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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 13

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.


Most people are aware that music can create a mood. Listening to uplifting music tends to create a more positive focus. It can stimulate the brain and release chemicals that help to calm the system and focus the mind.

Create playlists of music that can create the mood you choose. You can have several different playlists. For instance, create a playlist of songs that always make you smile. Create a playlist of songs that energize you. Create a playlist of songs that motivate you.

Listen to the playlist that creates the mood you choose. Although music by itself cannot make you happy, it can help create the conditions for happiness in your life because you are making a choice to take control of your life.


Choose your emotional states rather than trying to justify an emotional state. Happy people have control over their emotions, not by avoiding them but by using them. Too often people try to justify their emotions rather than making a choice about emotions.

For example, someone who is angry listens to angry music which then reinforces the angry state of mind. Therefore, the person tends to remain in that state rather than taking control of the problem that created the state.

The same thing occurs with fears. A person may dwell on a feared situation and seek out information that confirms the fear rather than seeking out disconfirming information.

Keep in mind that emotions are to serve you, not you serve them. Happy people don't avoid emotions but they don't dwell on the negative emotions either. They allow emotions to serve their purpose but they don't keep re-creating negative states.


Happy people tend to be deeply involved with others. They care about helping others and will make the effort to make a difference in their lives. When you make the effort to help someone else, it often gives you much more in return. Helping others allows you to feel more connected to the world and can provide meaning to life.

Happy people tend to have a connection to something greater than themselves. For some people this can be their spiritual beliefs but it doesn't have to be. When you believe that you have a sense of purpose, that what you do has meaning, it helps to create the conditions for happiness in your life. Giving your time to help someone else is placing importance on something outside of yourself.


Taking responsibility for your actions helps you to make better decisions in your life which leads to better outcomes. Many unhappy people tend to blame everyone and everything else for their misfortune. They see themselves as controlled by forces outside of themselves such as luck or circumstances. They tend to believe that successful and happy people are just more fortunate.

However, happy people tend to take responsibility for their actions whether good or bad. This doesn't mean they are overly critical of themselves, but when they make mistakes they assess the situation and their decisions so they can make improvements. Such a willingness to assess themselves honestly often leads to better outcomes. As a result, happier people tend to create more success in their lives.

In addition, when happy people succeed they allow themselves to fully enjoy their success. They don't feel guilty or undeserving of success because they are also willing to accept failure.

Therefore, you can create the conditions for happiness in your life by being more willing to accept responsibility for your decisions and actions. However, responsibility does not mean just apologizing or feeling regret for mistakes but it means truly taking corrective action.


When in doubt, do the nice thing. When you are confronted with a choice that tends to cause uncertainty and inaction, choose the nice thing.

Many times in life we are confronted with situations in which we are uncertain how to act. For instance, a friend of yours lost a loved one and you are thinking of your friend on the anniversary of the death. However, you are uncertain whether to say anything for fear of causing pain. When in doubt, take action and do the nice thing. In this circumstance, it means go ahead and contact your friend. If what you thought was the nice thing turns out to be wrong, at least you tried. But more times than not, your efforts will be appreciated.

There are so many times when people do nothing because they are uncertain whether their instinct is right or not. For instance, you see someone crying on the bus. Your first instinct may be to ask if you can help, but then you tell yourself that it is not your business. When in doubt, do the nice thing.

Simple opportunities to do the nice thing occur everyday. Sometimes it can just be smiling at someone or wishing them a good day. How you treat others impacts how you feel about yourself. Happier people are simply nicer people.


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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