Wow! I love the concept of shame as a wonderful gift and a strength. She also talks about vulnerability as a strength. What a wonderful life-changing opportunity to change perspective…. I love how she points out that when we have shame about something, we automatically want to shy away from it. I really learned a lot. I love how brave, courageous she is. ‘Way to break new ground and a topic sorely missing solid research.

Frank Clayton LPC

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Report from IPPA Conference, Day 2

Day two of the 2nd Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association was simply amazing.  I learned SO much!  At one point I laughed to my friend “Teacher!  My brain is full!”  Here’s a report of the day’s events:

It began with Ed Deci speaking about self-determination and its relationship to positive psychology – in other words: the self-fulfilling prophecy.  He showed scientific proof that believing that you are doomed and things will never get better can actually bring that about.  Using a simple analogy (of my own), if one is drowning and they really don’t think anyone will come to rescue them, they can behave based on this belief by not paddling and dying before help could arrive.  But Deci really wowed the crowd when he reported that studies repeatedly proved that external rewards kill off intrinsic motivation.  For instance, when we try to control our children either by giving them a reward for doing well (the carrot) or punishing them when they do not do well (the stick), we inadvertently are hindering our child’s innate love of learning!  You can bet I will be blogging more about this. Continue reading Report from IPPA Conference, Day 2

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In therapy, we talk a lot about positive affirmations. It is often use as a tool to replace negative beliefs. For instance, if, deep down, one believes “I’m a loser” then we would find an positive affirmation to off-set this core belief. Notice that this negative belief is very precise and definitive – there is no ambiguity. This means that the offsetting positive affirmation must be at least as powerful. “I am awesome” is much more powerful than “I could be awesome”. The latter insinuates that there is the POTENTIAL to be awesome, but awesomeness has not yet been achieved. This is a subtle but important distinction. There seems to be no wishy-washyness at all in our negative statements. Think to the last time you made a big mistake. What was your ANT (automatic negative thought)? I bet you were tough on yourself. But a funny thing about people: we seem to very ambiguous when it comes to positive statements about ourselves. Now, when choosing a positive affirmation, I always think of buying clothes for a child. Do you buy the kid the size they currently wear? No! Of course not. You buy the clothes that are a little too big so they can grow into them.
Using the previous example, if you currently have the belief “I’m a loser”, then saying the positive affirmation “I am awesome” may feel like an outright lie and thereby negates its usefulness. “I’m ok” might feel like a better fit. I am providing you with a suggested continuum that might help you decide which positive affirmation might be right for you. Again, this continuum is only a suggestion. You might use other words or even have the words in a different order. Don’t get too hung up on this. Just pick a positive affirmation that feels like a bit of a stretch for you. Repeat the affirmation many times throughout the day. The more you say it, the more comfortable you will get in saying it. Once it feels true, feel free to pick a NEW positive affirmation. We’ll have you up to AWESOME in no time.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor and teacher of Happiness 101

Affirmation Continuum

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A must for harnessing your Happiness is taking responsibility for it.

In Happiness 101, we have four rules: no blame, no shame, no guilt and no complaining. These were dubbed the Happiness Robbers but Marci Shimoff in her book Happy For No Reason. The earmark of a Happiness Robber is avoidance of full responsibility, opting instead to be mired down in victim hood. It is important to clarify that there IS a time and place for blame, shame, guilt and complaining. But when they are used as excuses to avoid taking responsibility for your life and your Happiness. This can be easier said than done. On the one hand, taking full responsibility means that you have the power to make changes and that can feel VERY empowering. However, this also means that IT’S ALL ON YOU to make choices that will make you happy. Let’s face it: it is easier and more convenient to blame our spouse, our boss or our friends for our predicament. The price we pay, however, is remaining stuck and feeling helpless – a victim.

