SOURCE CREDIT: PsychCentral News : Research Finds Proven Strategies to Up Happiness, Life Satisfaction By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor : Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 11, 2013
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Researchers have created four affective profiles that may help individuals improve the quality of their lives.
The profiles came from a research study of the self-reports of 1,400 US residents regarding positive and negative emotions.
Investigators believe the affective profiles can be used to discern differences in happiness, depression, life satisfaction and happiness-increasing strategies.
A central finding is that the promotion of positive emotions can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state — defined as increasing levels of happiness and decreasing levels of depression — as well as increase life satisfaction.
The study, published in the open access peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ, targets some of the important aspects of mental health that represent positive measures of well-being.
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Happiness, for example, can be usefully understood as the opposite of depression, say the authors. Life satisfaction, another positive measure of well-being, refers instead to a comparison process in which individuals assess the quality of their lives on the basis of their own self-imposed standards.
Researchers posit that as people adopt strategies to increase their overall well-being, it is important to know which ones are capable of having a positive influence.
“We examined 8 ‘happiness-increasing’ strategies which were first identified by Tkach & Lyubomirsky in 2006″, said Danilo Garcia from the University of Gothenburg and the researcher leading the investigation.
“These were Social Affiliation (for example, “Support and encourage friends”), Partying and Clubbing (for example, “Drink alcohol”), Mental Control (for example, “Try not to think about being unhappy”), and Instrumental Goal Pursuit (for example, “Study”).
Additional strategies include: Passive Leisure (for example, “Surf the internet”), Active Leisure (for example, “Exercise”), Religion (for example, “Seek support from faith”) and Direct Attempts (for example, “Act happy and smile”).”
The researchers found that individuals with different affective profiles did indeed differ in the positive measures of well-being and all 8 strategies being studied.
For example, individuals classified as self-fulfilling — high positive emotions and low negative emotions — were the ones who showed lower levels of depression, tended to be happier, and were more satisfied with their lives.
Researchers found that specific happiness-increasing strategies were related to self-directed actions aimed at personal development or personally chosen goals. For example, autonomy, responsibility, self-acceptance, intern locus of control, and self-control.
Communal, or social affiliations, and spiritual values were positively related to a ‘self-fulfilling’ profile.
“This was the most surprising finding, because it supports suggestions about how self-awareness based on the self, our relation to others, and our place on earth might lead to greater happiness and mental harmony within the individual” said Garcia.
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Source Credit: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
By Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D. on September 5, 2013 – 11:56am
It really should not have taken academic psychology so long to determine the key factors to happiness, especially because the results weren’t that surprising.* Money, beauty, and success are not quintessential, while compassionate giving of our money, appreciation of our actual looks, and the pursuit of personally meaningful goals are. Waiting for our parents to love us finally perpetuates feelings of being a victim while letting go of the past, forgiveness and gratitude propagate joy in the present. This is old news for psych-savvy people such as you and me, right?
But here is another piece of the puzzle, based on the findings of the truly long longitudinal and still on-going Harvard Grant Study that began in 1939. The study followed 268 male students for 78 years. The researchers predicted falsely that the students with masculine body types would become most successful. As it turns out, neither that, nor their socioeconomic circumstances, nor the students’ IQ correlated highest with success. It came as a surprise that something much more mundane mattered the most, something every Beatle fan and good parent has been suspecting all along: Love. Yes, it is true and supported by data now, “All we need is love.” Those men who had a warm mother or good sibling relationships earned a significantly higher income than their less fortunate counterparts.
Now back to happiness. The director of the study from 1966 to 2004, George E. Vaillant, looked at eight more accomplishments that went beyond mere monetary success. These were four items pertaining to mental and physical health and four to social supports and relationships. They all correlated with love, that is with a loving childhood, ones empathic capacity and warm relationships. Vaillant,
“In short it was a history of warm intimate relationships- and the ability to foster them in maturity- that predicted flourishing…”
“This is not good news,” you may say if you were heavily unloved in your past. But there is another important lesson to be learned from this grand Grant study. People can change. (So there, pessimists of the world!). In fact, it is never too late to learn how to give and receive love. The study shows that those students who were not loved in childhood but learned to give and receive love later on in their lives could overcome their disadvantage.
This is where I can relate. I had to overcome a mountain of problems, cross the desert without a drop of hope, face and embrace my fears and come out of my turtle shell, step by step, kiss by kiss, and frog by frog. It was tough, but I made it. In the end, I dared to be with a man who had something to give and who wasn’t afraid of my love either. By now, our three lucky beloved tadpoles are slowly growing into frogs themselves.
