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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

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Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 6

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 16: CHANGE A NEGATIVE TO A POSITIVE

Take a negative self-statement and re-word it to create a positive affirmation or at least a more neutral statement. Our brains are hard-wired to look for the negative because being aware of danger is what allowed our ancestors to survive. We still need that ability to some extent, but we have attained a higher level of development which allows us to focus more on satisfaction and contentment in life rather than survival.

Therefore, we need to over-ride that hard-wiring to look more at the positive aspects of ourselves and of life. One way to fight this tendency is to deliberately develop positive self-statements or affirmations. Once you have done so, you want to review these affirmations frequently to help your brain focus in a more positive and effective direction.

The "Happiness Journal" included in the Happy Habits app helps you to develop these affirmations based upon a number of different areas of life experience. If you have particular difficulty with self-esteem and need to develop affirmations directed at the self-concept, you can use Excel At Life's Self-Esteem Blackboard app which will help you with the steps of the affirmation development.

SUGGESTION 17: PUT A WORRY AWAY

A common obstacle to happiness for many people is the tendency to worry or catastrophize about future events. The problem with worry is that it is making a negative assumption that something will have a bad outcome when you may not actually know that to be true. As a result, it creates stress and other negative symptoms.

Worry is a thinking style that can be changed like any of the thinking styles. If this is an obstacle for you, download the "Worry Box--Anxiety Self-Help" app by Excel At Life to learn the methods to control worry. The app helps you to identify whether a worry is important and controllable and how to handle it by putting it away in your Worry Box. It has additional audios and articles to learn how to manage worry. The articles and audios are also available on this website.

SUGGESTION 18: TAKE A WALK

Even light activity can be effective to help you focus positively on your health. Engaging in healthy physical behaviors adds to the opportunity to create happiness. Without physical activity your body becomes more sluggish and with lack of use is likely to deteriorate. This leads to additional physical stress on the body to function which becomes an obstacle to happiness.

Taking a walk can help you focus in a positive way and is a healthy behavior. The more you take care of your body, the more you create the conditions for happiness. Any amount of walking is okay even if you don't feel able to do much. The important thing is to create healthy behaviors and routines. In addition, taking a walk provides an opportunity to experience other pleasant events such as enjoying the scenery or speaking to a neighbor.

SUGGESTION 19: EAT A PIECE OF FRUIT

Focus on simple behaviors that can help improve your health. It may seem like a trivial suggestion to eat a piece of fruit. However, it means much more. Too often people don't focus on self-care. They are too busy or distracted to do simple things that are physically healthy.

Eating a piece of fruit represents doing something simple that is healthy for you. As you focus on doing something healthy for yourself, you are changing your thinking. You are thinking that it is a high priority to take care of yourself and you are taking a reasonable step in the right direction rather than demanding too much of yourself.

SUGGESTION 20: CALL A FRIEND

Social contact has been shown to contribute to overall happiness. Happiness is highly associated with affiliation. Therefore, contacting a friend can help for several reasons. One is that you are engaging in an activity which has potential to provide you with a degree of enjoyment. Another is that social contact stimulates different areas of the brain.

In addition, you are distracting yourself from potential negative thoughts and more likely to replace them with something positive. Also, social support is helpful when you are experiencing problems. It can be helpful to get someone else's perspective or just enjoy a pleasurable activity with someone.

Keep in mind that calling a friend means actual contact. Texting or emailing doesn't provide the same type of interaction or the same benefit. READ MORE: page 7



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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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