Self-acceptance – the secret to a happier life and the least practiced happiness habit

 

March 7, 2014

The secret habit for a happy life - self-acceptance, self-compassion Dr. John Schinnerer
Self-compassion the secret and least used happiness habit

Happiness is related to greater success at work, more resiliency, less burnout and stress, more satisfying relationships, increased creativity, intelligence and flexibility of thought, improved immune system functioning and greater productivity. Happiness is more than a mere emotion; it is a habit we can improve with specific daily practices.  Science is showing that some habits cultivate more happiness than others. One of the most powerful habits for happiness and life satisfaction is self-compassion, or self-acceptance. Yet this is also one of the most secret habits, one that is least likely to be practiced.

The non-profit organization, Action for Happiness, in collaboration with Do Something Different, asked 5,000 people to rate themselves between 1 and 10 on ten habits. These ten habits have been shown in the latest scientific research as being instrumental to happiness and well-being.

The top ten habits, according to science, are…

Being kind to others (giving)

Being around others (relationships)

Physical exercise

Appreciation of the world around you

Learning new things (approaching the world with curiosity)

Goals (having significant direction in life)

Resilience (finding ways to bounce back from challenge)

Positive emotions (awe, joy, love, contentment, relaxation, etc.)

Meaning (having a purpose in life)

Acceptance and self-compassion

 

Kindness is the Most Practiced Habit

Of these valid approaches to happiness and satisfaction, most of the participants report being kind to others most frequently. And this is the most reliable way that science knows of to boost your mood to a positive place…do something kind for someone else. And fortunately, many people report doing kind acts quite frequently (7.41 out of a possible 10).

Being around others, or relationships, was a close second. Participants were asked, How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you? The average score was 7.36 out of 10. And 15% of people scored the maximum 10 out of 10.

Most excitingly, the survey also looked at which habits are most closely linked to people’s life satisfaction. All 10 habits have been shown in studies to be strongly linked to life satisfaction.

 

Self-compassion Trumps Them All

What you may NOT know is that self-compassion, or self-acceptance, is the habit that predicts happiness most strongly. Unfortunately, self-compassion is also the least frequently practiced habit. Self-compassion was the lowest average score from the 5,000 participants (average rating of 5.56 out of 10). Only 5% of people put themselves at a 10 on the self-compassion habit. Around one in five people (19%) scored an 8 or 9; Less than a third (30%) scored a 6 or 7; and almost half (46%) of people rated themselves at 5 or less. We are not taught to be self-compassionate. We are not taught to be self-accepting. I would argue most of us are socialized in the opposite way…win at all costs, strive to be the best, you are not enough, you are not worthy, never be satisfied. This must change. And there are proven practices to do just that.

But I digress. Let me return to the study findings.

Physical exercise is another highly rated happiness habit. Yet this one came up relatively low as well. The average answer to How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active? was just 5.88 out of 10, with 45% of people rating themselves 5 or less.

Professor Karen Pine, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist and co-founder of Do Something Different, stated: “Practicing these habits really can boost our happiness. It’s great to see so many people regularly doing things to help others — and when we make others happy we tend to feel good ourselves too. This survey shows that practicing self-acceptance is one thing that could make the biggest difference to many people’s happiness. Exercise is also known to lift mood so if people want a simple, daily way to fee happier they should get into the habit of being more physically active too.”

Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, reported: “Our society puts huge pressure on us to be successful and to constantly compare ourselves with others. This causes a great deal of unhappiness and anxiety. These findings remind us that if we can learn to be more accepting of ourselves as we really are, we’re likely to be much happier. The results also confirm us that our day-to-day habits have a much bigger impact on our happiness than we might imagine.”

 

So how can we practice the self-compassion habit?

Here are three positive actions shown in research by Kristin Neff from University of Texas, Austin, that people can take to increase their levels of self-compassion:

  • Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Speak to yourself as if you are 4 years old when you fall short or make a mistake. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small.
  • Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you (and let them know of their strengths too!)
  • Spend some quiet time by yourself. Tune in to how you’re feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are. Remind yourself “I am worthy. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of success. I am worthy of happiness.”

