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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 12

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.
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SUGGESTION 42: LISTEN TO LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

Creating an attitude of loving kindness towards all things helps you to feel more content and at peace. A common obstacle to happiness is negative attitudes towards others. These attitudes may create a self-fulfilling prophecy by expecting negative reactions from others, treating others according to this expectation, and then getting a negative response.

If you experience this problem, you need to change this negative attitude for your sake. You are hurting yourself with this attitude because your negativity only draws negativity or avoidance from others rather than support and encouragement.

One way of changing this attitude is the Loving Kindness Meditation from Buddhist psychology which uses the principles of Buddhism but is not a religious practice. This meditation has you focus in a positive way towards others and towards yourself. The more you develop this attitude you are able to be more at peace which creates the conditions for happiness.

SUGGESTION 43: LISTEN TO THE COMPASSION MEDITATION

Happy people tend to have a great deal of compassion for others. As they do not see others as adversaries, they tend to feel deeply for others' misfortune.

Happiness has been found to be associated with compassion for others. Unhappy people tend to be focused on their own suffering and to not be as concerned about other people. If you have this style, this attitude will present as being uncaring or self-centered to others which has the effect of others not being as sympathetic towards you. As a result, instead of getting the compassion and concern you need from others, you get negativity and avoidance.

Many people think that the way to get the compassion from others is to demand it by talking more about their problems or complaining about the lack of sympathy. However, you are more likely to get what you need by developing a more compassionate and caring attitude towards others first.

The Compassion Mediation audio helps you to do this. Listening to it daily allows you to develop a different attitude. The Compassion Meditation is a more advanced meditation from Buddhist psychology. It is best to be familiar with the Loving Kindness Meditation before using this meditation.

SUGGESTION 44: REDUCE SUBSTANCE ABUSE

As previously stated, happy people use emotions appropriately. Therefore, they do not avoid emotions by using substances, but confront problems directly. An important condition for happiness is healthy lifestyle practices. Many people use substances as an artificial means to create happiness. Substances refers to food, alcohol or drugs (even prescription drugs used inappropriately). How often do you hear people say "I unwind with a drink" or "I'm stressed. I need some chocolate."

Overusing these substances leads to an unhealthy balance in the body. Focus on reducing or replacing the reliance on substances. Use other means to help you cope with life stress.

The recommended healthy daily amount of alcohol is two drinks for a man and one drink for a woman. If you are exceeding this amount you may be using alcohol as an artificial means to feel better. Use the other methods found on this website to help you create conditions to find true well-being.

Even caffeine can be a substance that can create problems. Although caffeine in small doses is not harmful or likely to cause this negative cycle, higher doses are almost always a problem. Although it can vary with different people, generally 300mg. or less a day shouldn't cause problems. When a person reaches 1000mg a day, they can have heart palpitations, agitation, and muscular tension. To put the dosage in perspective, an 8 ounce cup of coffee is 100-150mg., 8 ounces of tea is about 25mg., and the same amount of soda is about 40mg. WARNING: If you decide to reduce your caffeine intake, do it gradually. Suddenly withdrawing from caffeine can lead to severe withdrawal effects similar to have a bad flu for a week or so.

If you are using other drugs to cope with stress, you may need assistance to assess your situation and determine what you need to do.

Many people have found that certain foods can lead to a temporary elevation of mood. However, using foods for this purpose is likely to lead to unhealthy eating behaviors which tend to increase stress and negative mood in the long-term.

SUGGESTION 45: CHANGE A CATASTROPHE TO AN INCONVENIENCE

Approaching problems as catastrophes assures increased negativity and feelings of being overwhelmed. A common obstacle to happiness is the tendency for some people generally, and for many people under stress conditions, to view every problem that occurs as a catastrophe. This usually leads to increased feelings of being overwhelmed. It is important to put problems into perspective so that you can cope better.

Most things in life, if not life and death situations, are inconveniences. The more you can view a problem as an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe, you will be better able to cope with it. Changing your attitude about a problem can change the degree of stress the problem causes.

Read the article Catastrophe? Or, Inconvenience? If you have difficulty thinking in this way, you might find the Cognitive Diary exercises to be helpful. You can write about situations and determine ways to think differently about them. READ MORE: page 13



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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 Tau 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



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Dr. Monica Frank



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