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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

Loving Kindness Meditation

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Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

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

All Audio Articles

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

What to Do When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training

Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

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

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

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PsychNotes April 2015

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April 4, 2015       

The Danger of Seeking Happiness: How to Protect Your Children

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
As I point out in my article The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort) the more we try to seek happiness, the more it eludes us. In fact, those who highly value happiness are more likely to have negative emotional states such as depression. Recent research that expands upon this concept shows that extreme valuing of happiness is not just associated with depression but is a risk factor for depressive disorders (Ford et al., 2015).

To understand what this means we need to look at the concept of “risk factor.” You may already be familiar with risk factors related to physical disorders. For instance, obesity increases the likelihood of diabetes. Or, smoking increases the likelihood of lung cancer. A risk factor does not mean that the illness will occur but that it has a higher than average risk of occurring.

What this means for happiness and depression is that those who place an extreme value on being happy are more at risk for becoming depressed. Some people might argue that because depressed people already have more negative emotions, they may place more value on happiness to counter-act this state. However, researcher Ford and colleagues indicate that the extreme valuing of happiness occurs prior to the depressive disorder, and thus, can be predictive of those more likely to develop a depressive illness.

Although the extreme valuing of happiness may not be the full cause of the development of depressive disorders, it gives us pause to consider whether there could be a protective effect from learning a more balanced perspective regarding happiness. For instance, in my article I discuss creating “the opportunities for happiness” rather than trying to create happiness. We can focus on increasing the activities in our lives that are associated with happiness rather than focusing on happiness itself. Such activities include social connection, sense of purpose, service to others, emotional tolerance of discomfort, health practices, and self-contentment. Those who focus on strengthening these aspects of their lives are more likely to be happy.

More importantly, though, if there is a protective effect of a more balanced perspective, we need to seriously reconsider the messages we provide our children (as well as ourselves). Instead of defining happiness for our children as always being comfortable and having what they desire, we can teach them to engage in the activities that are more likely to contribute to happiness. For instance, a child who learns to sacrifice personal comfort to help others is learning the behaviors that can lead to greater happiness in the future. Such a sacrifice can simply be helping the family by doing chores when the child would rather be playing to giving money to a needy child in lieu of buying a toy.

Of course, this means discomfort for the parents as well because looking out for your child's future well-being is more difficult than making them momentarily happy. It also means learning to ignore or counter the messages of the media, movies, and television that teach us to seek material gain and euphoria as a means to happiness.

For more information on creating the opportunities for happiness, my articles are now available on Kindle.

Ford, B.Q., Mauss, I.B. and Gruber, J. (2015). Valuing Happiness Is Associated With Bipolar Disorder. Emotion, 15, 211–222. DOI: 10.1037/emo0000048


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