 

Key Survey Question Average score (Frequency of engaging in habit)

  • Giving How often do you make an effort to help or be kind to others? 7.41
  • Relating How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you? 7.36
  • Exercising How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active? 5.88
  • Appreciating How often do you take time to notice the good things in your life? 6.57
  • Trying out How often do you learn or try new things? 6.26
  • Direction How often do you do things that contribute to your most important life goals? 6.08
  • Resilience How often do you find ways to bounce back quickly from problems? 6.33
  • Emotion How often do you do things that make you feel good? 6.74
  • Acceptance How often are you kind to yourself and think you’re fine as you are? 5.56
  • Meaning How often do you do things that give you a sense of meaning or purpose? 6.38

 

A final question posed was: Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

The average score was 6.49, compared to a national average of 6.34 reported in the UK National Values survey 2013.

For more info on happiness, well-being and positive psychology, check out my newest site at HowICanBeHappy.com.

To life, love and laughter,

Dr. John

Dr. John Schinnerer
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Twitter: @johnschin

 

Source: University of Hertfordshire. “Self-acceptance could be the key to a happier life, yet it’s the happy habit many people practice the least.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307111016.htm>.

 

Music Mends Memories in the Injured Brain

Psychology of Music and Healing Effects of the Human Brain

I was recently included on an album of positive music (www.PositiveMusicImperative.com). I was speaking on the importance of positive music, lyrics in particular, as a critical means to offset the natural negativity bias of the human mind. The negative is more powerful than the positive by a factor of 3 to 1. Honestly, I’m pretty excited about this. I never dreamt I would be on an album. Of course, I’m speaking not singing. I can’t sing to save my life. And music has always been a passion of mine. I use it to connect with teenage clients. I use it as a healthy ‘drug’ to alter my moods, thoughts and to call up memories.

Today, a new study came out demonstrating, once again, the power of music. In a novel study,  Amee Baird and Séverine Samson used top 40 music to spark lost memories in individuals with acquired brain injury (ABI).

While the sample size is small, this is the very first study to look at the effectiveness of ‘music-evoked autobiographical memories’ (MEAMs) in patients with ABIs, rather than ‘normals’ or those who grapple with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Baird and Samson played pieces of Billboard’s number 1 songs to five patients in random order.  The songs were pulled from across the lifespan of each patient starting from the year they were five years old and continuing to present day.  The performance of those with ABI was compared to individuals with no brain injury. All participants reported to what extent they knew a given song, the extent to which they liked it, and what memories, if any, the song brought up.

Positive psychology music how can i be happy coach dr. john schinnerer san ramon danville ca
Music Heals the Mind and Memories

 

Results showed that the number of recorded MEAMs was nearly identical for ABI patients (38%-71%) and ‘normals’ (48%-71%). Only one of the five ABI patients recorded no music assisted memories. Surprisingly, the highest frequency of MEAMs out of all the participants was recorded by an ABI patients.

Across all participants, the majority of music assisted memories were of people or a life event and were most fequently positive in nature. There was a strong connection between songs that sparked a memory and reported familiarity and enjoyment of those same songs.

While the sample size was small, early indicators seem to show the strength of using music as a tool for helping patients reclaim recollections. Baird and Samson state that: “Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores.”

 

positive psychology of music dr john schinnerer guide to self happiness happy
Music therapy – healing the mind one song at a time

“The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception.”

As we learn more and more about the power of music, one thing seems clear…there exists a powerful relationship between attention, mood, memory, and music. We are beginning to understand the direct relationship between attention and emotion.

 

What we attend to affects what we feel.

How we feel influences that to which we pay attention.

How we feel impacts our memories.

What we recall affects the degree to which we judge life as satisfying.

 

Music powerfully influences our attention, our memory, as well as emotion. It may even impact our self-worth and our judgments of how satisfying life is. These all seem to be inextricably intertwined.  So pay attention to what music you use to fill your head. It may have a larger impact than you ever dreamed!

 

To life, love and good music!

Dr. John Schinnerer

Positive Psychology Coach

Anger Management Specialist

Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion & Thought

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 

Anger management blog:

http://WebAngerManagement.com

Twitter: @johnschin

 

Journal Reference:

  1. A. Baird, S. Samson. Music evoked autobiographical memory after severe acquired brain injury: Preliminary findings from a case series. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2013.858642

 

Taylor & Francis (2013, December 10). Music brings memories back to the injured brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/12/131210072030.htm

Mental Health Issues Reduced in Teens 21-36% With 3 Hours Training In Schools

Three Hours Is Enough to Help Prevent Mental Health Issues in Teens

Dr. John Schinnerer

Oct. 4, 2013

One in four 8 to 15 year olds have struggled with a mental health problem in the past year. Disorders, such as anxiety, depression and ADHD, are linked to a variety of negative behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, suicidal behaviors, cutting and violence towards others.

