Positive Psychology Expert Interview from Askimo – John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Here is an interview on positive psychology and positive emotions I recently did for Askimo, an expert site based out of Tel Aviv. Note there is a lag time between questions and responses due to the international video call.

I’ve been studying the question, “How Can I Be Happy?” for over 20 years. I love having some ways to answer this question now.

Feel free to leave your comments below. Let me know your thoughts!

To life, love and laughter,

John

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Expert Consultant to Pixar
Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought
Guide To Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
GuideToSelf.com – Web site
WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course
DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com – Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer
@johnschin – Twitter

How Can I Be Happy? Resolve to Learn & Practice Happiness

Happiness is a skill that can be learned. However, like any worthwhile skill, it takes time, practice and dedication. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, put forth the idea of 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any given area. Chris Peterson suggested it takes 10 years to become an expert in a field.

You can learn to be happy. You must make the choice to put in time, energy and effort. As you learn the skills put forth by positive psychology, you will inexorably be drawn into more and more frequent spirals of positive emotions and thoughts, leading to more and more time spent in happiness.

Here is one of many skills to be learned in this ongoing process…

Capitalizing on Love – The Merit of the Active-Constructive Response

One of the foremost researchers in the area of love and marriage is Shelly Gable, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA. Most researchers looking at marriage work on conflict management, how to create more harmony between partners, and how individuals in a couple cope with traumatic events.  Gable is one of a handful of researcher who looks at what makes a thriving marriage. Her work provides some valuable insights if you are interested in transforming your good relationship (e.g., friendship, marriage, parent or child) into a great one.

How Can I Be Happy - Learn Positive Psychology with John Schinnerer PhD
How Can I Be Happy?
Learn to Capitalize on Others’ Good News

 

Gable looks to see how you respond when your spouse tells you that he’s just been promoted, or your child tells you that she won Class President, or when your mother tells you she won a tennis tournament, or when your friend tells you she just won a huge lawsuit. Gable puts your responses into four different categories which break down as follows:

  1. An enthusiastic reaction such as “Wow! That’s tremendous. That’s the best thing I’ve heard all week. I’m sure there are more great things to come for you. You’ve definitely earned it. Congratulations!” This reaction is called the active-constructive response by Gable.
  2. A more subdued reaction where you share your happiness but say little. For example, “That’s nice dear.” This is the passive-constructive response.
  3. Or perhaps you point out some of the potential pitfalls or negatives within the good event. For instance, “Wow, I sure hope you can handle all that extra responsibility. Does this mean you will have to work extra hours?” Gable refers to this as the active-destructive response.
  4. Or, you might respond with disinterest and not respond to the good news at all. Most folks do this by merely changing the subject, “Yes, but what do you think about the weather outside?” This is known as the passive-destructive response.
How Can I Be Happy? Learn positive psychology with positive psych expert John Schinnerer PhD
How Can I Be Happy? Celebrate the Successes of Others

The first type of response, the active-constructive one, is called “capitalizing” by Gable and here’s the fascinating part…capitalizing amplifies the pleasure of the good event and creates an upward spiral of good feelings.

Gable has shown that capitalizing is one of the keys to strong, supportive, thriving relationships.

So how do you respond to good news from other people? Are you a “capitalizer” who creates upward spirals of positive emotions? Or do you turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the good news of others?

The consequences of learning how to be more of a “capitalizer” are impressive and robust. Couples who describe themselves as having a spouse who is active and constructive in response to their good news are:

  • More committed to the relationship
  • More in love
  • Happier in their marriage

Think about that the next time your love comes in the door with exciting news! And remember…practice, practice, practice!

To happiness and health,

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

About the Author

John Schinnerer, Ph.D., an expert in positive psychology, is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. In December of 2011, he was one of three emotion experts (along with Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner) to consult with Pixar on a feature-length movie in which the main characters are emotions. Much of his time is spent in private practice teaching clients the latest ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley Summa Cum Laude with a Ph.D. in educational psychology.  He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years.  John has presented to tens of thousands of people on positive psychology. He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area.    He wrote the award-winning book, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,’ which is available at Amazon.com.  His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com ). His new video blog teaches people the latest ways to manage anger using positive psychology. (WebAngerManagement.com). He is currently working on a destination site to teach individuals paths to sustainable happiness via positive psychology and ongoing practice atHowICanBeHappy.com.

