The Happiness Factor – Don’t Worry, Be Happy

How many times did something happen in your life when you were convinced you would never be happy again? When was the last time you were hit with myoneural pain and thought you would never be free of it again? When was the last time you were convinced that the Mind Body program was baloney?

And how did it happen that pain disappeared and happiness crept back in the door and all was well again, whether it was physical or psychological?

Martin Seligman, Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Authentic Happiness (Free Press 2002), has spent decades researching positive psychology and argues that happiness can be practiced, obtained and mastered by minding our thoughts from moment to moment. Sounds like his decades of research support and/or reinforce the Tension Myoneural Program.

Research shows that we do have a happiness gene and that 50 percent of a person’s inclination for happiness is genetically determined. You actually have a “set point” for happiness just like you have a “set point” for body weight. “You can fluctuate within a range but it’s hard to go much higher or lower,” points out Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of The How of Happiness (Penguin 2008), a book of strategies backed by scientific research that can be used to increase happiness. Only about 10 percent of your happiness is determined by circumstance. But according to Lyubomirsky, that leaves 40 percent that can be influenced by deliberate activities or strategies.

Reprogramming your Thoughts and Emotions

When physical or emotional negativity arises, you must act as your own therapist, refuting negative thoughts and views. When you catch yourself “catastrophizing” about an issue, stop the pessimistic thoughts in their tracks and reprogram what you’re telling yourself. For instance, if you begin to think, “I will live in pain for the rest of my life,” then you must take control and talk sense to yourself, such as, “Have I ever been free of pain? Yes. Is there something psychological going on that I need to look at? Perhaps. Is there anything seriously wrong with my body if I have MBS? No.”

By arguing with yourself, you can separate fact from fiction. You can learn to disarm pessimism and free yourself from feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, fear, guilt, anger, anxiety, shame pain and other emotions and symptoms. You can control not only your moods but your pain levels. You can choose happiness over physical or psychological discomfort.

“At first you might feel embarrassed or self-conscious to talk to yourself,” points out Dr. Howard Schubiner, author of Unlearn Your Pain, “but I’ve found these affirmations to be amazingly successful for defeating mind body symptoms.

Continues Dr. Schubiner, “Tell your mind to stop producing the symptoms immediately. Do this with force and conviction, either out loud or silently. Take a few deep breaths and move on with what you’re doing.” If you are faced with constant, chronic pain, you will need to rebut your erroneous beliefs repeatedly. “Even if you don’t see results initially,” encourages Dr. Schubiner, “keep practicing–it may take some time to retrain your brain.”

Remember, you are taking control of your life this way.

Dan Baker, PhD, a medical psychologist, pioneer in positive psychology, and author of What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better (Rodale 2003), says a lot of people think you can’t manage emotion but that’s poppycock.

“Happy people are very good at managing emotion,” he says. He lost his infant son and used his own techniques to put his personal grief in perspective. Happiness, he says, is the ability to practice appreciation and love. “That might sound sappy, but studies show that when people engage in appreciative activity, they are using more Neo-cortical, prefrontal functions–higher level brain functions.”

The late professor Michael Argyle, a social psychologist who studied happiness and published The Social Psychology of Leisure (Penguin Books 1996), put forth the view that the best guarantee for long-term happiness was “serious leisure.” He advocated a hobby or activity that involved the “whole being” such as reading, music, travel or even housework “so long as the individual finds the activity challenging or absorbing.”

It’s very important for people with Mind Body disorders to engage in activities that bring pleasure. You must “get on” with your life rather than wallow in your pain and fear.

Minding your thoughts from moment to moment can bring happiness. “We’ve found that happy people tend to be more creative, productive, charitable, socially engaged–the very qualities that can help them get out of an oppressive situation,” says Lyubomirsky.