Irene Cox will be giving a talk and demonstration at The Terrace, 35 Staplegrove Road, Taunton TA1 1DG on Monday 23rd September at 6.30.

Irene Cox is a qualified Touch For Health practitioner, having met the standards set by the International Kinesiology College and an ITEC qualified holistic therapist. She works with children and adults at The Terrace in Staplegrove Road, Taunton.  For further information ring 01823 338968, email or

Acupuncture for Health

At The Terrace we are keen to ‘demysify’ some of the therapies that may still be something of a mystery to many. Complimentary therapies can offer wonderful health benefits, but it is important that anyone considering a treatment is fully informed about what to expect.

So today we look at acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been practised in China for about 3,500 years, although the exact date of its origin is not known.  A legend says that this complex healing system developed when it was noticed that soldiers who survived arrow wounds in battle sometimes also recovered from other long-standing ailments. In the intervening years it has been thoroughly researched and practised. Indeed, one-quarter of the world’s population rely on it.

However, there are some who are still reluctant to try acupuncture as a therapy. We are fortunate, here at The Terrace, to have an exceptionally well-qualified and committed practitioner working with us.

alsion courtneyAlison Courtney, registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist for 20 years, has returned from Guangzhou in China having received high recognition after successfully completing her MSc in Chinese medicine.

Alison is passionate about the therapeutic effects of acupuncture, using the traditional magnetic methods of pulse and tongue observation. Imbalances are addressed by inserting fine needles into acu-points to restore health and harmony.  Some key conditions treated include tension or migraine headaches, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and temporomandibular pain.

Her observational methods include an  inspection of your tongue, skin texture and colouring, hair texture, posture and movement. Voice is also important.

A full medical history will be taken and an understanding of lifestyle, stresses and sleep patterns is key.

Some people worry that acupuncture is painful, but it is primarily relaxing and you may be left feeling so relaxed that sleepiness is the main response. Fine. disposable needles are used and left in for between just a few minutes to up to half an hour, depending on the condition treated. Most people find it painless, although there may be a slight tingling sensation at the point of entry as the ‘meridians’ or acupuncture points transfer energy and re balance. Give yourself plenty of time, avoid strenuous activity and, if possible, rest for a while.

Alison is offering you a free 20 minutes to talk about any health concern and gauge whether acupuncture could be helpful for you.  You can come into The Terrace at a pre-arranged time or have a telephone call.

Ring 01823 338968 to speak with Alison,  or email




Jane Gotto

The Terrace Humanistic Psychotherapy and Complementary Health Centre is based in Taunton, in the heart of the beautiful county of Somerset. Many therapists work with us, offering a wide range of counselling services, complementary health and massage and manipulation therapies.

Here at The Terrace we have become increasingly aware of the importance of raising awareness of the importance of our emotional and physical well-being. Engaging via social media and this blog is our way of communicating those messages we consider important.

We hope you will find what we have to say interesting. We don’t expect you to agree with everything we have to say; in fact we would like to encourage debate and the therapists who work with us will be happy to share their own thoughts on both psychotherapy and complementary therapies.

We hope to dispel some some of the myths around the different types of therapy available and why there are different approaches in practice, acknowledging that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to complex issues.

So do please comment and share your thoughts. You can like us on twitter as @terraceclinic and on Facebook at To find out more about us and the therapies we offer see our website at

Thank you for listening. Lets Talk!

Jane Gotto

Founder & Director, The Terrace, Taunton.