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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

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

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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 5

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 12: SEND HAPPINESS JOURNAL ENTRY

Sharing a positive event or affirmation about yourself can reinforce these positive notions in your mind. The Happy Habits app allows you to email your daily entry. You can do this in other ways, too, such as creating positive events posts on Facebook or other social media.

Also, sometimes it may be difficult to create an affirmation or focus on the positives if you are not used to it. So sharing your events can allow you to get the perspective of another person.

SUGGESTION 13: COMPARE YOURSELF POSITIVELY

People are always engaging in social comparison. However, happier people use social comparison to motivate them or to help them recognize what is positive about themselves or their life.

Social comparison is noticing how other people and their lives compare to you and your life. When you tend to notice how others are better than you or have more than you, you are more likely to feel worse about yourself. In addition, you are likely to feel jealous of others' success rather than feel genuinely happy for them.

This approach is likely to lead to low self-esteem and unhappiness. However, if you recognize that your abilities and your life circumstances are not set in stone, that much is changeable, you can begin to use social comparison as a motivator rather than being discouraged by your comparison to others.

In other words, happier people see other people's success as encouraging. They recognize that they can learn from successful people and make changes in their lives to increase opportunities for success. They see others as role models rather than as competitors.

Because they view others' success in this way, they can also feel genuine joy at their accomplishments. As with many emotions, this joy is often reflected back to them from others. Thus, this attitude is likely to contribute to the conditions for happiness.

SUGGESTION 14: PURSUE SUCCESS INSTEAD OF AVOID FAILURE

Focusing on achieving success or striving for excellence rather than on the fear of failure helps you to create the conditions for success and happiness. Many people are driven to achieve because they don't want to be seen as a failure. Their accomplishments are due to fear of failure or to obtain social approval. Such a negative approach tends to be stressful which can contribute to feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

However, people who focus on pursuing success in a positive way rather than avoiding failure tend to be happier people. They tend to see the process of pursuing goals as enjoyable and have a high commitment to achieving the goals. The outcome of whether they are successful or not is not as important as the process of engaging in the pursuit of goals.

In addition, this attitude contributes to the likelihood of making greater progress towards goals which reinforces the process.

SUGGESTION 15: DON'T DWELL, DO!

Instead of dwelling on past mistakes or worries about future outcomes, focus on doing. Dwelling on things tends to lead to paralysis rather than accomplishment. Happier people tend to let go of past mistakes and failures more quickly.

In addition, they aren't as likely to dwell on negative emotions. They tend to use emotions for problem-solving, and if the emotion is no longer useful, they move on. You can do the same thing by using emotions to help you take action. When you are dissatisfied with something, do something about it. When you are hurt or angry, communicate about it and try to solve the problem.

Happier people take action. If you want to create the conditions for happiness in your life, you need to take the necessary steps. Happiness doesn't fall out of the sky. You create it! READ MORE: page 6



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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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