You might say “Oh, but I REALLY do not have control over this situation. I am stuck and there is nothing I can do.” The answer is the serenity prayer. If you have never heard it, I offer it to you now:
“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, if I am blaming my unhappiness on the recession, then I am powerless to be happy because the economic state of the nation is beyond my control. However, I AM in control of my personal finances and I am in control of my attitude. Sometimes what we have control over may be in question. Do you have control over your spouse, your boss or your friends? No. Our sphere of direct control is really quite limited. Of course we can help or hinder various processes through our behavior, but do we honestly have control? For instance, I can work hard, always show up for work and laugh at all of the bosses jokes, but does that mean I will get the promotion? Maybe but maybe not. We can do things in hopes of achieving a certain result, but many times that hoped-for result is out of our control.
I know. This can be very challenging to think about how limited your control really is. However, in my practice as a therapist, I see people frustrated and feeling depressed because they are attempting to control something that is not within their control while ignoring the things that truly ARE within their control (Disclaimer: I am not thinking of anyone specific as I write this – promise!). If we take control of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, WE control our happiness.
A wonderful example of this is Nelson Mandela (see recent movie review of Invictus). Here was a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. I don’t think anyone would have blamed him for being bitter and/or hateful. But Nelson Mandela refused to be a victim of his oppressors. He recognized that though he was imprisoned that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his soul.
Now that you have this knowledge, I challenge you to take full responsibility for your life -AND your Happiness.
~Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional Counselor

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In my previous post (Be Right or Be Happy) I invited you to join us in the ranks of optimists. Well, last night I found out, I am not an optimist. In fact, I am “severely hopeless” according to the Optimism Test found at It might be tempting to dismiss the findings but actually I think it’s accurate. This could be one of the more important findings of my own path to be happier. You see, Martin Seligman purports that optimism can be dissected into two parts permanence and pervasiveness. So, when things go wrong, do you say something like “I’m so stupid!”? Can you see the pervasiveness and permanence of this label you have slapped onto yourself? In contrast, “Sometimes I do really stupid things” leaves room for hope. Okay, you made a mistake but are not damning yourself for all eternity. The latter statement also gives wiggle room that sometimes you do things right too – so it is not pervasive. These differences are subtle but significant. So, in taking the test and honestly looking at how I respond to such boo-boos, I am quick to judge myself harshly. This is GREAT! I feel the way I imagine kids who have struggled with a learning disorder might feel when being diagnosed: on the one hand, it’s difficult to be diagnosed as “severely pessimistic” but now I can DO something about it! Now I can make a conscious choice to start watching my self-talk and (out loud) language more carefully for words like “never”, “always” and labels. I can replace these words with more optimistic choices such as “sometimes” or “maybe”. While I’m dissecting optimism and pessimism, I offer one last tidbit courtesy of Sonja Lyubomirsky. In her book, The How of Happiness, she adds one other dimension to the mix: internal vs. external. Do you blame yourself or external circumstances? Let’s look at two examples:
You lost a race. Your response:
A. I’m a loser
B. It wasn’t my day
In the first example, it is permanent, pervasive and internal. The second statement is temporary, transient and external.
Are you a true optimist? Take the challenge: go to

A final thought about your words, care of that prolific writer, Anonymous:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor
Aspiring Optimist

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You won't believe what this picture is made of. Read on.

In Happiness 101, we have four rules:

No Blame

No Shame

No Guilt

No Complaining

We call these rascals “Happiness Robbers” a term coined by Marci Shimoff.  In short, blame, shame, guilt and complaining emerge when we are in victimhood and not taking full responsibility for our Happiness.  As with any good rule, we also have consequences for breaking the rule.  The three consequences are: 1) sing a happy song for one minute, 2) pay $2 to charity and 3) give 10 positives.  Having these consequences does two things – it raises student’s level of awareness of what they are saying and the positive energy of the consequence offsets the negative energy brought into the class.

Well, it seems that I broke my own rule.  I complained.

On February 20th, I posted an article called “No News is Good News” in which I complained.  I will not make matters worse by reiterating it here.  I also will make no excuses.  I will, however, pay up for breaking (what has become) one of the rules of my life.  So, here are my 10 positives:

1) I am thankful to the banana peel.  This natural protective layer helps to keep the banana fresh and ready to eat.  Banana peels have also raised the level of “happy chemicals” in millions of people by way of slapstick comedy.

2) I appreciate aluminum.  This amazing light-weight metal has been used in everything from building materials to the container from which I drink.  It is also recyclable!

3) This shirt I am wearing.  Does a great job of keeping me warm and from scaring people away.  It is a navy blue polo with a kangeroo over (what would be) the left breast pocket.  It reminds me of a wonderful trip to Coff’s Harbor Australia and of the great time at the Sydney Aquarium.  This shirt has also been a great conversation starter, which has helped me to better connect with others.

