We all feel angry, mad, or sad sometimes and that’s ok. It’s not healthy to strive for constant happiness. Trying to force happiness at inappropriate times can signal mental health issues, such as mania. So, if your pet dies or a relationship ends, negative emotions are appropriate. We need to take time to process our emotions and feel them.
Emotional processing occurs when a person experiences a negative event and can cope with the event as time passes. We all face challenges that cause fear, sadness, and anxiety but these feelings are temporary for the majority of people.
There are many ways to process, or reduce, emotions. You don’t want to get stuck feeling sad or angry long-term, right? Masking emotions with unhealthy behaviors, like abusing alcohol, or blocking feelings doesn’t help us heal.
Listening to music is a one healthy way to process emotions. Sad music lets us grieve, and gets the tears out, so that we can feel our emotions and heal faster. Also, angry music lets us feel anger and safely release it. So, use our Feel Your Feelings playlist as a catalyst for emotional health.
We all need to cry it out sometimes. Feeling anger, sadness and hurt think can help us discover lessons learned from an experience. You can benefit from post-traumatic growth by finding benefits in negative events. For instance, you might decide to listen more, or talk through challenges in your next relationship instead of pushing away problems. Also, after a hurt, you might have more time to focus on going back to school, learning guitar, or creating art. Finally, emotional processing can help us avoid past mistakes, and this can be combined with post-traumatic growth to create your Best Possible Future.
We are what we think. So after a breakup, thinking “my life is awful”, “it’s all my fault”, and “this agony will never end and I’ll die alone and my cat will eat me” results in negative feelings. Luckily it’s possible to use learned optimism to change thinking patterns and feel better fast.
Psychologist and happiness expert Dr. Martin Seligman discovered that positive thinking patterns can increase healing and recovery from adversity, and they also increase well-being and happiness. Seligman recommends using the Three P’sof Learned Optimism: (1) Personalization, (2) Pervasiveness, and (3) Permanence to gain perspective when you’re feeling bad. This learned optimism changes pessimistic thinking patterns to positive and this gets easier with practice.
But why bother thinking positive when negative things keep happening? Seligman reports that pessimists get depressed more easily, underperform at work, school, and sports, have less stable relationships, and experience worse health than optimists. In contrast, optimists succeed better at school, work, and leisure activities. They have more robust social networks, experience better health and may live longer. Bad things happen to everyone and choosing how to react changes how we feel. Use the 3 P’s to change thinking patterns from negative to positive.
After a breakup, start by examining personalization. Your breakup isn’t 100% your fault, so think of other contributing factors that may have contributed. Maybe your ex’s mother didn’t like your cat, maybe job challenges stressed your relationship, or maybe single friends tempted your ex to play too often. So, maybe you could change “this is entirely my fault” to “job stress made my ex grouchy and that didn’t help our relationship”. Understanding personalization leads to optimistic thinking and this reduces blame and self-criticism.
Next, consider pervasiveness, which means understanding that not all areas of your life are affected by your breakup. Breakups are difficult but focusing on non-romantic activities or relationships can make you feel better. For instance, choose a flow activity, like learning how to play a musical instrument, writing or painting; or volunteer, or grow friend or family relationships, these activities are proven to increase happiness according to Seligman’s research. Also, your dog or a friend’s dog will always love you no matter what.
Finally, permanence means realizing that intense breakup pain is temporary. Breakups can follow the grief stages discovered by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may move up and down through the grief stages, or not experience all of them. You will feel better with time as you process your emotions and move towards acceptance. For now, remember that intense pain isn’t permanent. So if you tell yourself “My life is awful, will always be awful and I’m going to die alone and my cat will eat me” or “I’m going crazy” you’ll feel worse. Instead, thinking “I’ll feel better with time” or “feeling sad after a breakup is normal” can help you feel better.
Recovery Is Possible After Intense Grief
In her book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, applied the three P’s to her life after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack. Upon reflection, Sandberg realized that her husband’s death was not her fault, some areas of her life weren’t terrible (for instance, birthday parties with her kids), and her crushing grief wouldn’t last forever.
Sandberg’s painfully honest self-reflection inspired me to use the three P’s to recover after my divorce. I needed help stopping PTSD-like symptoms caused by ruminating about what I did wrong during my marriage and also whenever I saw my ex-husband, which was necessary during my kids’ soccer and lacrosse games. I knew my rapid heartbeat, sweating, and difficulty breathing were harmful to me but I couldn’t stop negative thoughts.
When thinking through the three P lens, I realized my divorce wasn’t wholly my fault. For instance, my ex-husband’s challenges were not in my control, I hadn’t caused them, and couldn’t fix them. Further, I realized that distress from my divorce no longer impacts most of my life, and the pain from my marriage is decreasing every day.