Why though does love heal almost all wounds and drive us right into happiness? I think mostly for two reasons, something I hope to see supported by data some day. First, being loved reduces our fear of the uncertainty in life. Scarcity, loss, pain will happen, but when we are being loved, all those difficulties seem surmountable. In fact, with the right support, difficulties can be viewed as opportunities for growth instead of as terrible monsters lurking in the dark. Second, loving others focuses our mind on something greater than our little Egos. Love brings out the best in us. Who’s been known to rise to the occasion and act nobly when thinking of oneself? We become creative inventers, noble knights and heroines when we dare to care for someone else but us.
So love is it. What’s left to do is nothing short of engaging in a life-long learning process about how to form and maintain relationships. And don’t forget that love comes in many colors. You might love a partner, gay or straight, your kids, your neighbors, your community, your dogs or your goldfish. Just love. And if you do not quite know how, there are ways to learn it still, step by step, kiss by kiss, and breath by breath.
Credit: excerpted from psychologytoday.com
Self-change is tough, but it’s not impossible, nor does it have to be traumatic, according to change expert Stan Goldberg, Ph.D. Here, he lays out the 10 principles he deems necessary for successful change. [………]Many of us want to change but simply don’t know how to do it. After 25 years of researching how people change, I’ve discovered 10 major principles that encompass all self-change strategies. I’ve broken down those principles and, using one example—a man’s desire to be more punctual—I demonstrate strategies for implementing change in your own life.
All Behaviors Are Complex
Research by psychologist James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert on planned change, has repeatedly found that change occurs in stages. To increase the overall probability of success, divide a behavior into parts and learn each part successively.
Strategy: Break down the behavior
Almost all behaviors can be broken down. Separate your desired behavior into smaller, self-contained units.
He wanted to be on time for work, so he wrote down what that would entail: waking up, showering, dressing, preparing breakfast, eating, driving, parking and buying coffee—all before 9 a.m.
Change Is Frightening
We resist change, but fear of the unknown can result in clinging to status quo behaviors—no matter how bad they are.
Strategy: Examine the consequences
Compare all possible consequences of both your status quo and desired behaviors. If there are more positive results associated with the new behavior, your fears of the unknown are unwarranted.
If he didn’t become more punctual, the next thing he’d be late for is the unemployment office. There was definitely a greater benefit to changing than to not changing.
Strategy: Prepare your observers
New behaviors can frighten the people observing them, so introduce them slowly.
Becoming timely overnight would make co-workers suspicious. He started arriving by 9 a.m. only on important days.
Strategy: Be realistic
Unrealistic goals increase fear. Fear increases the probability of failure.
Mornings found him sluggish, so he began preparing the night before and doubled his morning time.
Change Must Be Positive
As B.F. Skinner’s early research demonstrates, reinforcement-not punishment-is necessary for permanent change. Reinforcement can be intrinsic, extrinsic or extraneous. According to Carol Sansone, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Utah, one type of reinforcement must be present for self-change, two would be better than one, and three would be best.
Strategy: Enjoy the act
Intrinsic reinforcement occurs when the act is reinforcing.
He loved dressing well. Seeing his clothes laid out at night was a joyful experience.
Strategy: Admire the outcome
An act doesn’t have to be enjoyable when the end result is extrinsically reinforcing. For instance, I hate cleaning my kitchen, but I do it because I like the sight of a clean kitchen.
After dressing, he looked in the mirror and enjoyed the payoff from his evening preparation: He looked impeccable.
Strategy: Reward yourself
Extraneous reinforcement isn’t directly connected to the act or its completion. A worker may despise his manufacturing job but will continue working for a good paycheck.
Whenever he met his target, he put $20 into his Hawaii vacation fund.
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Being Is Easier Than Becoming
In my karate class of 20 students, the instructor yelled, “No pain, no gain,” amid grueling instructions. After four weeks, only three students remained. Uncomfortable change becomes punishing, and rational people don’t continue activities that are more painful than they are rewarding.
Strategy: Take baby steps
In one San Francisco State University study, researchers found that participants were more successful when their goals were gradually approximated. Write down the behavior you want to change. Then to the right, write your goal. Draw four lines between the two and write a progressive step on each that takes you closer to your goal.
The first week, he would arrive by 9:20 a.m., then five minutes earlier each subsequent week until he achieved his goal.
Strategy: Simplify the process
Methods of changing are often unnecessarily complicated and frenetic. Through simplicity, clarity arises.
Instead of waiting in line at Starbucks, he would buy coffee in his office building.
Strategy: Prepare for problems
Perfect worlds don’t exist, and neither do perfect learning situations. Pamela Dunston, Ph.D., of Clemson University, found cueing to be an effective strategy.
