The First Ever Issue of Happier – Positive Psychology for All

I thought you might like a sneak preview of the new magazine I’ve been working on in which I’m sharing the latest secrets from positive psychology!

Positive Psychology Magazine – Happier: Being Happier with Less Via Positive Psychology by John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Go ahead! Check it out! I’m quite proud!

To a happier life,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide to Self, Inc.

Danville CA 94526 

New Tool for Depression – Focus on Positive Future Expectations

For years, I’ve been teaching clients simple frameworks to manage the emotional mind. These frameworks have to be accessible within 1/3rd of a second, before the emotional mind hijacks the rational mind.

A powerful example of this is the framework developed by Phillip Zimbardo at Stanford regarding time perspectives and valence, which is a fancy way of saying that our attention can take you certain places – internal (e.g., monitoring your heart rate, your thoughts) or external (e.g., the room you are in, the people you are with); past, present or future; and/or positive or negative emphasis.

From Ken Pope’s excellent newsletter…

*CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics* has scheduled an article for publication in a future issue: “Treating Major Depression by Creating Positive Expectations for the Future: A Pilot Study for the Effectiveness of Future-Directed Therapy (FDT) on Symptom Severity and Quality of Life.”

The authors are Jennice S. Vilhauer, Sabrina Young, Chanel Kealoha, Josefine Borrmann, Waguih W. IsHak, Mark H. Rapaport, Narineh Hartoonian, & Jim Mirocha.

Here’s the abstract:

[begin excerpt]

Introduction: This nonrandomized pilot study assesses the efficacy of a new future-oriented form of therapy, known as future-directed therapy (FDT), as a treatment for patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in a naturalistic hospital-based outpatient psychiatry clinic. The study measured symptom severity of depression and anxiety, in addition to quality of life pre- and posttreatment.

Aims: The study examined a new manualized treatment designed to help people anticipate a more positive future. The intervention consists of twenty 90-min group sessions administered twice a week over 10 weeks. The intervention was compared to depressed patients in the same clinic who enrolled in traditional cognitive-based group psychotherapy. Sixteen patients with MDD completed the FDT intervention as part of their outpatient treatment for depression. Seventeen patients with MDD participated in treatment as usual (TAU) cognitive-based group therapy. The Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and the Quality-of-Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire short form, self-report instruments were administered prior to and immediately after the completion of therapy.

Results: Patients treated with FDT demonstrated significant improvements in depression (P= 0.001), anxiety (P= 0.021) and quality of life (P= 0.035), and also reported high satisfaction with the therapy. Compared to the TAU group, patients treated with FDT showed greater improvements in depressive symptoms (P= 0.049).

Conclusions: FDT may have the potential of becoming an additional treatment option for patients with MDD.

[end excerpt]

On the Cedars-Sinai (where the research was conducted) web site there was the following additional information:

[begin Cedars-Sinai info]

Patients with major depression do better by learning to create a more positive outlook about the future, rather than by focusing on negative thoughts about their past experiences, researchers at Cedars-Sinai say after developing a new treatment that helps patients do this.

While Major Depressive Disorder patients traditionally undergo cognitive-behavior therapy care that seeks to alter their irrational, negative thoughts about past experiences, patients who were treated with the newly-developed Future-Directed Therapy(TM) demonstrated significant improvement in depression and anxiety, as well as improvement in overall reported quality of life, the researchers found.

Results were published recently in the peer-reviewed journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.

“Recent imaging studies show that depressed patients have reduced functioning in the regions of the brain responsible for optimism,” said Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, study author and clinical director of Adult Outpatient Programs for the Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. “Also, people with depression tend to have fewer skills to help them develop a better future. They have less ability to set goals, problem solve or plan for future events.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 10 American adults meet the diagnostic criteria for depression.

