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I was able to find something for a client after going to many stores and they really appreciated it. Nice to have appreciation.

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I am not a Christmas person and this season has been so easy on me I feel so free of the weight of the season.  I am very happy not to have any strings of attachment to this holiday.

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I bought the softest blanket at Costco. I love soft warm bedding can’t wait to have it on my bed! It is soothing to reach out and feel something so soft and good bedding is imperative to my sleep.

By: Kathie

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Today I appreciate this holiday for it gives us a day of rest to pause and remember those who have passed. It is also a time to honor the brave men and women who have given the greatest sacrifice that we may be free. Is there any greater gift than that? A few days ago I posted the question “if you knew someone had given their life for yours, would you live differently?” I was thinking of “Saving Private Ryan” at that moment. I realized that just because I do not have a specific face to put with that sentiment, makes it no less a gift. I would like to also many of my uncles who served in many branches of our armed forces. Thank you to the those who have gone before me.

Frank Clayton LPC

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SALT LAKE CITY, Frank Clayton, KSL Contributor — In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl noted that one thing the Nazis could not take away from their captives was their attitude. Mindfully choosing your attitude and thereby your subjective experience is one of the cornerstones of my class, Happiness 101. I pound, “You always, always, always have a choice!” Unfortunately, many people are either unaware of the unhappy choices they are making or unaware that they can make a different choice. I will use the holiday season as an example.

I have heard people complain about various aspects of the holiday season that they dislike. “Ugh! I have to go Christmas shopping.” “I hate putting up the tree.” “Christmas is so commercial and superficial!” You can almost hear them say, “Bah-humbug!” In each of these scenarios, choices are being made. The person might believe “this is just the way it is” and therefore make no effort to change their subjective experience. They might not be aware that this is an attitude they are choosing.

There are things that we as human beings have control over. The most overlooked of these is our belief system. We have beliefs about virtually everything. Once those beliefs are put into place, they are usually accepted at least subjectively as the truth. We base our decisions and experience our lives based on these “truths.” If you believe “life sucks” then that belief is going to permeate throughout your life. Likewise, if you believe “like is amazing,” that too will greatly effect your life. In the KSL article, the Eight Steps to Happiness, I offer a specific method to changing your subjective experience. This works well to change deep-rooted beliefs but also behaviors which effect our happiness daily.

Research has found that we make better decisions when we solicit feedback from others (Dan Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness). In that Christmas spirit, I asked some of my Facebook friends for suggestions on how we might turn these unhappy holiday experiences in to happy ones. Here were some of the suggestions:

To make Christmas shopping more enjoyable, Diane and Ericka suggested shopping online. Mrs. Roundy said to keep things in “perspective …. people watch, go with a trusted friend and enjoy lunch. Also, give yourself more time.” I especially liked Cat’s comment, “Instead of focusing on how ‘I’ feel, I try to think of others and how they might be feeling. Who are they, who are they buying gifts for, do they seem happy or harried? When I smile more and ‘get out of myself’ more, it’s a different experience.”

For those that may sour Christmas with a belief that it is superficial, Kelly suggested that we “focus on ‘the reason for the season’ — give gifts of time or homemade.” Ms. Barney thought we should “Make handmade cards and write to the people you care about and tell them why you are grateful to have them in your life. You could include a ‘coupon’ redeemable for an act of service or spending time with them in the coming year.” Lisa said it well, “If I connect with the concepts of generosity in giving and in seeing God/joy in the faces of strangers and allow the birth of joy and light within me, I will enjoy the entire month.”

To put the joy into decorating the Christmas tree, Mrs. Potter suggested removing the step of putting on the lights by purchasing a pre-lit tree. Valerie suggested the personal touch, “We buy a new ornament for loved ones each year and make it a personal happy experience.” This would spark a walk down memory lane of Christmases past and the wonderful experiences found there. Kelly suggested adding “family, music, tradition, treats” to the decorating experience. Catalina thought outside of the Christmas box by luxuriating in a Christmas free of decorations.

I especially like Catalina’s suggestion because it puts choice back into the holiday season. If we believe that we have to do something, there is often a heavy sense of obligation and possibly resentment. Reframing a “have to” into a “get to” can make a small but powerful difference. Do you really have to go Christmas shopping? No. You could choose not to participate. You may ultimately choose to do so anyway but just recognizing that you have a choice can be enough to rekindle the holiday spirit.

If having a happy holiday season were a choice, what would you choose? Since it is a choice, I invite you to explore your attitudes and behaviors. Use the Eight Steps to Happiness to become mindful of choices you might be making that lead to holiday grumpiness. Develop a robust pool of alternatives that might lead to a happier holiday. Make a new choice. If you do not like the result, you are still probably better off than you were when you started and you can always go back to your brainstorming pool to make another choice. Use this method to have a happy holiday season. But why stop there? You can choose a happy new year and a happy life. It is, of course, your choice.

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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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