As my guilt and self-blame lessened I felt better about my self and my future. Also, I noticed the Three P’s had calmed my stress response. For the first time when thinking about my breakup, my breathing and heartbeat felt normal, and I wasn’t sweating. A deep sense of relief and gratitude towards Dr. Seligman and his research swelled in my heart.
Optimistic thinking also helps adolescents. In one study, participants ages 10-15, with low to moderate hopelessness, utilized cognitive behavioral therapy, including the three P’s, to improve depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and coping (Gillham et al., 2012). I could identify with the study participants, as I had experienced hopelessness while married. Indeed, the three P’s can help us gain insight leading to success both at school and at home.
Also, this knowledge helps defeat passivity, which is the default response to shock caused by adversity, and we must work to overcome this to increase wellbeing. Learning how to control thoughts and behaviors can overcome passivity.
The three P’s are a powerful thought tool we can apply to all areas in our lives. So, like Sandberg’s recovery after her husband’s death, the students overcoming hopelessness, and me changing negative thinking to positive, the three P’s increased my happiness and well-being. I hope you’ll use them to do the same for you.
Want some addicting fun this weekend? These great podcasts will make spring cleaning, gardening, or organizing fly by, and getting chores done can increase your happiness and well-being. 🤣 Watch out for your fingernails though, many of these award-winning podcasts are 5-star suspenseful. You might find yourself cleaning more than you planned.
A new truck driver struggles to deliver the mysterious cargo locked in her truck.
A DJ struggles to protect his loved ones amidst a world-wide blackout and apocalypse.
3) Alice Isn’t Dead
A truck diver searches America for the wife she thought was dead.
4) The Edge of Sleep
Could you stay awake if your life depended upon it? Everyone that fell asleep last night is dead so survivors struggle to solve a global pandemic before they fall asleep.
5) Imagined Life: you share a mysterious celebrities roller-coaster journey to fame while trying to guess who “you” are.
6) Revisionist History
Malcolm Gladwell reinterprets past events through a modern lens.
7) Joe Exotic
Tiger King: enter the bizarro world of exotic animal zoos and arch nemesis rivalries. Did Carol feed her husband to the tigers? What will happen to Joe?
Podcasts a fun option for entertainment while finishing tasks that are repetitive or boring, or maybe you just want to close your eyes in the sunshine and listen to something interesting. I go through podcasts quickly, lol and always need more. I have tons of yard work I need to do this summer, so what are some of your favorite podcasts?
About the author(s)
Kendeyl Johansen is a tech geek creating inspirational multimedia content to increase happiness and health for individuals and organizations.
Dr. David Price, from Weill Medical Center, says his facility handles 20% of NYC’s coronavirus patients, and he and his colleagues have avoided getting sick despite serving the sickest patients, those likely to need a ventilator. Dr. Price was choked up with happy tears that he could stop fearing contracting coronavirus when following the four steps below.
If you have time for the 1-hour video I highly recommend it! If not here’s the gist:
1) 99% of infections are from sustained contact with an infected person, 30+ mins, NOT incidental contact.
This disease spreads by droplets. People touch something with a droplet on it and then infect themselves by touching their face.
2) It’s ok to touch things but sanitize your hands after. Sanitize, sanatize, sanitize.
3) Avoid touching your face. You only need a medical mask if in close contact with an infected person. Wear a regular mask to protect yourself from touching your face. No formal mask needed, a BANDANA works great. Leave the medical masks for professionals that need them because they work directly with sick patients.
4) Practice social distancing of 3-6 feet.
Good news: if you practice these steps you won’t get coronavirus, just like Dr. Price and his team are avoiding this sickness.
Dr. Price’s Q & A
• Pregnant women are not more impacted by coronavirus than anyone else. Those that have contracted the disease recovered without a negative impact on their baby.
• Infants and newborns are not getting coronavirus. There is near zero incidences for ages 0-14.
• To avoid overwhelming our healthcare system, stay at home if you have coronavirus. If you have fever, aches, and feel crappy, stay home. These symptoms will pass for most people. Go to the hospital only if you have shortness of breath.
Only 10% of people will need to go to the hospital for evaluation. Of those, 1-3% will need a medical ventilator. The majority of people will come off the ventilator after 7-10 days and recover.
• If you get coronavirus isolate yourself in one room for 14 days if possible, and if possible, dedicate a bathroom for just your use. If in shared living space, use common sense to stay away from people 3-6 feet, use a regular mask, sanitize everything you touch. Try and find an alternative living arrangement if living with an immunocompromised person.
• If you think you have a cold self-isolate for a few days to keep others safe in case coronavirus symptoms develop.
• It’s fine to outside to exercise and get fresh air just keep 3-6 feet away from others.