 

Positive psychology in teens Dr. John Schinnerer guide to self How Can I Be Happy
Mental Health in Teens Must Be a Priority for the World

Now for the good news…researchers in Britain have found that 2 brief 90 minute group therapy sessions reduced the incidence of …

  • depression by 21%
  • anxiety by 33%
  • conduct problems in ADHD youth by 36%

 

The study was led by Dr. Patricia Conrod of the University of Montreal and found that teacher led groups discussing mental health were quite effective. Teachers were trained to deliver interventions to high risk students  and the outcomes were compared with students in other schools which did not receive the same training (the control group). The two 90-minute sessions taught students cognitive-behavioral tools for managing their thoughts, emotions and personality type. The sessions included real life “scenarios” shared by high risk youths within their small groups. The groups talked about thoughts, emotions and actions within the context of their particular type of personality. For example, situational triggers for anger, sadness or anxiety were shared with the guidance of the teacher. Then productive ways to manage such triggers were taught and discussed.

 

According to Dr. Conrod, “Our study shows that teacher delivered interventions that target specific risk factors for mental health problems can be immensely effective at reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety and conduct disorders in the long term.”

 

Nineteen schools in Greater London were involved in the study, which included a control group of schools in which students did not receive any interventions. Students were evaluated for their risk of developing mental health or substance abuse problems using a well-known personality scale. The scale measures different personality factors that are known to be correlated strongly with behavioral issues. For instance, a person with high degree of impulsivity is five times more likely to demonstrate extreme conduct problems within the next 18 months. Key traits focused on included impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity and sensation seeking.

 

In the two years that followed the interventions, students completed questionnaires every six months that enabled the researchers to establish the development of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, conduct problems and suicidal thoughts. The effects were clinically significant. “The interventions were run by trained educational professionals, suggesting that this brief intervention can be both effective and sustainable when run within the school system,” Conrod said. “We are now leading similar studys in 32 high schools in Montreal to further test the efficacy of this kind of program.”

Educators interested in the program can visit the project’s website at http://www.co-venture.ca

To a better, happier world,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Expert Consultant to Pixar Inside Out (due out June 2015)
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://drjohnblog.guidetoself.com
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Twitter: @johnschin

For a free PDF copy of my award-winning self-help book Guide to Self, visit Guide to Self, Inc. and click on the book icon on the top left of the screen.

Source: Université de Montréal (2013, October 3). Three hours is enough to help prevent mental health issues in teens.

Bored to Death While Waiting to Die – Stop Adapting, Start Living

The Cycle of Adaptation adapted from Perry Belcher’s Cycle of Boredom

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Thanks for stopping by my positive psych blog (or maybe an anti-positive psychology blog given the title of today’s post!). As a way of saying thanks, I’d like to offer you a free PDF version of my first book on the latest positive psychology tools when you visit my site at www.GuideToSelf.com.

 

Are you tired of your job? Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Do you fear failure? Does it sometimes feel like you will never make it to the other side? Would you like more happiness?

If so, you are not alone.

Check this out. There is a cycle that we go through with everything in our life – jobs, spouses, relationships, cars, houses, clothes, everything.

Here is the cycle…

1) Interested

2) Excited

3) Safe & comfortable

4) Bored

5) Trapped

6) Despairing/Guilty

7) Seeking out new options or replacements

8) Fear of change

9) Fear of failure (stall out here if you’re unlucky)

10) Break through (if you’re lucky!)

One of the most interesting tenets in psychology is that of the hedonic treadmill…the idea that we adapt to change  – good or bad. You can win the lottery and adapt to those winnings within a year. You can suffer a bad car accident and lose the use of your limbs and most people adapt to that tragic situation.

Play around with this idea. You can apply it to every situation in your life. It’s amazing.

 

Remember…if you are not a master of your mind, you are a victim of it.

If you are not a master of your emotions, you are a victim of them.

