Positive #1 Ingress!  I have been thoroughly enjoying this game!  It gives me something to look forward to, I get opportunities to get our and walk and also see parts of Salt Lake and Utah that I’ve never seen before.  It also gives me a chance to help team mates (in the broad sense) but also team mates (in the more personal sense).  It’s an international game, so I feel like I am part of something much bigger.  It also gives me a chance to use strategy and helps to keep me sharp.  ‘Love it!  

Positive #2 Costco cake!  ‘Went to a one year old’s birthday party yesterday.  The host really went all out.  I was quite impressed.  The cake was from Costco.  It tasted absolutely amazing!  Moist and delicious.   I enjoyed it so much, I took a second piece and raved so much the host sent me home with more.  Knowing that there is delicious cake in the world gives me something to look forward to – and I have found that that always helps my happiness.

Positive #3: Positives.  I have gotten away from doing my positives and have really felt it.  I am very glad to be back to doing them.  I can already feel a boost in my mood.  I enjoy the opportunity to ask myself “What’s going RIGHT?”  I also enjoy sharing my positives with friends both on and off Facebook.  It gives us things to talk about and often they will share what is going right in their life as well.  I’ve also received feedback from strangers that reading my positives helps them to see what is going right in their own life.  That’s a lot of pay off for a few minutes a day!

 

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Next FREE class to begins Saturday April 26th, 2014

Happiness 101 works! – and we have the numbers to prove it!

Using scientifically validated instruments, students of Happiness 101 show a decrease in depression and increases in their happiness, optimism, belief that they can make a positive impact in their own life and self-esteem. The evidence is so compelling we are working toward getting published in the Journal of Positive Psychology!

Here are some testimonials from a recent class:

“Happiness 101 helped me cross the bridge between understanding that attitude change is possible to experience attitude change.”

“I feel much happier now that I have taken this course.”

“[The] Self-Esteem [portion of the class] was a HUGE eye opener for me and one of those moments in life where it is a light bulb moment.”

“I have looked myself in the mirror and found so many things that I have loved about myself that I didn’t know existed.”

“I appreciated discovering more of my negative thinking errors and taking more responsibility for them.”

“I have learned that I have always had happiness inside of me and I always knew what made me happy.”

“It was humorous, enlightening, challenging, and affirming.”

“REALLY appreciated learning about self-esteem!”

“I usually don’t do well with change but the knowledge. I have now gets me excited to move forward with a clear mind and I am ready to see what the future has in store for me.”

“Since starting this class I’ve learned so much about myself and how I can become happier.”

“I have really enjoyed this class. I have seen a change in me.”

The next Happiness 101 class will be held on Saturdays April 26th to June 14th from noon to 2pm. Click here to find out more about Happiness 101.

Frank Clayton, The Happy Therapist
Clinical Mental Health Counselor

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It is easy to feel powerless against the recession. Headlines are rife with doom, and we have control of almost none of it: unemployment, the housing market and the national debt. In this constant stream of negativity, it is easy to focus on what we do not have control of and forget about what we do have control over.

How can one person feel worried sick while the next person is not? Why is one person depressed about the layoff while the next person is actually happy about it? The answer lies not in the circumstances but how we handle it.

I, myself, have been laid off during this recession, and I have struggled with depression and pessimism for most of my life (see “My Story: From Suicidal to The Happy Therapist“). Therefore I can deeply empathize with clients and students who tell me their story, which is usually peppered with words like “stuck,” “trapped” and “can’t.”

It is important to acknowledge sadness, hopelessness and worry. These feelings are not merely uncomfortable emotions — they are guideposts to feeling better; a divining rod to their belief system. In the very first class of Happiness 101, I tell students not to slap a plastic smiley face over their pain but to feel it and learn from it.

Positive psychology teaches that each emotion is feedback to us about our underlying belief system. It is here that we find choice and empowerment. For instance, if a man feels shame because he was swept away by the latest wave of layoffs, he might have an underlying belief like “If I am not providing for my family, I am a failure.” You will notice this belief statement leaves little room for extenuating circumstances — for instance high unemployment rates.

We do not have control over the world or national economy, but we do have control over our own belief system. In this example if the man replaced his belief with “As long as I am doing my best, I am okay,” instead of feeling shame, he might not only feel hope but possibly pride because his focus is on his efforts and not the outcome.