• Herd immunity spread for coronavirus is a bad idea for our world. Allowing quick infection of as many people as possible will overwhelm our medical systems and countless people will die. Better to limit exposure so that the virus spreads slower in a way medical systems can handle so less people die.
Thank you, Dr. Price, for taking time to share your knowledge. Finally, I can breathe easy knowing how to avoid this disease. I wish everyone good health as we fight this disease together.
Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.
–Dalai Lama XIV
Our world needs more happiness, especially during this coronavirus pandemic. Gratitude journals are scientifically proven to increase happiness (Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, and Sheldon 2011; Seligman and Anselmo-Matthews, 2012). Writing down three positive things per day can help depressed people feel better for up to three months and help happy feel happier and stay happy for three to six months. (Seligman, Emmons & McCoulloughBen-Shahar ). Increased happiness positively impacts your mental and physical health, family, friendships, community, and our world. Also, gratitude journals have helped diverse populations feel happier (Chan, 2010; Cunha, Reppold, and Pellanda, 2019; Lyubomirsky et al., 2011).
One study asked participants to write down “three good things” that went well, and why they went well. Participants did this for seven days. The best time to write was before bedtime each night. Researchers found “three good things” increased well-being and lowered depression.
This gratitude intervention works by changing thinking patterns from “what went wrong” to “what went right”. So this can change, I had a bad day to, I enjoyed walking my dog, my Carrot Cake recipe tasted delicious, and I had a fun phone chat with a friend, Click on the video, below, to learn more about how writing down gratitude works from the founder of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman.
Three Good Things
Also, Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, teaches the most popular class at this university, Positive Psychology. He has kept a gratitude journal every day since 1985. He states the benefits of gratitude include: greater happiness, optimistic thinking, greater relationship success, increased health and more. Click this video to hear his thoughts on increasing happiness without needing to pay Harvard tuition.
Five Ways To Become Happier Today
Still need convincing?
Happy people live longer, like the nuns in this study. The study found “positive emotional content inearly-life autobiographies was strongly associated with longevity 6 decades later.”
Since happiness has many benefits, why not take a few minutes to write down three positives? You can grab a stick and write them in the sand, or use a piece of paper and a pen, or use the HappySpree Gratitude Journal. It’s free, easy and only takes 3 minutes per day.
Kendeyl Johansen is a tech geek creating inspirational multimedia content to increase happiness and health for individuals and organizations.
Scientific Proof for inquiring Minds (References)
Baumgarten-Tramer, F. (1938). “Gratefulness” in Children and Young People. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology,53(1), 53-66.
Boehm, J., Lyubomirsky S. & Sheldon K. M. (2011) A longitudinal experimental study comparing the effectiveness of happiness-enhancing strategies in Anglo Americans and Asian Americans, Cognition and Emotion, 25:7, 1263-
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Carpenter, J., Crutchley, P., Zilca, R., Schwartz, H., Smith, L., Cobb, A., & Parks, A. (2016). Seeing the “Big” Picture: Big Data Methods for Exploring Relationships Between Usage, Language, and Outcome in Internet Intervention Data. Journal Of Medical Internet Research,18(8), 373-390.
Chan, D. (2010). Gratitude, gratitude intervention and subjective well-being among Chinese school teachers in Hong Kong. Educational Psychology,30(2), 139-153.
Cunha, L. F., Reppold, C. T., & Pellanda, L. C. (2019). Positive psychology and gratitude interventions: A randomized clinical trial. Frontiers in Psychology,10, 584.
Davis, D., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., . . . Worthington, E. (2016). Thankful for the Little Things: A Meta-Analysis of Gratitude Interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 20-31.
Dickens, L. (2017). Using Gratitude to Promote Positive Change: A Series of Meta-Analyses Investigating the Effectiveness of Gratitude Interventions. Basic and Applied Social
Howells, A., Ivtzan, I., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. (2016). Putting the ‘app’ in Happiness: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone-Based Mindfulness Intervention to Enhance Wellbeing. Journal of Happiness Studies,17(1), 163-185.
Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J., & Sheldon, K. (2011). Becoming Happier Takes Both a Will and a Proper Way: An Experimental Longitudinal Intervention To Boost Well-Being. Emotion,11(2), 391-402.
Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do Positive Psychology Exercises Work? A Replication of Seligman et al. Journal of Clinical Psychology,68(4), N/a.
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Seligman et al. (2005). J. Clin. Psychol. 68, 382–389. doi: 10.1002/jclp.21839 Seligman, M.P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress — Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60 (5) (2005), pp. 410-421
Watkins, P. C., Van Gelder, M., and Frias, A. (2009). “Furthering the science of gratitude,” in Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, eds S. J. Lopez and C. R. Snyder (New