4)  That my eyes are getting better!  My last optometrist had the foresight (sorry, couldn’t resist) to NOT give my eyes as much power as they craved in my last pair of glasses.  This made my eyes work harder and at my last check-up, the doc (a different optometrist) said I needed a new prescription because my eyes got better.

5) Spell-check.  Microsoft Word’s spell-check helped me to figure out how to spell optometrist.  I’m sure Spell-check has saved me on countless papers, E-mails and resumes over the years.  Thank you, Microsoft!

6) My grey scarf.  ‘Never was much of a scarf man – until this year!  In years past I complained a LOT during winter because of the cold.  Ironically, I had plenty of warm clothing to wear but did not wear it.  Teaching Happiness 101 has helped me to take true responsibility for my Happiness and so I have been dressing warmer – including my grey scarf.  It is long enough and short enough.  It is warm and doesn’t scratch.  It probably saved me from a cold this year – I haven’t had one.

7)  My wife’s blue eyes.  I appreciate my wife VERY much, but I always choose to appreciate something different each time I count the positives.  She, of course, was the very first blessing I counted on my very first list.  Her eyes are beautiful and sometimes sparkle with mischief.  I appreciate the love they have mirrored back to me for over 22 years.

8 ) Raisins.  The raisins in my drawer really saved me tonight.  I forgot to bring something to eat.  I’m glad someone took the chance to eat a dried up wrinkled grape.  Where would Raisinettes be without them?  The same place my stomach would be right now: empty.

9) You Tube.  I really love logging into You Tube after a long day and stumbling on all kinds of amazing, interesting and  funny videos.  Olga Kay is my guilty pleasure.  She makes me smile and laugh – BOTH which are good for my Happiness.

Click to see the art and the artist

10) Lint.  Hmmmmmmmmm  okay.  I’ll admit, I’m stretching on this one.  But that’s good!  It helps to stretch my positive muscles to think of how I could be grateful for lint.  Well, if we had no clothes, we would have no lint – so I can be VERY grateful to have clothes that made the lint.  But appreciating the lint on its own merits….. (stretching) I know!  If there was no lint, then there would not have been a need to invent a lint trap.  So inventing the lint trap put food on the lint trap inventor’s table.  I think his name was J. Ross Moore (yes, I tried to look it up).  Oh, one more reason to be grateful for lint: would you believe lint art?!?!  I just discovered this just now.  Wow!  Go Heidi Hooper!! Her art has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Wow!

I must say, writing those 10 positives and spending the time to write about and really appreciate these 10 things really lifted my spirits. Give it a try and please share your answers.

~Frank Clayton, LPC

11) Learning about Heidi Hooper and her amazing story of how she came to make her art out of lint. Click here to see the You Tube video of Heidi Hooper and how she turned her pain and her lint into art! Thank you again You Tube.

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happy worker Do you dread getting up for work?
While at work, do you watch the clock, eager to get back home?
Conversely, do you think you SHOULD be happy in your job, but just do not feel it?

Sadly, many people feel this way. The average person spends a good bulk of their time AT work. In Happiness 101 we teach about choice and taking full responsibility for your own Happiness. It is for this reason we abide by four rules: no blame, no shame, no guilt and no complaining. These rules are inspired by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of the amazing book, The How of Happiness (see my book review). She dubbed blame, shame, guilt and complaining as Happiness Robbers because they rob us of our CHOICE to be happy. In regards to YOU and your job situation, please notice the thoughts that come up for you when I say “You can be happier at work”. Do you whip our your laundry list of reasons you cannot be happy in your job? Or, worse, do you with a heavy sigh categorically dismiss the idea with “Nah”?
Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you CAN, or you CAN’T, you’re right!” So, if you steadfastly believe you cannot be Happier, then I am sure that will be your reality. If you have even a little hope that you could be Happier in your job NOW (not when you get the job you REALLY want, or get the promotion or raise), then join us tonight for Happiness 101. It is a FREE weekly class about Happiness I teach every week. It is based on studies and empirical research, not just fluff that sounds good. All you have to lose is your frown.
Class starts at 7pm. Address: 220 East 3900 South #7. If you have any questions, call 801-262-0317 for recorded information or E-mail me at

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