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Doc's Corner: The Habits of Happy People 
June 6th, 2019

Summer is here, and the year is winding down. This will be my last column of the school year and I want to thank Dr. Linsey Gotanda and the principals of each school for letting me share my thoughts with you. I also want to thank all of you for your wonderful and insightful comments and suggestions. I hope I have provided you with some knowledge and information of drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety, vaping, relationships, cutting, suicide, marijuana, video gaming and more. I hope that some of the parenting suggestions including communication skills, validation of feelings, modeling, limit and boundary setting, teaching delayed gratification, prioritizing problems and learning how not to take all the blame has been useful.

The science of psychology is relatively new, with most of the work coming within the last 100 years. Psychology began with the understanding of, and treatment of, mental and behavioral problems like depression, anxiety and psychosis. Most of the work was trying to get “sick people” well. There has, however, been a shift in the last twenty years, and psychology has been exploring what makes “well” people achieve an even greater sense of contentment. The study of positive psychology has led to the psychology of Happiness, and I’d like to prepare you for your summer vacation with some suggestions for increasing wellness and happiness. Here are the Seven Habits of Happy People.

  1. Relationships. People who have close friendships are happier. It is not about the quantity of connections, but the quality, and the ability to share, be open and connect with others
  2. Acts of Kindness. Happiness correlates with giving of oneself to others. This can be in volunteer work, or actively showing concern for others. Those who give to others have much lower levels of depression.
  3. Exercise and Physical Well Being. Exercise and healthy living habits (e.g., good diet, no smoking, minimal or no alcohol) lead to improved well-being and less depression and anxiety. Some studies show that exercise has more impact on avoiding depression than does medication.
  4. Live in the Moment. When you are engaged and involved in an activity, you lose sense of time. Perhaps you have had the experience where you are doing something, look up, and notice that hours have gone by. This is called Flow, and achieving a state of Flow is connected to joyfulness. Read Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, for more insight.
  5. Spirituality. Research indicates that when we can find a greater meaning in life, through spirituality or religion, and when we understand the world as bigger than our own experiences, we can often find a deeper level of happiness.
  6. Use your Strengths. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, has found that the happiest people are those who have recognized their unique strengths and virtues, concurrently using those for a purpose greater than their own personal goals.
  7. Experiencing Gratitude. There has been a great amount of research showing that those who can feel grateful for what they have, and who can acknowledge and recognize what they have to be grateful for, have much higher levels of positive emotions. I often work with people on having a daily gratitude check list and reminding themselves of all the good in their lives.

I encourage you and your children to practice these seven habits of happiness, then watch your sense of well-being grow. Have a great summer.

Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at askdrgelbart@gmail.com.

Moe Gelbart, Ph.D. 
Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center