Whether suffering job loss, death of a loved one or a personal failure, we can always choose how we weather the storm. In his famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Nazi concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “the last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

James Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sail.” You might imagine that one person who believes he is helpless against the storm of the recession would have a very different feeling than the person who believes, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” (“Invictus,” William Ernest Henley)

After people have told their story and properly honored their feelings, they might be open to discussion about what they do have control over, rather than lamenting about what they do not. In the above example, this hard-working American had no control over being laid off. He can continue to apply for jobs but have no control over call-backs. He can do well in the interview but still not get the job.

Research has proven (Dan Gilbert, “Stumbling on Happiness”) that when people feel that they have no control, depression often follows. This is why it is important (at the appropriate time) to turn discussion toward what one does have control over.

In session, I challenge phrases like “I’m in a rock and a hard place,” “there’s nothing I can do” and “I am trapped.” Invariably I find that there are many choices — all at varying degrees of attractiveness.

For instance, the unemployed man might believe that his only option is to just keep applying for (local) jobs and pray that something comes through. When brainstorming, he might find several other options including: filing for bankruptcy, taking a job out of state, renting out the basement, filing for unemployment, asking for loans from friends, moving in with mom and dad and/or starting his own business. This man might find all of these options to be unsavory, but I have found that depression immediately begins to loosen its grip when we explore what is possible rather than lament over the lie that “there is no hope.”

We may not have control over the economy, but we do have control over our pessimism. If you believe that you are born pessimistic, I would like to point out that this too is a belief. Ironically if you believe yourself to be a born pessimist, you will behave accordingly, making no effort to change. Pessimism can not only poison one’s attitude toward braving the economic storm but it can adversely affect decisions that might have helped to pull you out of it.

For instance, if one says, “What’s the point in applying for the job? I’m not going to get it anyway” and he does not apply for the job, then his prediction comes true. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Hope is always a choice.

I have documented the progress of dozens of students and found that those who make the greatest progress are those who turn from hopeless to hopeful during the eight-week course. You can test your own level of optimism at www.authentichappiness.com and start improving your outlook by taking your cues from the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, in his book, “Learned Optimism.”

Cultivating optimism is just one of 12 scientifically proven happiness activites suggested by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, “The How of Happiness.” Others include:

  • Expressing gratitude
  • Practicing acts of kindness
  • Nurturing relationships
  • Savoring life’s joys
  • Practicing religion or spirituality

Focusing on these activities (which you do have control over) will help you to feel empowered. Focusing on what you do not have control over will likely lead you to feel helpless and disempowered. There is much in this world over which we have no control — including the recession — but we always have control over our own positive attitude. The Nazis could not take it from Viktor Frankl. The recession can not take it from you. You always have a choice.

Frank Clayton, LPC

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I did Kung Fu for 7 years. This was here in Salt Lake but before I became the Happy Therapist. Today I went back at the age of 47. I noticed a LOT of changes in my attitude. I used to run myself down for not doing things perfectly or for not doing as well as others. Today I was genuinely proud that I showed up and stuck with it. I remember I used to beat myself mercilessly in my head just when I needed to encourage myself. Today I found that I not only had optimism during the hardest moments but actually a sense of humor! Today I am eternally grateful to Positive Psychology and how it has truly changed my life.

Frank Clayton LPC

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My wife, Debbi, spent hours and hours creating a new and improved report card for the students of Happiness 101. She somehow makes Excel bend to her will so one master file will generate all the individual reports on Happiness, depression, optimism, self-esteem and much more. She also made it with T.A. Lindsay in mind, making it easy to enter the data quickly and easily. Thank you Debbi.

Frank Clayton LPC

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I am so glad about the way our car broke down.

My wife and I drove south to Sedona on the day before Thanksgiving to rendezvous with my mother-in-law.  Just after Kenab, the battery warning light came on the console of my wife’s Saturn Vue – which is a hybrid.  I predicted that the light would go out within 5 minutes.  I was wrong.  The owner’s manual advised to service the vehicle as soon as possible.  The next town was Page, Arizona.  Another 20 miles down highway 89, another warning light came on – this time brining into question the working order of the brake system. By the time we saw the lights of Page, electrical systems were shutting down one at a time.  As we came down the hill to Page, when my wife applied the brakes, the headlights, rear lights and all lights inside the vehicle (including lights on the console) flittered out.  When she released the brakes, the lights came back on.  Of course, going down a hill, brakes are more important than lights. We came to rest on the 89 and the corner of a main intersection.

