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

Four Steps to Bring On Happiness

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 6th 2010

When we're feeling in a funk our minds don't tend to incline toward joy and happiness. When we're feeling neutral about things, the mind still tends to incline toward more of an automatic negative state. That's a generalization, but mainly true for most people as the brain has an automatic negativity bias to keep us safe. Because of the happiness trend, there's been a happiness backlash as often occurs when something popular gets overexposed for financial profit. There was even a book that came out called Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. So where's the truth in all of this?

What I'm coming around to is that there is a need among many of us to actually incline our minds toward the bright side without ignoring our feelings.

Here are a few steps:

  1. If you're feeling in a funk, it may be a good idea to first acknowledge that you're not feeling well and loosen up a bit. You can do that by telling yourself to loosen up, or actually get up and roll your shoulders and breathe.

  2. The next thing you may want to do is ask try and remember a certain moment in your life when you actually felt good. This could have been a day at the park, seeing the smile of a baby, having a good meal with a friend, watching a sunset; there are a number of possibilities in your life.

  3. Become aware of how it makes you feel to recall this memory, what is arising physically, emotionally and mentally?
    • Uncomfortable feelings - If uncomfortable feelings are arising, what would it be like to hold those feelings in your awareness like you would a small baby who is not feeling well. This is an opportunity to feed yourself with love and kindness which can be very healing.
    • Comfortable feelings - If comfortable feelings arise, notice how that feels in your body. Is there an expansion in your chest, a loosening up, or a smile on your face maybe? Breathe into this feeling and allow yourself to soak it in like a sponge. When it passes, it passes, let it be.
  4. Repeat this a couple times a day.

It's perfectly fine to actively bring to mind pleasant experiences while acknowledging how you're currently feeling. In fact, it can really be helpful in cultivating greater flexibility and creativity of mind which are essential for resilience.

What memories do you have that are on the bright side? Even taking this moment to write it down below is a practice in inclining mind. Write about it and see what comes up. Your writing also helps create a living wisdom that we can all 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.

Great Tips - Joseph Clough - Apr 9th 2010

Great tips Elisha, Its something that i've taught my patients. Also as they go to sleep doing a mental reharsal of how they would like their day to go and getting into the habit it.

Once again good tips


Good suggestion. - Dorothy - Apr 7th 2010

It can be so hard to remember the good days when depression has a hold of me. Anything to externalize it is a good idea.

On good days, I'm surrounded by friends and we share food and laughter. The love between us is palpable and the food is delicious.

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