Positive Psychology giant, Dan Gilbert advises in his book, Stumbling On Happiness, that when when one is unsure of what to choose, one should call for reinforcements; advice from others! There are SO many amazing lectures to attend at the upcoming International Positive Psychology Association’s 3rd World Congress, I’m not sure which ones to pick! So, I am inviting YOU to look over the schedule and make your suggestions. Of course if I go to the lecture you suggest, I will be talking about it at the upcoming Cutting Edge of Happiness talk (Saturday, July 8th, 9am to 1pm – click here for more info). Just look over the program in these following three pictures and leave your comments below – or you can also E-mail me at frank@saltlakementalhealth.com

IPPA Friday


IPPA Saturday









Thanks for all your help!


Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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In Dan Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness, he advises that when faced with a decision, always seek out the advice of trusted friends or colleagues. I did just that with a big decision. Not only did this friend/colleague give me the advice, she backed it up with specific rationale. I feel very grateful for this friend and her good counsel.

(Note: I know I am being vague but until I am ready to make announcements, that’s how it has to be)

Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional 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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The Happiness Advantage by Shawn AchorI am very, very picky about recommending books about happiness or positive psychology. At a minimum the books must be able to back up its claims with scientific evidence. Therefore my recommended reading list is only one page long. Not only did I add The Happiness Advantage to the list, but it bumped Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity out of the #2 slot, just behind the text we use in Happiness 101, The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. In short, it is a fantastic book!

Though The Happiness Advantage is rife with scientifically backed information, Shawn Achor manages to present this information in fun, interesting ways. The seven principles he teaches in the book are easy to understand but even more importantly are easy to remember. Even before the last page was turned, I was using his techniques to improve my life. Let me put this into perspective for you: I am the Happy Therapist and have been teaching Happiness 101 for over three years and there was information in this book that I had never been exposed to and/or methods that had never been explained in such a direct, doable manner. I highly recommend The Happiness Advantage.

I will be referencing The Happiness Advantage a lot in the upcoming Happiness 101 class. I found that all seven principles could easily be woven into the class. The stories Achor uses to drive home his points are engaging, memorable and entertaining, making it a fun read. He is a great presenter as well. Click here to see his TED video. Whether via book, video or live presentation, I highly recommend you get a Happy, healthy dose of Shawn Achor any way you can get him.

~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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Today my wife took to task a woman in the grocery store parking lot who told her husband that he didn’t matter. The angrier she got, the more love I had for her indignation. She reminded me of one of those heroes on “What Would You Do”. Debbi Macfarlane-Clayton, you seriously rock.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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I love the nihilist that comes to see me. They do not enjoy the present and they have no hope of enjoying the future. I love the nihilist because I know how much better they are going to feel in a relatively short period of time. It is amazing to be instrumental in restoring hope. I am so blessed.


Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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There is something about being completely exhausted and then getting a great night of sleep to satisfy that primal appetite for sleep that feels SO good. Today I luxuriate and bask in the afterglow of an amazing sleep.


~Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Just think of it: that particular sensation was never experience by our ancestors. They never heard of a Slurpee or and Icee. It also stimulates nerve endings you probably didn’t even know you had.



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