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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 4

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 8: ASSESS YOUR HAPPINESS

The Happy Habits app includes a test "Your Happiness Assessment" to help you identify the obstacles to your happiness (soon to be on this website as well). A number of obstacles can interfere with allowing happiness into your life. Understanding your obstacles as well as your strengths can help you create the conditions for happiness to find you.

The app contains a test "Your Happiness Assessment" to help you examine happiness in your life and to provide direction and suggestions for improving your opportunity for happiness. The test consists of 119 items that assess 14 different factors that contribute to happiness: optimism, health activities, locus of control, compassion, trusting of others, affiliation, pleasantness, emotional stability, conscientiousness, assertiveness, self-confidence, gratefulness, approval-seeking, and playfulness.

As this assessment is meant for self-improvement, some of the information may be uncomfortable because it can be difficult to look at yourself. However, by honestly responding you can obtain greater insight into yourself which can lead to developing a plan to removing the obstacles to happiness.

SUGGESTION 9: TAKE OR REVIEW THE COGNITIVE STYLES TEST

Take a test to learn about your thinking styles that can contribute to stress and prevent satisfaction and happiness in life. Download the app "Irrational Thinking CBT Test" by Excel At Life (test soon to be on website) and take the test to learn about your cognitive styles. Your cognitive styles can show you the areas of your thinking that can interfere with developing the conditions for happiness.

If you find that you have irrational thinking styles based on the results of the test, you will likely find the methods of cognitive therapy such as the cognitive diary helpful to improving your life. By using these techniques you can remove the obstacles to success, satisfaction, and happiness in your life.

Once you take the test, it is important to frequently review the results so that you can keep in mind the thinking that you need to address. As with any of the CBT methods, the more repetition the more benefit can be obtained. This test can also be emailed so that you can share it or have access to it outside of the app.

SUGGESTION 10: READ ABOUT USING THE COGNITIVE DIARY

The cognitive diary is an important tool for changing irrational thinking that can interfere with creating the conditions for happiness. It is a CBT method that helps you to change irrational thinking by recording events that occur, your feelings and self-talk in reaction to the event, and how you can challenge the irrational self-talk.

Often people are aware of how their self-talk discourages them or prevents them from achieving what they want but they feel as if they can't change the way they think. Research with cognitive therapy has shown that thinking can be changed with frequent attention and repetition of the more accurate self-talk.

It is not enough to just know that your thought may be inaccurate or irrational, you need to deliberately and consciously change the thought to one that will allow you to handle a situation better. The cognitive diary provides the means for doing this. You can download the app "Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help" by Excel At Life to help you challenge this thinking. In addition, read the article Undersanding and Using the Cognitive Diary. This website has a cognitive form to help you learn how to use the diary format.

SUGGESTION 11: USE THE HAPPINESS JOURNAL

The Happy Habits app includes a Happiness Journal where you can record daily affirmations and write about positive events in your life. Keeping a daily record allows you to review your list in Affirmation History. Reviewing your list is an important CBT tool because repetition helps people to change ways of thinking or to establish new behaviors. The more you review your list, the more it helps you keep a positive outlook.

The daily affirmations includes a list of examples from different areas of life that you can use as they are or modify to fit you. The positive events can be anything you want, they don't have to be major events. In fact, it is best to include small things that you would otherwise forget such as "I listened to the birds singing on my daily walk" or "I saw a meteor shower looking up into the night sky."

In addition, you may create a daily to do list from the Suggestions list. As you remove items from the list, they will be included in your daily Points list. You may also manually add items to your daily Points list. You can edit your entries or write an entry for a previous date that you missed.

For those who don't have an Android device you can still use the same concept of writing affirmations and positive events to review. READ MORE: page 5



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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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