Anand Pandya, MD, interim chair of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, said, “Future-Directed Therapy is designed to reduce depression by teaching people the skills they need to think more positively about the future and take the action required to create positive future experiences.  This is the first study that demonstrates this intervention intended to increase positive expectations about the future can reduce symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.”

Depression in Men depressed guys

When people talk only about the negative aspects of their lives, it causes them to focus more attention on what makes them unhappy, Vilhauer said.

“Talking about what makes you unhappy in life doesn’t generate the necessary thinking patterns or action needed to promote a state of thriving and create a more positive future,” Vilhauer said.  “Future-Directed Therapy helps people shift their attention constructing visions of what they want more of in the future and it helps them develop the skills that they will need to eventually get there.”

In the study conducted at Cedars-Sinai, 16 adult patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder attended future-directed group therapy sessions led by a licensed psychologist twice a week for 10 weeks.  Each week, patients read a chapter from a Future-Directed Therapy manual and completed worksheets aimed at improving certain skills, such as goal-setting.  Another group of 17 patients diagnosed with depression underwent standard cognitive group therapy. The study team measured the severity of depression and anxiety symptoms, and quality of life before and after treatment, using the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and the Quality-of-Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire short form.

Results include:

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group experienced on average a 5.4 point reduction in their depressive symptoms on the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms scale, compared to a two point reduction in the cognitive therapy group.

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group on average reported a 5.4 point reduction in anxiety symptoms on the Beck Anxiety Inventory, compared to a reduction of 1.7 points in the cognitive therapy group.

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group reported on average an 8.4 point improvement in their self-reported quality of life on the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction scale, compared to a 1.2 point improvement in the cognitive therapy group.

[end Cedars-Sinai info]

The author note provides the following contact information: Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, 8730 W. Alden Drive, Thalians W-101, Los Angeles, CA, USA. Tel.: +(310) 423-2620; Fax: +(310) 423-0114; E-mail:


Positive Emotions Unlock Anger, Boost Innovation and Improve Physical Health

The evidence is mounting…

evidence that positive emotions exist for a reason…

evidence that evolution has selected positive emotions for specific reasons that help our species – reasons that help you in every area of your life.

Positive emotions include feelings such as awe, curiosity, gratitude, compassion, calm, love, joy, interest, passion and happiness.

Evidence is mounting to support the importance of cultivating positive emotions for success in a variety of areas in your life.

Creativity, Innovation via positive emotions

A comfy nesting bed with egg pillows

At the beginning of every session with a new client, I make a point of sharing a short, humorous video clip. One of my personal favorites is the popular Mother’s Day video by Barats and Bereta (…

The reason for sharing a humorous video with new clients is three-fold.

First, the funny video unlocks any negative emotions the client may be holding onto such as anger, irritability, anxiety or sadness (Fredrickson, The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, 2004, The Royal Society).

Second, those few, fleeting moments of laughter, mirth and smiling  reduce depressive symptoms and improve your well-being and  satisfaction with life (Sin & Lyubomirsky, Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: IN SESSION, 2009).

Positive psychology of innovation

Combination stairs and slide for young ones

Third, science has known for over a decade that chronic anger, anxiety and depression put you at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (Suls & Bunde, Anger, Anxiety, and Depression as Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Psychological Bulletin, 2005). Most people go through life with the sympathetic branch of the ANS stuck in the ‘on’ position. The sympathetic branch is similar to the gas pedal in a car. Negative emotions (along with stress, exhaustion, and lack of exercise) activate the sympathetic nervous system which leads to increased heart rate, pulse and higher levels of cortisol into the blood stream. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

On the flip side, positive emotions activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which acts like the brakes on a car.  The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in charge of calming the body, reducing heart rate and pulse, and bringing the body back to a resting state. The extent to which you can activate your PNS predicts your emotional and physical health. It is intimately related to how well you can self-regulate your own emotions.

Lower levels of PNS activity are related to higher levels of depression (Chambers and Allen, 2002), anxiety (Friedman and Thayer, 1993), aggression (Beauchaine and others, 2007), and hostility (Virtanen and others, 2003).

