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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Who Killed Happiness and How to Get it Back!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 29th 2010

happinessSince World War II when so many Veterans came back with major traumatic stress, the world of psychology has been focused on the pathologies or illnesses of, well...most of us. The Humanistic movement came out in the 50's, known as the third force in psychology, but really blossomed more a decade or so later focusing more on the entire human experience including all of the comfortable feelings like awe, gratitude, and joy. Transpersonal Psychology, known as the fourth force in psychology, came shortly after and began looking into the spiritual aspects of psychology. But then someone came along and killed happiness, how did this happen and where do we stand now?

In the early part of this century when Positive psychology came out with their handbook, they began putting academic and research-focused rigor to the work behind humanistic psychology. This catapulted the "happiness" movement with Martin Seligman's book Authentic Happiness and gave people more permission to focus on "the good" in their lives.

However, like with anything, this process can become commercialized and then leave a sour taste in people's mouths. Why the sour taste? Because we all have a barometer to know when we feel like we're being sold a bill of goods without the substance behind it. Too many books, too many self-help "gurus" came out of the woodwork claiming to put perma-smiles on our faces. The promise of permanent happiness is a complete illusion and we know that. This is what Barbara Ehrenreich talks about in her book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

However, that does not mean that a greater life filled with more calm, ease, love and joy is not out there. However, like with anything worth doing, it takes effort and discipline to incline our minds toward the good.

Here are four words that I have found helpful in reminding me how to cultivate more gradual happiness in my life.

  1. Incline - this word gives a visual representation of tending to actively lean toward what I consider to be good things in my life. I may actively look for pleasant things in my environment or actively take action on things in life that are healthy for myself and others.

  2. Invite - It's important to not push our minds toward this way of being, that only creates resistance and feels inauthentic. We can invite our minds to be open to "the good" in our lives.

  3. Intend - Intention makes all the difference. It's important to set the intention to do incline and invite. Without intention, we get too easily drawn back into the gravity of our neurological automatic negativity bias and get caught up in old habitual ways of seeing and doing things.

  4. Patience - Here it is. This does not happen overnight and we can often experience two steps forward and one step back. Or maybe two steps forward and three steps back sometimes. That doesn't mean that we can't keep stepping forward. Be patient and gentle with yourself.


As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Why not happy? - George - Apr 1st 2010

In all honesty, I was hoping for much more from this article.  Advertising killed our happiness?  And wouldn't it be helpful to delineate the ways in which those four buzzwords can help us recapture this elusive happiness? 

I'm disappointed; far more so than unhappy, with the meanderings of this article.

Lost Happiness - Mona - Apr 1st 2010

MS stole my happiness,killed my dreams and draw tears on my eyes..It made me sad and depressed and its really hard to hide this from people that i love ,around me..Wars killed happiness as well as MS..

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