His alarm clock failed to rouse him, so for the first month he’d use a telephone wake-up service.
Slower Is Better
Everything has its own natural speed; when altered, unpleasant things happen. Change is most effective when it occurs slowly, allowing behaviors to become automatic.
Strategy: Establish calm
Life is like a stirred-up lake: Allow it to calm and the mud will settle, clearing the water. The same is true for change.
To make mornings less harried, he no longer ran errands on his way to work.
Strategy: Appreciate the path
Author Ursula LeGuin once said, “It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Don’t devise an arduous path; it should be as rewarding as the goal.
He enjoyed almost everything involved in being punctual. The coffee could be better, but it was a small price to pay.
Know More, Do Better
Surprise spells disaster for people seeking change. Knowing more about the process allows more control over it.
Strategy: Monitor your behaviors
Some therapists insist on awareness of both current and desired behaviors, but research suggests it’s sufficient to be aware of just the new one.
In a journal, he recorded the time taken for each step of work preparation.
Strategy: Request feedback
A study in the British Journal of Psychology found that reflecting on personal experiences with others is key to successful change. But because complimenting new behavior implies that the observer disliked the old one, it can make observers feel uncomfortable. If, for example, you were once demeaning to people, few would now say, “It’s nice talking with you since you stopped being a jerk.” Give the observer permission, suggests Paul Schutz, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia, and you will receive feedback.
Every Friday he asked a friend how well he was doing with his time problem.
Strategy: Understand the outcome
Success is satisfying, and if you know why you succeeded or failed, similar strategies can be applied when changing other behaviors.
Every morning, he analyzed why he did or did not arrive to work on time.
Change Requires Structure
Many people view structure as restrictive, something that inhibits spontaneity. While spontaneity is wonderful for some activities, it’s a surefire method for sabotaging change.
Strategy: Identify what works
Classify all activities and materials you’re using as either helpful, neutral or unhelpful in achieving your goal. Eliminate unhelpful ones, make neutrals into positives and keep or increase the positives.
After evaluating his morning routine, he replaced time-consuming breakfasts with quick protein drinks.
Strategy: Revisit your plan regularly
Review every day how and why you’re changing and the consequences of success and failure. Research by Daniel Willingham, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, showed that repetition increases the probability of success.
Each night he reviewed his plan, smiled and said, “Hawaii, here I come.”
Strategy: Logically sequence events
According to behavior expert Richard Foxx, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Penn State University at Harrisburg, it’s important to sequence the aspects associated with learning a new behavior in order of level of difficulty or timing.
He completed all bathroom activities, then ate breakfast.
Practice Is Necessary
Practice is another key approach to change, suggests one study on changing conscious experience published recently in the British Journal of Psychology. I’ve found that the majority of failures occur because this principle is ignored. Practice makes new behaviors automatic and a natural part of who we are.
Strategy: Use helpers
Not all behaviors can be learned on your own. Sometimes it’s useful to enlist the help of a trusted friend.
When even the telephone answering service failed to wake him up, he asked his secretary to call.
Strategy: Practice in many settings
If you want to use a new behavior in different environments, practice it in those or similar settings. Dubbing this “generalization,” psychologists T.F. Stokes and D.M. Baer found it critical in maintaining new behaviors.
During the first week he would try to be punctual for work. The following week, he would try to be on time for his regularly scheduled tennis game.
New Behaviors Must Be Protected
Even when flawlessly performed, new behaviors are fragile and disappear if unprotected.
Strategy: Control your environment
Environmental issues such as noise and level of alertness may interfere with learning new behaviors. After identifying what helps and what hinders, increase the helpers and eliminate the rest.
Having a nightcap before bed made it difficult to wake up in the morning, so he avoided alcohol after 7 p.m.
Strategy: Use memory aides
Because a new behavior is neither familiar nor automatic, it’s easy to forget. Anything that helps memory is beneficial.
He kept a list in each room of his apartment describing the sequence of things to be done and the maximum allowable time to complete them.
Small Successes Are Big
Unfortunately, plans for big successes often result in big failures. Focus instead on a series of small successes. Each little success builds your reservoir of self-esteem; one big failure devastates it.
Strategy: Map your success
Approach each step as a separate mission and you’ll eventually arrive at the end goal.
For each morning activity he completed within his self-allotted time limit, he rewarded himself by putting money into his Hawaii-getaway fund.
The process of changing from what you are to what you would like to become can be either arduous and frustrating or easy and rewarding. The effort required for both paths is the same. Choose the first and you’ll probably recycle yourself endlessly. Apply my 10 principles, and change, once only a slight possibility, becomes an absolute certainty. The choice is yours.