Now, being the happy therapist, you might think that I just whipped out my optimism and said “No problem”, right?  Well, not exactly.  One of the first things I teach in Happiness 101 is to be real and acknowledge how you actually feel.  I was disappointed and concerned.  There were some real challenges that needed to be addressed: What is wrong with the car and how are we going to get to Sedona?  Another thing I teach in Happiness 101 is that happier people are more likely to see solutions to problems and look for things that are going right, rather forecasting doom.

The first thing I found myself grateful for: the fact that we had cell phone service.  My wife and I immediately began exploring our options.  We remembered that we had AAA AND my wife remembered that our car insurance covers towing.  I called AAA and she called the car insurance company.  10pm the night before Thanksgiving and agents answered at both agencies – something else to be grateful for – and they were both nice!  Insurance would cover $100 of towing.  AAA would cover 100 miles of towing and had “trip interruption coverage” – which meant they were willing to pay up to $1,000 of reimbursement for anything that might help us get back on our way, including hotel stays, meals and rental car!   ‘Lots of good news, but we were still stuck beside the road…. Well, I was going to say “in the middle of no where” but anywhere north or south of Page was the REAL “middle of no where”.  By comparison, Page was a thriving metropolis.  Boasting a population of 9,000, luckily one of those residents was a tow truck driver.  While  we waited, my wife and I counted our blessing.  While chilly, temperatures were tolerable – a real blessing because we had no heat at all.  Another blessing was that “civilization” was only a short walk to the Radisson Hotel.  Our vehicle was also well lit, so there would be less likely that we would be hit.  We were also thankful that we had our cell phone because they also doubled as flashlights.  I was especially thankful that I had thought to charge mine shortly before the car trouble began.  We were also very appreciative of the couple that stopped to make sure we were okay.  There was a real reassurance in that small gesture that helped us during those long minutes.  The thing I was most grateful for was the partnership of my optimistic wife.  While she did express concern about the vehicle, she was quick to point out how lucky we were to be in Page and how bad things might have been had the brakes gone out on a steep leg of our trip.  We were grateful that we were able to travel with our vehicle in the towtruck to Flagstaff.  We appreciated the tow-truck driver, B.J..  A friendly fellow who made good conversation – one who talked but did not talk TOO much.  He was warm and when we thanked him for rescuing us on Thanksgiving eve, though he has a wife and daughter, he assured us with a nice “it’s all part of the job” response. We were glad that BJ recommended taking the car to a dealership that would be properly equipped to deal with the problem.  It was also directly across the street from a nice hotel – and they had an opening!  The staff there greeted us with warmth and expediency, recognizing the harried look of two worn holiday travelers.  They even gave us the late check-in discount.  I think they were just showing mercy on us when it was needed the most.  The warmth of the hotel bed was a welcome and a stark contrast to the chill of the roadside breakdown.

My wife woke me gently after the Jacuzzi tub washed away any traces of negativity from our predicament.  She announced that my mother-in-law would arrive to pick us up in a matter of minutes.  Upon checking out, the morning staff offered the very first “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting of the day with a genuine note of warmth.  I remembered how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place: where there is warmth and care and good people ready to lend a hand.  I thanked both of the women at the front desk for working on a holiday and they verbalized their appreciation for acknowledging this.  After all, they have families and friends too.  Were no one willing to work, there would be no warm, safe hotel to offer haven.  Moments later, the smile and hug of my mother-in-law felt like the crossing of a great finish line.  The race not about car repair, but  about giving thanks – and I won.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

 

 

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The cover of the new Psychology Today features optimism. How timely. This will fit in nicely with the material covered in class #4 of the Webinar tomorrow; The Mechanics of Optimism and Pessimism. I love it when a plan comes together.

 

Frank~The Happy Therapist

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In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl noted that when fellow prisoners lost hope, they were dead within two weeks. The Nazis certainly cultivated an environment of hopelessness, but Frankl noted that hope was not something the Nazis could take from a prisoner; It had to be surrendered by its owner. The point of Frankl’s gripping story is that we always, always, always have a choice. We can always choose to be optimistic, despite the circumstances.

Optimists live longer, are liked more, make more money, are more happily married and are more likely to get the job and advance in their career more swiftly than their pessimistic counterparts. As you might imagine, optimists tend to be happier, while pessimists lean toward depression.

In her book, “The How of Happiness,” Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky pointed out that depressed people are not concerned that something bad will happen in their future. They are depressed because they forecast that nothing good will happen. Pessimism continues to cultivate their depression.

