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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 11

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
"Happiness is not something you achieve. In fact, the more you try to find happiness, the less likely you will be happy. Happiness occurs by how you live your life."
Now on kindle! Tap to purchase Dr. Frank's articles from Amazon for $2.99. Text-to-speech enabled.


Meditation is a mindful activity that helps you release beneficial brain chemicals to improve well-being. Meditation can involve a variety of different techniques such as prayerful meditation or mindfulness meditation or Transcendental Meditation.

Whatever the method used, the process and outcome is very similar. The process involves a deep, focused awareness and the outcome involves a greater sense of well-being or peacefulness.

Meditation helps you to access the alpha brain wave state which is a healing state that assists the body with managing life stresses. In addition, meditation has been shown to help reduce the sensation of pain and discomfort. The more you practice meditation techniques, the more easily it becomes to achieve this healthy state and experience the sense of well-being.

The Qi Gong videos included on this website are a type of physical meditation that can be particularly beneficial for those who have difficulty with the less active methods provided in the audios available on this website.


To counter-act the tendency towards negativity it is necessary to deliberately focus on creating a positive pathway in the brain. Our emotions can become associated with particular pathways in the brain that may become easily triggered the more these pathways are reinforced. Unfortunately, negative states such as stress tend to reinforce the negative pathways which then increase the experience

of the stress symptoms.

To counter-act this automatic pathway, it is necessary to deliberately create a positive pathway through frequent reinforcement so that the positive pathway becomes more easily triggered. You may not be able to get rid of the negative pathway, but you can make the positive pathway stronger so that it becomes automatic rather than the negative pathway.

One way of doing this is to create a list of positive experiences and aspects of yourself to help you focus on the good parts of your life. If you do the suggestions in this app, many of them are meant to create positive experiences or attitudes. Write these experiences down and reinforce them in your mind by reviewing them frequently. The Happiness Journal part of the Happy Habits app includes a way to record positive experiences.


Emotions help to navigate confusing pathways. Listen to your emotions to obtain information and to help you make decisions. Many people have problems with emotions. They are either over-controlled in their emotional responses or under-controlled. In other words, they are at the mercy of their emotional state.

However, emotions are meant to provide us information about our experience in the world. Then we take that information, evaluate, and determine what we can do about it, weigh our options, and then behave according to the decision we have made.

Research has shown that happy people are more likely to engage in this process and make use of their emotions. However, over-controlled people tend to ignore the emotional information. As a result, they have more trouble solving problems that have an emotional component. It is important for the over-controlled person to recognize emotions and listen to the information provided by emotions. In addition, the over-controlled person can be helped by learning to access positive, calming emotional states.

In a similar way, those with under-controlled emotions need to learn to use emotions accurately. They need to learn how to have more control over their emotions rather than letting emotions control them. So often people think that they have no control over the emotions they feel: "It's just how I feel!"

Although we may not have complete control especially with the emotions that are reactions to events or situations, we do have control over much of what we feel. If you consider most emotions, they are re-experienced emotions. In other words, we keep emotions present by reviewing them over and over. If someone does something you don't like, you might think of what occurred repeatedly, keeping alive the emotion of anger or irritation.

We have a great deal of control over these re-experienced emotions because we are creating them. They are not spontaneous reactions but a choiceful focus. Therefore, we can make a different choice. We can choose how we want to review a situation. For example, you can focus on the idea that the other person was inconsiderate which only keeps you in an agitated state or you can focus on the idea that the other person has been under significant stress and reacted without thinking which may help to calm you.

Learning to access different emotional states at will can benefit you by reducing the negative states. With the above example, changing the emotional state was done cognitively by changing the perspective of the situation. However, accessing different emotional states can also be done through an audio training method called Rainbow Relaxation Emotion Training that helps you pair certain colors with certain emotional states. Then, when you want to access that emotional state you can imagine the color associated with it. This is a more advanced method so you need to listen to the audio repeatedly until the association occurs. Then, you may still need to listen to the audio at times to keep the association reinforced. READ MORE: page 12


The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)--page 1

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
"...happiness doesn't come with fireworks and a parade. Instead, it sneaks in quietly as the night so that you don't realize it has been there for awhile."
The first and most important key to finding happiness may be the most difficult for many people (especially those reading this article): To find happiness you must not seek it! In other words, the more you try to find happiness, the more it will elude you. I think Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) said it best, “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

However, don't be discouraged. You can do many things to create a life where happiness is more likely to find you. Yet, the same caveat applies: If you do everything for the purpose of finding happiness, you may achieve much, but you are not likely to find happiness. Researcher Mauss and colleagues (2012) who found that the higher the value a person places on being happy, the more likely they are to be unhappy, stated, “encouraging a mindset to maximize happiness (as some “self-help” books do) may be counterproductive.”

The reason happiness becomes elusive the more you strive for it is due to creating a fixed desire of achieving happiness. If you have read some of my previous articles, you know that a fixed desire is a demand that something has to occur, or be true, or be achieved in order to be happy. Demands, or “shoulds,” are irrational thinking styles that create conditions for stress and unhappiness. Most of the time these demands take the form of “To be happy, I must be thin and wealthy” or “I must find the love of my dreams” or “I must have a fulfilling job.” In fact, a fixed desire can be almost anything. It could be "I should feel good today" or "My son should get an A on his exam."

However, typically the demands are not completely under the control of the individual and/or they are externally focused which means that the individual may not be able to make these things occur even with a great deal of effort. Therefore, this demand attitude allows happiness to be at the whim of the external world.

In the case of happiness itself, many people make the attainment of happiness a fixed desire: “I must be happy.” However, it is only when we realize that we don't need to be happy that we can find happiness. As William Saroyan (1908-1981) said in My Heart's in the Highlands “The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.”

The difference between a fixed desire and a desire or a goal is that the latter doesn't connect personal happiness with the outcome. For instance, a person may desire to find a fulfilling job but doesn't demand that it has to occur.

Interestingly, people who have desires rather than demands may be more likely to achieve their goals (Berg, Janoff-Bulman, & Cotter, 2001) possibly because they are more motivated and less discouraged. When the very essence of happiness is dependent upon the achievement of a goal, striving towards that goal can be quite overwhelming and even frightening: “What if I fail?”

The one time I experienced test anxiety was just as I started to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that would affect my entrance into graduate school to become a psychologist. Just before I picked up my pencil, I said to myself, “This is the most important test you will ever take. If you don't do well, your life will be ruined.” My anxiety shot up as I opened the booklet to read the first question which might as well have been written in Russian because I couldn't comprehend a single word. Fortunately, I knew enough about self-talk and recognized what I had done to myself, so I put my pencil down, did five minutes of deep breathing and told myself, “This test doesn't matter. If you fail, all it means is that your life will take a different path.” That is the difference between a fixed desire and a desire.

The Tao te Ching (also known as “The Book of the Way” which I think of as early cognitive therapy) states, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” If you reflect on this statement you may realize that to give everything up, you must also give up the desire to be given everything. Very paradoxical and mind-boggling, isn't it? But that is the first step: To find happiness you must not seek it.

Similarly, Charles Dickens stated in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, “Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”

However, that being said, let's discuss how to achieve happiness. Actually, how to create the conditions so that happiness can find you. The work to finding happiness is to remove the obstacles to happiness. READ MORE: page 2

Intro  to Secret of Happiness--page 1

What Is Happiness?--page 2

Is Happiness Possible for Everyone?--page 3

What Intentional Behaviors Can Influence Happiness?--page 4

How Do You Choose Which Intentional Behaviors to Pursue?--page 5

A Final Word About How to Know Happiness When it Finds You--page 6

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

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