On the other side, higher levels of PNS activity are associated with better psychological flexibility, health and resiliency. Individuals with higher levels of PNS activity are related to more resiliency to stress (Britton and others, 2008) as well as greater mental health in children in the face of chronic conflict between parents at home.

Gum shoe - outside the box thinking

How do you come up with such an idea? Start with passion and curiosity

Importantly, the frequency with which you experience positive emotions is related to a more active PNS. Individuals who were shown humorous video clips demonstrated faster heart rate recover after experiencing intense negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). In addition, simply asking people to think about a time when they felt grateful activated the PNS.

Other ways to ‘turn on’ the PNS include exercise, laughter, mindfulness, massage, yoga, walking your dog and taking fish oil.

Positive psychology John Schinnerer PhD

You’ve gotta’ be inspired to come up with a bedroom like this! 

The success I’ve experienced with clients in my private practice is directly related to how well I can make them laugh. With laughter comes opportunity…

opportunity to unlock stale old anger,

opportunity to teach critical new skills,

opportunity to think outside the box, and

opportunity to transform your life for the better.

How do you proceed from here?

Begin to become more aware of the percentage of time you spend in a positive emotional state as compared to a negative state. This simple realization, this basic level of awareness will begin to produce massive tectonic shifts in your life. And you will reap the benefits…on a number of levels…physical, relational, and emotional.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author of Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought (for a free PDF version, visit and enter your name and email address)

Award-winning author of The Shrunken Mind – the blog on positive psychology

Free online anger management classes which incorporate humor and positive psychology at

Positive Emotions Enable You to Think More Creatively


ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — People who watch funny videos on the internet at work aren’t necessarily wasting time. They may be taking advantage of the latest psychological science — putting themselves in a good mood so they can think more creatively. 

Positive moods at work spark greater innovation 


“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking,” says Ruby Nadler, a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario. She and colleagues Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda carried out a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. For this study, Nadler and her colleagues looked at a particular kind of learning that is improved by creative thinking.


Students who took part in the study were put into different moods and then given a category learning task to do (they learned to classify sets of pictures with visually complex patterns). The researchers manipulated mood with help from music clips and video clips; first, they tried several out to find out what made people happiest and saddest. The happiest music was a peppy Mozart piece, and the happiest video was of a laughing baby. The researchers then used these in the experiment, along with sad music and video (a piece of music from Schindler’s List and a news report about an earthquake) and a piece of music and a video that didn’t affect mood. After listening to the music and watching the video, people had to try to learn to recognize a pattern. 


Happy volunteers were better at learning a rule to classify the patterns than sad or neutral volunteers. “If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you to do that,” Nadler says. And music is an easy way to get into a good mood. Everyone has a different type of music that works for them — don’t feel like you have to switch to Mozart, she says. 

Nadler also thinks this may be a reason why people like to watch funny videos at work. “I think people are unconsciously trying to put themselves in a positive mood” — so that apparent time-wasting may actually be good news for employers. 

For the latest ways to create more positive emotions in your life (and to turn down the volume on negative emotions), visit for a FREE PDF version of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought. Just enter your name and email on the opt-in page for your complimentary copy!


For free cutting edge anger management videos, visit the Positive Psychology and Anger Management blog at

Journal Reference:

1.    Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi, John Paul Minda. Better Mood and Better Performance: Learning Rule Described Categories Is Enhanced by Positive Mood. Psychological Science, 2010; 21: 1770-1776 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610387441


How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health

How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health in Later Life

The new issue of the journal ‘Current Directions in Psychological Science’ includes an article entitled,
‘Pathways Linking Positive Emotion and Health in Later Life.’

Positive psychology and free online anger management class 

The author is Anthony D. Ong.

The article begins as follows…

‘There is growing empirical evidence that positive emotion protects against poor health outcomes in later life.