 

Do not wait. Do not procrastinate. Take the risk on yourself. You deserve it. Start reading this blog now to reclaim your life and take the first step on the pathway to happiness.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Expert Consultant to Pixar
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://drjohnblog.guidetoself.com
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Twitter: @johnschin

Oxytocin Not Just For Cuddling Anymore – Now Linked with Anxiety & Bad Memories

The Many Faces of Oxytocin…Augments Bad Memories, Fear and Anxiety as well as Promotes Bonding and Trust

July 22, 2013 — The ‘love hormone’ oxytocin has been all the rage in scientific circles for several years due to it’s involvement in trust, single pair bonding, friendship and love. Yet, recent research seems to indicate that the neurotransmitter, oxytocin, can also strengthen negative memories and increase the intensity of anxiety and fear. This is an entirely new role being uncovered for the fan favorite neurotransmitter.

Negative social situations, such as being the target of bullying, getting yelled at by the boss or embarrassed by a teacher, seem to be reinforced and strengthened by oxytocin. And perhaps, oxytocin may be part of the trigger for dread – anticipatory worry – and anxiety. This comes at a time when oxytocin is being studied for use as an anti-anxiety agent.

The reason is that oxytocin seems to strengthen our social memories – positve AND negative – in one particular region of the brain, according to researchers at Northwestern University.

If a social experience is negative or stressful, oxytocin seems to activate an area of the brain that intensifies that memory. Further, it seems to increase the odds of feeling dread and anxiety in anticipation of future stressful events.

Ongoing research seems to indicate that oxytocin also augments positive social memories and, thus, intensifies feelings of well being as well.

The findings are critical as chronic stress is one of the primary causes of anxiety and depression, while positive social interactions lead to emotional health.

“By understanding the oxytocin system’s dual role in triggering or reducing anxiety, depending on the social context, we can optimize oxytocin treatments that improve well-being instead of triggering negative reactions,” stated Jelena Radulovic, the lead author of the study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The paper was published July 21 in Nature Neuroscience.

Oxytocin is famous for it’s involvement in mothers and breastfeeding

This is the first and only research to link oxytocin to social stress and its apparent role in increasing anxiety and dread in anticipation of future stress. Northwestern scientists also discovered the brain region responsible for these effects — the lateral septum — and the pathway or route oxytocin uses in this area to amplify fear and anxiety.

The scientists discovered that oxytocin strengthens negative social memory and future anxiety by triggering an important signaling molecule — ERK (extracellular signal regulated kinases) — that becomes activated for six hours after a negative social experience. ERK causes enhanced fear, Radulovic believes, by stimulating the brain’s fear pathways, many of which pass through the lateral septum. The region is involved in emotional and stress responses.

The findings surprised the researchers, who were expecting oxytocin to modulate positive emotions in memory, based on its long association with love and social bonding.

“Oxytocin is usually considered a stress-reducing agent based on decades of research,” said Yomayra Guzman, a doctoral student in Radulovic’s lab and the study’s lead author. “With this novel animal model, we showed how it enhances fear rather than reducing it and where the molecular changes are occurring in our central nervous system.’

The new research follows three recent human studies with oxytocin, all of which are beginning to offer a more complicated view of the hormone’s role in emotions.

All the new experiments were done in the lateral septum. This region has the highest oxytocin levels in the brain and has high levels of oxytocin receptors across all species from mice to humans.

“This is important because the variability of oxytocin receptors in different species is huge,” Radulovic said. “We wanted the research to be relevant for humans, too.”

Oxytocin involved in fear, stress and anxiety as well as trust

Experiments with mice in the study established that

1) oxytocin is essential for strengthening the memory of negative social interactions and

2) oxytocin increases fear and anxiety in future stressful situations.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach, Expert consultant for Pixar

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought (for a free PDF copy, visit Guide to Self and click on the book icon on the left of the page)

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

(925) 575-0258

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

HowICanBeHappy.com – For the latest in positive psychology and happiness

@johnschin – Twitter

Journal Reference:

  1. Yomayra F Guzmán, Natalie C Tronson, Vladimir Jovasevic, Keisuke Sato, Anita L Guedea, Hiroaki Mizukami, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Jelena Radulovic. Fear-enhancing effects of septal oxytocin receptors. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3465

 

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.