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New Year’s resolution – would you like to be happier?

So here's a blast from the past ... that could be fun and useful for a New Year's resolution.  I first came across Michael Fordyce's research year's ago (Fordyce 1977; Fordyce 1983).  It was probably the first serious scientific exploration of how to help people become happier that I'd ever read.  The approach involves a training called the "Fourteen Fundamentals".  These are fourteen characteristics of happy people, extracted from research, that Fordyce argued most people could develop for themselves.  The "Fundamentals" are: 1.) Be more active and keep busy.  2.) Spend more time socializing.  3.) Be productive at meaningful work.  4.) Get better organized and plan things out.  5.) Stop worrying.  6.) Lower your expectations and aspirations.  7.) Develop positive optimistic thinking.  8.) Get present orientated.  9.) WOAHP - work on a healthy personality. 10.) Develop an outgoing, social personality.  11.) Be yourself.  12.) Eliminate negative feelings and problems.  13.) Close relationships are the #1 source of happiness. 14.) VALHAP (value happiness) - the "secret fundamental".

Barbara Fredrickson’s recent research study on loving-kindness meditation (third post)

What are some implications for using forms of mind training for ourselves and for teaching others?  Reading this research study leads me to think about optimum amount of time spent practising these methods, the importance of encouraging application during daily life.  I discuss these issues in this blog posting.  It would also be fascinating and helpful to look at the challenge of maintaining the practices over time, and to consider how different forms of mind training can be directed at different targets - for example, easing symptoms, encouraging particular positive emotions (e.g. compassion, gratitude & contentment), targeting specific key wellbeing needs (e.g. self-determination theory's autonomy, competence & relatedness), and helping people live their personal values.

Barbara Fredrickson’s recent research study on loving-kindness meditation (second post)

I have already written an initial blog post about Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues' interesting recent research paper (Fredrickson, Cohn et al. 2008) on the effects of teaching people loving-kindness meditation.  So what are some possible implications of this research for people in general, for using forms of mind training (meditation, imagery, breathing techniques, self-hypnosis and relaxation) for ourselves, and for people who teach these approaches?

Four aspects of helpful inner focus: 2.) nourishing positive states (part A)

Ten days ago, on this blog, I wrote about "Reducing negative states" as one aspect of a simple model entitled "Four aspects of helpful inner focus" (see below).  The model is a method I've evolved to help me organize and think about the many facets of deliberately induced altered states of consciousness.  I'm using terms loosely here.  I remember a hypnotist I came across many years ago, calling himself a "de-hypnotist".  He claimed that we walk around "hypnotised" most of the time and that he saw his job as trying to help us "wake up" from this hypnosis.  I mention this to illustrate how terms in this field - for example "inner focus" and "altered state of consciousness" - tend to creak rather a lot if one pushes at them for precise meanings. 

Handouts & questionnaires for wellbeing and calming skills

I continue to slowly add handouts & questionnaires to the relevant area in the website's "Good Knowledge" section.  Here are a some that I use largely in the territory of wellbeing, mindfulness and relaxation.  Some are assessment and monitoring questionnaires.  Some provide orientating information.  Some describe specific exercises to do.

Attention, focus & time - this is a Powerpoint slide that I put together and use as a printed-out handout when discussing what we spend our time paying attention to, and how certain forms of attention focus are likely to be more helpful than others.

Four aspects of inner focus - this is another Powerpoint slide I print out to illustrate some overlapping aspects of mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, self-hypnosis, and other related practices.

Transdiagnostic wellbeing therapy - I put this Powerpoint picture together in a rather tongue in cheek way in a discussion with Tom Borkovec.  Despite its quite light-hearted origin, the diagram makes some useful points. 

Compassion & criticism

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.

- Warren Buffet

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.     Dalai Lama 

Wellbeing, calming & mindfulness skills

“ Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men. ” - Confucius

Here are a bunch of handouts that I use largely in the territory of wellbeing, mindfulness and relaxation.  Some are assessment and monitoring questionnaires.  Some provide orientating information.  Some describe specific exercises to do.

Bus driver metaphor (available as both Word and PDF handouts) - this is a classic ACT (acceptance & commitment therapy) metaphor.  I've posted a blog post on this often helpful way of viewing things.  It's sensible though to also understand possible limitations of this metaphor

Some mindfulness resources on the internet

There was an interesting request on JISCmail (see note below), the listserv for BABCP cognitive-behavioural therapists, asking about podcasts on mindfulness.  Several people wrote in with useful suggestions.  These included:

I don't know if this is exactly what you are looking for, but you can listen to Matthiew Richard on http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html  
I find the "TED talks" quite inspiring and I would recommend the talks on "how the mind works" in particular the one by Jill Bolte Taylor: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

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