Two recent reviews have documented a robust association between positive emotion and improved health (Chida & Steptoe, 2008; Pressman & Cohen, 2005).

Across experimental and large-scale prospective studies, significant aspects of adult health predicted by positive emotion include self- reported health, physiological responses, physical functioning, disease severity, and mortality.

In this article, I review the biobehavioral and psychosocial pathways that may account for the relationship between positive emotion and health in later adulthood.

Although the literature is not without theoretical gaps and methodological inconsistencies (see Pressman & Cohen, 2005, for a discussion), overall, the data suggest that positive emotions have demonstrable health benefits in later life, the net effect of which may be to slow or delay the rate of functional decline in resilience.’

The article concludes like this…

‘Three decades ago, Lazarus, Kanner, and Folkman (1980) suggested that under intensely stressful conditions, positive emotions may provide an important psychological time-out, help to sustain continued coping efforts, and replenish vital resources that have been depleted by stress. Until recently, there has been little empirical support for these ideas. Foundational evidence for the adaptive function of positive emotion is now beginning to accrue, however. Taken together, the available data indicate that there is no single answer to the question of how positive emotion influences health outcomes in later adulthood. Instead, findings suggest that health behaviors, physiological systems, stressor exposure, and stress undoing may be among the key pathways underlying disparities in physical health, psychological well-being, and even longevity in later life.

Future work building on these findings will require greater attention to the interaction between increasing positive emotion and the presence of decreasing resilience with aging. Targeted prevention and intervention strategies that enhance positive emotions, particularly among the most vulnerable, are likely to play an important role in preventing serious physical illness, minimizing the burden of stress, and improving overall functioning in older adults.’

In addition to the reference section, there’s a small bit on ‘Recommended Reading’:

Charles, S.T., & Carstensen, L.L. (2009). Social and emotional aging.
Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383-409. A comprehensive, highly accessible overview of what is known about socioemotional development.

Fredrickson, B.L. (2003). The value of positive emotions. American Scientist, 91, 330-335. A clearly written review for readers who wish to expand their knowledge on positive emotions.

Ong, A.D., Bergeman, C.S., & Chow, S.M. (2009). Positive emotions as a basic building block of resilience in adulthood. In J. Reich, A. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications (pp. 81-93). New York, NY: Guilford. A highly accessible overview of what is known about positive emotions and resilience in later life.

Zautra, A.J. (2003). Emotions, stress, and health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. A thorough, far-reaching theoretical analysis of the relationships between stress, emotions, and health.

The author note provides the following contact information: Anthony D. Ong, Department of Human Development, G77 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401; <>.

Increasingly, science is proving the necessity of positive emotions (e.g., pride, love, curiosity, interest, passion) for a thriving, meaningful, happy life. Currently, there are more than 70,000 empirical studies looking at these very topics (e.g., self-compassion, mindfulness, love, life satisfaction, curiosity, engagement, the zone, passion, strengths, purpose and meaning) under the umbrella term positive psychology.

For more information on ways to cultivate more positive emotions in your life, visit to get a free copy of Dr. John’s award-winning self-help book, ‘Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought.’ It has the latest in positive psychology and tools to make you more aware of and ways to create more positive emotions in your life.

Positive emotions are an instrumental part of any top-notch anger management program as well for the same reasons (e.g., they act as a hidden Reset button for negative physiological effects of destructive emotions, they make us feel more connected and they build enduring resources within). For more information on the best anger management programs which include a positive psychology perspective and ways to create more positive emotions in your life, visit Dr. John’s recently developed online anger management course at There you will find several free videos sharing the latest tools to turn down the volume on anger AS WELL AS the latest tools to turn up the volume on positive emotions.

Happy holidays!!!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
Award-winning author, blogger and mental health coach

Positive psychology - the joy of bubbles

The simple joy of bubbles!

P.S. Also be sure to check out John’s other fantastic blog on free online anger management classes at