Seven Steps to Happiness

“Happiness is a skillset that can be learned,” says leading psychologist and bestselling author Dr Elia Gourgouris.

Dr Elia Gourgouris is one of the world’s leading authorities on leading a more joyful life. He’s the author of the bestselling book ‘7 Paths to Lasting Happiness’, the president of The Happiness Center, which is a collective of positive psychologists from around the world, and a respected corporate coach promoting compassionate leadership. “Happiness is a choice,” he tells us. “And it is also a skillset that can be learned. For some people, happiness is part of their DNA, and part of the environment in which they grew up. But that’s not true for everyone. So even if happiness doesn’t come easily to you, if you do certain things consistently, it can become second nature.” To accompany our lead story this edition, celebrating the release of Orlebar Brown’s Happy collection by examining what happiness means to four successful men, we asked Dr Elia to share his seven steps to a happier life with our Mr Feelgood community.


“The first and foremost path to happiness is self-care, meaning how well we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And that’s not a hobby, that’s life. I dedicate a lot of time to self-care, and practice mindfulness, and it has now become second nature to me. I do these things myself, because otherwise not only would I be a hypocrite, I also wouldn’t be happy.”


“You cannot be grateful and depressed at the same time. Because when we’re in a state of gratitude, there are different chemicals that are released in our brain that counterbalance any kind of depressive issue. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well in your life. The key for lasting happiness is finding gratitude in adversity. We are all graduates from the University of Adversity. And the older we get, the higher our degree. The great Nelson Mandela’s philosophy was that in life you either win, or you learn. There’s no losing. Because as long as you can learn from adversity, and then use it to improve your life, then you haven’t lost anything. Actually, you’ve learned valuable lessons.”


“The most important type of forgiveness is self-forgiveness. I’ve had thousands and thousands of patients and clients over the last 35 years, and self-forgiveness is missing in action. One of my expertise was addictions, and when we’re in the fullness of an addiction, we have self-defeating thoughts, self-destructive behaviors, we destroy relationships, our work, and so on. I’ve worked with hundreds of addicts who sober up and get better. In my last interview as their doctor, I ask them, ‘Do you feel like your spouse has forgiven you? How about your children? How about your boss?’ They answer, ‘Yes.’ Then I ask, ‘Have you forgiven yourself?’ And the most common answer, of course, is, ‘No.’ The answer I want to hear is, ‘I’m working on it.’ To me, there’s no greater act of self-compassion than self-forgiveness.”


“People who know what their purpose in life is, and more importantly live it, are far happier. And I feel very blessed that I learned my purpose in life very early on. When I was five years old, my grandfather said to me, ‘My boy, if you do something good for somebody else, every day, you will be the richest man in the world.’ And for some reason, this made total sense to my five-year-old brain, and I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. It’s not expensive, it’s not materialism, it’s a mindset of giving, and serving, and loving. Know your purpose in life and live it daily.”


“This is all about listening to that voice inside, whatever you attribute it to. If you’re a religious person, it could be the holy spirit, if you’re not, it could be your intuition, your higher power, or your inner wisdom. I personally don’t care what you call it, as long as you listen to it and then act upon the promptings you receive. So live mindfully, enjoy nature and quiet, meditate, listen, and do whatever you need to to feed that spirit.”


“You can do all the great things we’ve discussed, but if you surround yourself with toxic and negative people, they can empty your happiness account overnight. So, it’s important to not only be in healthy relationships, but also to eliminate toxic relationships from your life. It’s not that hard. If I treat you with love, kindness, and respect, then I have every right to expect that you in return will treat me with love, kindness, and respect. And if you don’t, then you and I are going to have an honest, open, and transparent conversation. And if you don’t change, I’m going to cut you from my life.”


“Happy people by nature always perform acts of kindness towards others because they have a lot to give. And on the flip side, when we perform acts of service, or acts of kindness, something happens inside our brains and our hearts that is very rewarding. So kindness is great for the giver, as much as it is for the receiver. It makes us healthy and happy, and works both ways.”

Pete began his career on Fleet Street more than two decades ago, and has worked for some of the world’s biggest news, entertainment, and wellness companies as a writer, editor, and media executive. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to help demystify the world of personal development, and to encourage men to discuss and improve their mental health, by sharing the wisdom and lessons learned of inspiring artists and leaders.

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