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Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career





CBT

Jealousy

Depression

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Happiness

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POPULAR ARTICLES

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

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

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

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

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

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Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

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Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

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Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

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Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

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Lies You Were Told

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The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)--page 3

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Tap to Listen to Article
"...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."

Is Happiness Possible for Everyone?

Generally, the psychological literature has shown that happiness is due to genetics, life circumstances, and intentional behavior (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998) Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005). The bad news is that a significant portion is related to genetics. However, the good news is that a significant portion is related to intentional behavior.

1) Genetics.
About 50% of an individual's degree of happiness appears to be due to genetic influences. Such factors include personality traits, negative emotional states, and excitability. The genetic aspect of happiness may not be very changeable, however as Rick Hansen, author of Buddha's Brain (2009), indicates, that by being aware of the human tendency towards negativity we are able to take steps to counteract it.

Researchers Kristina DeNeve and Harris Cooper (1998) suggested based upon their meta-analysis of 148 studies with over 42,000 participants that the most influential personality traits on happiness in order of importance are: (1) affiliation, (2) perceived control, (3) emotional stability, (4) internal locus of control, (5) social desirability, (6) sociability, and (7) extraversion. However, as you may be aware by examining the list, many of these are interrelated. But there are distinctions. For example, extraversion may suggest a personal style of relating to others whereas affiliation may refer to the overall quality of relationships.

Although the idea that genetics can account for 50% of a person's happiness can be discouraging especially if you are low in those personality traits, there are reasons for optimism regarding pursuing happiness and recognizing that genes are not destiny. In particular, researchers have found that CBT interventions and developing certain attitudes can increase happiness. Also, older people are generally happier than younger people indicating some influence that can override genetics. Therefore, it is believed that genetics can have some indirect influence but a person is capable of making choices regarding change (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005). For instance, although excitability may be genetically programmed, the experience of anxiety or agitation can be reduced through certain meditations, relaxation, and cognitive methods.

2) Life Circumstances.
Probably the most surprising factor as it relates to happiness is the contribution of life circumstances. Although many philosophers have indicated otherwise, the general belief by the public has been that life circumstances contribute a great deal to happiness and unhappiness. However, research has shown that even major life changes only account for 8 to 15% of a person's happiness (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998, Lyubomirsky, 2001).

What this means is that the things that happen to us such as illness, injury, financial troubles, etc. only account for a small part of overall happiness. This is why people who have suffered tragedy can still be happy.

3) Intentional Behavior.
Most important to our purposes, however, is that intentional behavior accounts for 40% on an individual's level of happiness. In other words, even an individual with negative life circumstances and poor genetics has potentially a great deal of influence over their sense of satisfaction and well-being in life.

However, this doesn't mean that attainment of happiness is easy because there are often obstacles to people engaging in the intentional behaviors that influence happiness. The ingredients of happiness have not changed over time and can be somewhat elusive for people because although they may be simple, they are not necessarily easy: “One is happy as a result of one's own efforts once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience (Georges Sand, 1804-1876).”

Intentional behavior is the aspect of happiness that we want to examine more closely. What this means is that there are certain behaviors, lifestyles, and choices that can be made by the individual that can increase the likelihood of happiness but likely involve some work. Let's look at those. READ MORE: page 4

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

"One of the most salient aspects I've noticed about unhappy people is that they are desperately trying to avoid negative emotions and in the process they feel miserable."

HAPPINESS IS AN ATTITUDE

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.

HOW CAN WE BE HAPPY WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN?

For many years when my husband and I were first together I would ask him "When are things going to get better?" We were dealing with the usual stressors that couples face: not enough time, not enough money, and the inevitable random events such as family conflict, deaths of loved ones, illnesses and injuries. In addition, for most of our early years together I was in school and struggling with the balancing of demands of advanced education, part-time work, and a family. But I had the belief that we were working towards this perfect life that one day would emerge shining a rainbow of happiness forever over us. My husband, inclined more toward the practical, just answered my question of "When are things going to get better?," with "Another six months." That answer typically pacified me for awhile because I thought I could handle any amount of stress for six months. However, a point would occur when I once again I asked my husband "When are things going to get better?" Once again, he would answer "Another six months." This scenario occurred fairly routinely for many years.

However, fortunately during this time I had experiences that began to teach me about my expectations of life. In particular, when I was completing my internship at the Veterans Administration Medical Center I had the opportunity to work on the spinal cord injury unit. That experience forever changed my thinking. In particular, I was struck by the differences in attitude among the patients. My job was to psychologically evaluate each patient. Some of those I evaluated had a recent spinal cord injury and some were returning for follow-up visits. Every patient on that unit, however, had a life-changing injury. Never would they walk again and some couldn't use their hands or even needed assistance with breathing. Every one of them had sustained major changes and losses in their life. Some of them not only lost the physical use of their body, but they lost a girlfriend or wife who couldn't handle the situation, or a job that was part of their self-identity. Yet, what I noticed was that no matter what the losses were or the length of time since the injury, the patients could be divided into two categories: happy or miserable.

Those who were happy reported thinking such as "Yeah, this sucks, but I still have dreams. There are still things I can do. And I'm going to focus on those things." Those who were miserable made statements such as "This is so unfair. My whole life is ruined. I will never be happy." In obtaining the life histories of the patients, I saw that those who were happy had full and active lives, they had friends and jobs and were involved in activities. Whereas those who were miserable, often did nothing but stay in bed with little social contact and had more problems with bed sores and other ailments due to the inactivity. I was informed that even though spinal cord injury in itself does not reduce life expectancy, those who gave up tended to die at earlier ages from complications. READ MORE: page 2

How can we be happy when bad things happen?--page 1

How is the attitude of happiness a choice?--page 2

How is the attitude of happiness different from positive thinking?--page 3







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