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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

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When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

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

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

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7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 3

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."
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SUGGESTION 5: CHANGE IRRATIONAL THINKING

One of the common obstacles to happiness is irrational thinking styles that contribute to emotional instability, conflict in relationships, and addictions.

Learn about recognizing and changing this thinking.

By using CBT to identify irrational thinking styles that can impact happiness, you can learn how to challenge and change the thinking. You may be thinking "How does therapy help with happiness? I just need to have what I want and I'll be happy." The best way to understand this is to understand that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very specific type of therapy and may not be the type that comes to mind for most people.

CBT is about solutions. Although past events may be discussed at times, CBT is about how to overcome those influences and live your life to the best of your ability now, in the present. CBT is about examining the obstacles to achieving your goals and learning the necessary skills to overcome these obstacles. Developing greater happiness in your life means creating the proper conditions by engaging in healthy lifestyle practices.

Happiness is the simplest thing in the world and the most difficult thing as well. The reason it is the most difficult is because you need to let go of ingrained ways of thinking about happiness and quit seeking it in the wrong way. The reason it is the simplest is because once you let go of these ways of thinking, happiness can simply be. You realize you don't need to seek it.

This website has many articles to help you understand unhealthy thinking styles and how you can change them. In addition, the Cognitive Styles Test helps you understand what thinking styles are problematic for you and the Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help app provides the tools for changing the thinking.

SUGGESTION 6: READ ARTICLE ABOUT RELAXATION

Not only do relaxation methods help to reduce the experience of stress, deep relaxation can change the chemical balance. Read more about how deep relaxation methods can help you improve mood at a chemical level.

Reading the article Why Are Meditative Relaxation and Mindfulness Important? about relaxation and mindfulness can help you understand the mindful approach to life. Mindfulness doesn't always mean that you will just experience pleasurable emotions. It means that you can fully experience and use all emotions in the present to help you navigate the complexities of life.

Relaxation can be a pleasant state that is created by changing our neurochemistry. Deep relaxation releases norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter (chemical) in the brain that creates calmness and is the opposite of adrenalin which causes agitation and tension. So, regular deep relaxation can increase norepinephrine which counter-acts the effects of adrenalin.

However, relaxation does not create happiness; it only helps to make us more receptive to happiness due to better management of our emotions. In fact, for some people relaxation by itself can be an artificial means of trying to achieve happiness and can be just as addicting and destructive as other artificial means such as drugs. However, combined with a mindful approach to life relaxation can further contribute to positive life experiences and setting the stage for happiness.

SUGGESTION 7: LISTEN TO RELAXATION AUDIO

Regularly using the deep relaxation methods can help improve your resistance to stress and generally improve your mood which can increase overall happiness. If you read the article about meditative relaxation, you understand that the more you engage in deep relaxation, the more it helps with reducing negative symptoms and improving mood. Generally, research has shown that happy people have less chronic tension.

The relaxation audios on this website are one method of achieving deep relaxation. If you are new to doing relaxation, you may find at first that your mind wanders and it is difficult to focus. It is okay if that occurs because if you continue listening, overtime you will find yourself more able to relax. As with any skill, relaxation improves with practice. However, don't try to force yourself to relax because that only increases tension. Just listen to the audio and gently bring your attention back to the audio when your mind wanders.

Also, you might prefer other relaxation audios you find elsewhere. That's okay, too. Use whatever works best for you. READ MORE: page 4



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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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