People are born optimistic and learn to be pessimistic. There is a spectrum of optimism ranging from Pollyanna to Eeyore, with many shades of gray in between. These shades are determined by one’s explanatory style.

When things go right or wrong, how do you explain it? In his book, “Learned Optimism,” Dr. Martin Seligman dissected optimism and pessimism and found three distinct components: permanence, pervasiveness and whether one blames themselves or external forces.

Here’s an example: If I have unsuccessfully tried to sell my car for the past three months, and I say it’s because “I can’t do anything right,” would this statement be true? Of course not. However, if this thought goes unchecked, I will experience feelings of hopelessness. When I used statements like these, it’s insinuated that I cannot ever do anything right, so there is a tone of permanence: that I could not do anything right yesterday, cannot do anything right today and will not be able to do anything right tomorrow. In these situations, I can ask myself, “Is it really true that I can never do anything right?” Even in a bad mood, it is easy to see that this statement is simply not true.

On the issue of pervasiveness, I made a very broad statement after experiencing frustration about a specific situation (difficulty selling the car). When I said, “I can’t do anything right,” I indicated that not only can I not sell my car, I cannot do anything right at work, at home, with friends, at play, etc. In other words, my bungling runs through and through, no matter what arena I may enter. How depressing. How false! Stopping to ask myself what things I do right in other areas of my life reminds me that while I might be having a difficult time in this particular situation, it does not mean I am entirely inept.

Finally, am I blaming myself or forces outside of myself? In the example, the optimist explains her difficulty in selling the car by saying, “It’s not a buyer’s market.” This takes self-blame out of the equation entirely. She is not using the words “I” or “me” in her explanation. Checking this statement for pervasiveness and permanence, it is easy to discern that there is hope because it is insinuated that the poor market for buying cars will pass, and because she used language for the specific situation, she is not proclaiming doom for all of her selling endeavors.

A word of caution about blaming outside forces: While optimists might not blame themselves for bad things that happen (or do not happen), this should be used cautiously. Attributing all happenings to outside forces can have a nasty backlash. If one blames “fate,” “luck” or other cosmic forces, it can result in giving oneself a pass rather than taking full responsibility for one’s actions. In Happiness 101, I teach empowerment with fervor. If you want to be happy, you absolutely must take full responsibility for that happiness.

This has been a crash course in the mechanics of optimism and pessimism. As I wrote in The Eight Steps to Happiness, you must start by being mindful. Become aware of your explanatory style. Catch yourself making negative statements and ask yourself, “Is that really true?” It is very likely you will realize that your pessimistic statement is not true at all and will find yourself feeling more hopeful.

Hopelessness is a serious issue in our state. Utah ranks in the top 10 for suicide in the nation and is thefourth largest consumer of antidepressants in the country. This is why I have been teaching Happiness 101 to the public free of charge for the past two-and-a-half years. It is the reason I am teaching a six-week webinar in October — so people in the at-risk, rural areas of Utah may learn about optimism and other aspects of positive psychology. I want to restore hope to people who are depressed or suicidal and spread happiness.

Hopelessness breeds depression. Hope cultivates happiness. Which will you choose?

Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional Counselor (a.k.a. The Happy Therapist)

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www.GivesMeHope.com is a wonderful simple, straight-forward opportunity, giving  people a forum to spread optimism.  People share (very) short stories describing circumstances and situations that give them hope.  They also have a wonderful iPhone application, so if I only have a few minutes, I can tune in and get a Happiness Boost.  Today, I feel grateful that I found a place on the internet that gives ME hope.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Published on KSL
Let me start by saying a person should never, never, never go off their medications without talking to their prescriber. It is dangerous and potentially lethal.

According to the Behavioral Risk-Factor Surveillance System, Utah is currently the happiest state in the union. It is also one of the saddest. Utah sits right in the middle of the “suicide belt,” which stretches along the Rocky Mountains from Wyoming and Idaho, through Utah and Nevada and down to Arizona and New Mexico. As of 2008, the mortality rates gathered from the U.S. census indicated that Utah ranked ninth in the nation for suicides. In September 2010, the Utah Department of Health declared that Utah was the fourth greatest consumer of antidepressants in the nation with 12.71 percent of residents being prescribed antidepressants.

The problem is that these medications do not work on most of the consumers to whom they are prescribed. Continue reading Antidepressants don’t appear to work for most Utahns

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