Positive 1
At the business expo I met a young man today and he was the spark I have needed for a few weeks I have been struggling with my mood. We quickly started talking about happiness and being positive. The challenges and rewards. We connected so quickly and deeply that after just a few minutes we hugged. we may never see each other again and that is ok . Kindred spirits are nice and recognizable.
Positive 2
The business expo is over so I don’t have to drive to Utah co this week again
Positive 3
A casual family friend passed yesterday but I am happy I knew her. She was so sweet and loyal of a person. So I am thankful for the brief moments we had on walks or family parties . And just to know someone with those genuine qualities .
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Positive #1: Fireworks! I love the amazing variety of fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. Sparklers for the little ones. Big fountains for the teens. The city puts on a great show. Something for everyone. I have lots of great memories with my family. 

Positive #2: Tattoos. A unique opportunity to permanently express yourself. It could pay tribute to loved ones, have art on your body or something useful, like “If found, please drop in the nearest mail box”  

Positive #3: helping a friend move. Today I had the opportunity to help a friend move. I know they felt really supported and I even got some exercise. I also got to see a part of town I hadn’t seen before (Rose Park).

Frank Clayton, The Happy Therapist


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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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Positive #3: Saying “no” more easily. I used to have a real problem saying “no”. I felt that it was my responsibility to “make” other people feel happy. This past week I have said “no” a lot and I realized that all this Positive Psychology stuff has really changed me. Now I feel an appropriate amount of angst about saying “no”. I can empathize as to why the other person is upset or disappointed but I don’t feel the urge to rescue any more. Instead, I know the other person is strong enough to withstand the disappointment and that they will endure – just as we all do. I think part of this lesson was realizing from my experiences in the past and just how much more pain is caused by NOT saying “no”. I would much rather endure five minutes of discomfort than days, weeks, months or even years of regret of not using that short but powerful word, “no”. Today I recognize the importance of saying “no” as a life skill and that sometimes when saying “no” to someone else, I am saying “yes” to myself.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Positive #2: Hushmail. Confidentiality is VERY important and so we use Hushmail which automatically encrypts E-mails making them HIPAA compliant. It gives great peace of mind to know that we can communicate in a way that will honor the privacy of everyone involved. Today, I appreciate Hushmail.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Positive #1: Root Beer. I have loved Root Beer for as long as I can remember. I even remember my mother trying to explain to me as a boy that “Dad’s Root Beer” was a brand name and not necessarily that the root beer belonged to dad and that he wasn’t going to share. It’s sweet. It’s fizzy and it’s my all time favorite carbonated drink. I don’t usually like ANY diet sodas but for some reason A&W doesn’t leave that “diet” after taste. Today, I pause to appreciate my long-time friend, Root Beer.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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Positive #3: Lenience with myself and my positives. There’s a lot going on right now and I realized when I thought of doing my positives, I realized that I could feel more joyful about it. So, I practiced what I preached and realize I could be a little more brief – being a little more patient and lenient with myself.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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