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What Makes You Happy?

» Mental Health Library » Treatment Approaches » Positive Psychology » Featured Article

By: Cynthia Peikoff, LCSW

Cynthia Peikoff, LCSWImagine if someone told you "if you make a conscious decision to be happy, you can be happy! "If you assume full personal responsibility for your actions, thoughts and feelings, and refuse to blame others for your own unhappiness, you can be happy."

What Makes You Happy?

First, you must identify for yourself what makes you happy.

Happy people can tell you in an instant what makes them happy. According to Foster & Hicks, the authors of How We Choose To Be Happy*, "happy people live their passions and dive into those things that make them happiest, regardless of the complexities of their life circumstances. When happy people have been hurt they refuse to act like victims."

"Of course, complexities are a part of life. But a happy person recasts his or her problems into opportunities and challenges," they explain. "To what extent do you recast everyday problems by turning them into opportunity? Do you allow yourself to feel unhappy emotions deeply and then, as healing allows, move through sadness by converting trauma into opportunities and meaning?" they ask.

Happy people live in the moment rather than focus on the past or worry about the future. They talk about being exquisitely aware of the fragility and preciousness of existence. Foster and Hicks ask, "to what extent are you aware of the moment and grateful for your life and those around you?"

Do You Give?

"Giving is a constant in life, and may manifest itself in one's profession or... with friends and family. It is the act of sharing yourself -- your talents, resources and hospitality," say Foster & Hicks. Giving is in our self-interest in the end because by offering the best within ourselves to the world around us, we are helping to create our own ideal world.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Lastly, how truthful are you to yourself and others?

"Happy people speak their truth in an accountable manner, enforce personal boundaries, and will not conform to the demands of society, the corporation or the family if it violates their personal belief systems. Their truthfulness becomes a contract they have with themselves and, most important, it is a way to check their thoughts and actions against their own internal, personal code," they conclude.

Clients enter therapy because they have: a) lost track of what makes them happy, b) become isolated and withdrawn from the people in their lives, c) become confused about the truth.

I named my website primarily because I help people think things through. If you are confused and need help puzzling out the dilemmas in your life, give me a call today!

*Rick Foster, Greg Hicks. How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People, Their Secrets, Their Stories. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1999.

About the Author...

I have a private practice in psychotherapy in Irvine, California. Whenever people ask me, "What kind of people do you work with?," I tend to follow the lead of my mentor, Dr. William Glasser, who simply puts it: "unhappy people." I'm not trying to be funny, that is really how I look at my clients. I don't see them with the labels others have given them. I search out the source of their unhappiness and from there our work proceeds.

Click here to contact or learn more about Cynthia Peikoff

Last Update: 10/3/2009

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