Positive psychology expert John Schinnerer PhDHow Can I Be Happy – Learn Positive Psychology w John Schinnerer PhD

Positive Emotions Matter More In Third World Countries

Emotion-Health Connection Not Limited to Industrialized Nations

Mar. 7, 2013 — Positive emotions are known to play a role in physical well-being, and stress is strongly linked to poor health, but is this strictly a “First World” phenomenon? In developing nations, is the fulfillment of basic needs more critical to health than how one feels? A UC Irvine researcher has found that emotions do affect health around the world and may, in fact, be more important to wellness in low-income countries.

The study, which appears online in Psychological Science, is the first to examine the emotion-health connection in a representative sample of 150,000 people in 142 countries. Previous research on the topic has been limited to industrialized nations.

“We wondered whether the fact that emotions make a difference in our health is simply because we have the luxury of letting them,” said Sarah Pressman, assistant professor of psychology & social behavior and the study’s lead author. “We wanted to assess the impact of emotions on health in places where people face famine, homelessness and serious safety concerns that might be more critical correlates of wellness.”

Against expectations, researchers found that the link between positive emotions (enjoyment, love, happiness) and health is stronger in countries with a weaker gross domestic product. In fact, the association increased as GDP decreased, according to Pressman.

People in Malawi, which has a per capita GDP of $900, show a more robust connection between positive emotions and health than residents of the U.S., which has a per capita GDP of $49,800.

“A hostile American with hypertension can take blood pressure-lowering medication. A Malawian cannot,” Pressman said. “Medical interventions might lower the impact of emotions on health.”

Using data from the Gallup World Poll, researchers noted whether participants had reported experiencing enjoyment, love, happiness, worry, sadness, stress, boredom, depression or anger during the previous day. They also measured physical health and the degree to which subjects’ basic needs were met. Security was assessed by asking if participants felt safe walking alone at night or whether they had been robbed, assaulted or mugged.

“We hope that by showing that this phenomenon is prevalent and stronger than some factors considered critical to wellness, more attention will be drawn to the importance of studying both positive and negative emotions,” Pressman said.

She co-authored the study with Shane Lopez of the Gallup Organization and Matthew Gallagher of Boston University.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. D. Pressman, M. W. Gallagher, S. J. Lopez. Is the Emotion-Health Connection a “First-World Problem”? Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612457382

Have a wonderful week!

John

 

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach, Emotion Expert, Anger Management Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.com – Web site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com –  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschin – Twitter

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. Positive psychology author and coach

About John

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. In December of 2011, he was one of three experts to consult with Pixar on a feature-length movie in which the main characters are emotions. Much of his time is spent in private practice teaching clients the latest ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology.  He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years.  He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area.    He wrote the award-winning book, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,” which is available at Amazon.com.  His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com ). His new video blog teaches people the latest ways to manage anger using positive psychology. (WebAngerManagement.com).

 

Positive Emotions Unlock Anger, Boost Creativity and Improve Your Physical Health

Positive Psychology and Positive Emotions

By John Schinnerer, Ph.D. Founder of Guide To Self, Inc.

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 survive – 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 necessity of cultivating positive emotions for your success at work, in relationships and personally.

At the beginning of every session with a new client, I make a point of sharing a short, gut-bustingly funny video clip. One of my personal favorites is the popular Mother’s Day video by Barats and Bereta (www.BaratsAndBereta.com).

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, 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, Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 2009).

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, 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, anxiety, aggression, and hostility.

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 as well as greater mental health in children in the face of chronic conflict between parents at home.

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.

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 life for the better.

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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 enormous benefits on a number of levels…physical, relational, professional and emotional.

To happier times,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

 

About the Author

 

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. In December of 2011, he was one of three experts to consult with Pixar on a feature-length movie in which the main characters are emotions. Much of his time is spent in private practice teaching clients the latest ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress as well as ways to cultivate a more positive mind. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology.  He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years.  He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area.    He wrote the award-winning book, Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought, which is available at Amazon.com.  His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com ). His new video blog teaches people the latest ways to manage anger using positive psychology. (WebAngerManagement.com).