Stan Goldberg, Ph.D., is a private speech therapist (www.speechstrategies.com), a change consultant and the author of four books on change.
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It’s a question that many of us ask when terrible things happen. Where are the people who call themselves your friends when the going gets tough?
This reposted article from Harriet Brown of the New York Times may help you understand some of the possible answers.
Over the last few years, my family has weathered our share of crises. First our younger daughter was hospitalized for a week with Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and spent several months convalescing at home. Soon after she recovered, our older daughter landed in the hospital with anorexia, which proved to be the start of a yearlong fight for her life.
Somewhere in the middle of that process, my mother-in-law was given a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, and died less than 11 months later.
So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe not only how we dealt with trauma but how our friends, family and community did, too. For the most part, we were blessed with support and love; friends ran errands for us, delivered meals, sat in hospital waiting rooms, walked, talked and cried with us.
But a couple of friends disappeared entirely. During the year we spent in eating-disorder hell, they called once or twice but otherwise behaved as though we had been transported to Mongolia with no telephones or e-mail.
At first, I barely noticed; I was overwhelmed with getting through each day. As the year wore on, though, and life settled in to a new if unpleasant version of normal, I began to wonder what had happened. Given our preoccupation with our daughter’s recovery and my husband’s mother’s illness, we were no doubt lousy company. Maybe we’d somehow offended our friends. Or maybe they were just sick of the disasters that now consumed our lives; just because we were stuck with them didn’t mean our friends had to go there, too.
Even if they were completely fed up with us, though, they had to know that my husband and I were going through the toughest year of our lives. I would have understood their defection if our friendship had been less close; as it was, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.
In the wake of 9/11, two wars and the seemingly ever-rising tide of natural disasters, we’ve come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.
“We all live in some degree of terror of bad things happening to us,” said Barbara M. Sourkes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “When you’re confronted by someone else’s horror, there’s a sense that it’s close to home.”
Dr. Sourkes works with families confronted with the unfolding trauma of a child’s serious, and possibly fatal, illness. “Other people’s reactions are multifaceted,” she said. “There’s no formula, and it’ll change from person to person.” The only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as within it.
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Often the closer one feels to the family in crisis, the harder it is to cope. “Most people cannot tolerate the feeling of helplessness,” said Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University who has studied grief and relationships. “And in the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”
Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivor’s guilt: People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis; as Dr. Sourkes put it, “They might, for instance, make sure they’re never in a situation where they have to talk to the family directly.”
Awkwardness is another common reaction — not knowing what to say or do. Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”
“We have more of a societal framework for what to say and do around bereavement than we do when you’re in the midst of it,” Dr. Sourkes said. “Families say over and over, ‘It’s such a lonely time and I don’t have the energy to educate my friends and family, yet they don’t have a clue.’ ”
The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect. A friend whose son suffered brain damage in an accident told me that the families who dropped them afterward had children the same age as her son. They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.
That was true for us, too, I realized. The friends who had disappeared had daughters exactly the same age as ours.
Dr. Rainer describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” — creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. It’s magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then I’ll be safe.
Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, “is ‘I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.
True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.
I tested that theory recently, when a friend’s mother went through a series of medical crises and moved to an assisted-living facility in our town. Normally, I might have been guilty of pseudo-care, asking if I could do anything but never really stepping up. Instead, I e-mailed her a list of tasks I could do, and asked if any of them would be helpful.
To my surprise, my friend responded by asking if I’d visit her mother on a day she couldn’t. Her mother was glad for the company, and my friend felt reassured, knowing that her mother wasn’t alone.
And I had the chance to do something truly useful for my friend, which in turn let me show her how much I cared about her. The time I spent with her mother turned out to be a gift for me.
Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had. In retrospect, I wished I’d taken a slightly more Zen-like attitud
“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”
Harriet Brown is the author of “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia,” being published next week.
Just five minutes of exercise a day in the great outdoors can improve mental health, according to a new study, and policymakers should encourage more people to spend time in parks and gardens.
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Researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a “green activity” such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost mood and self esteem.
“We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise,” Barton said in a statement about the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Many studies have shown that outdoor exercise can reduce the risk of mental illness and improve a sense of well-being, but Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, who led this study, said that until now no one knew how much time needed to be spent on green exercise for the benefits to show.
Barton and Pretty looked at data from 1,252 people of different ages, genders and mental health status taken from 10 existing studies in Britain.
They analyzed activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming.
They found that the greatest health changes occurred in the young and the mentally ill, although people of all ages and social groups benefited. The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose of “green exercise.”
All natural environments were beneficial, including parks in towns or cities, they said, but green areas with water appeared to have a more positive effect.
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