Less Criminal Activity and Drug Use in Happy Teenagers

In my private practice, I see a number of angry teenage boys. Intuitively, I knew that teaching them to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression, WHILE teaching them to turn UP the volume on positive emotions would have a powerful impact on their lives. The results in my practice have been astonishing – reduced drug use, less illegal activity, more compassion, improved academic performance and less anger in the home.

Today, I came across a study that just came out from UC Davis which supports this approach. Take a look and let me know your thoughts!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self Inc.

A Positive Psychology Approach to Anger Management

Happiness Can Deter Crime, a New Study Finds

From ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — Happy adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth, a new UC Davis study finds.

The paper, “Get Happy! Positive Emotion, Depression and Juvenile Crime,” is co-authored by Bill McCarthy, a UC Davis sociology professor, and Teresa Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, and will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

Happy teens less likely to use drugs

“Our results suggest that the emphasis placed on happiness and well-being by positive psychologists and others is warranted,” McCarthy said. “In addition to their other benefits, programs and policies that increase childhood and adolescent happiness may have a notable effect on deterring nonviolent crime and drug use.”

The authors used 1995 and 1996 data from nearly 15,000 seventh- to ninth-grade students in the federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.

They found that about 29 percent of the youth surveyed reported having committed at least one criminal offense, and 18 percent said that they had used at least one illegal drug. The researchers then correlated these reports with self-assessments of emotional well-being.

Consequences of happiness are rarely examined by sociologists, and no previous studies have investigated its association with juvenile crime, the authors said.

Many explanations of adolescents’ decisions about crime focus either on reflective thought that discourages offending, or negative emotions — such as anger or rage — that contribute to it.

McCarthy and Casey argue that positive emotions also have a role. “We hypothesize that the benefits of happiness — from strong bonds with others, a positive self-image and the development of socially valued cognitive and behavioral skills — reinforce a decision-making approach that is informed by positive emotions,” they write in their study.

Their research finds that happier adolescents were less likely to report involvement in crime or drug use. Adolescents with minor, or nonclinical, depression had significantly higher odds of engaging in such activities.

The study also found that changes in emotions over time matter.

Adolescents who experienced a decrease in their level of happiness or an increase in the degree of their depression over a one-year period had higher odds of being involved in crime and of using drugs.

Most adolescents experience both happiness and depression, and the study finds that the relative intensity of these emotions is also important. The odds of drug use were notably lower for youth who reported that they were more often happy than depressed, and were substantially higher for those who indicated that they were more depressed than happy.

University of California – Davis (2011, August 23). Happiness can deter crime, a new study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/08/110822091859.htm

For your free PDF copy of John’s award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, on the latest tools to turn down the volume on negative emotions (like anger) and techniques to turn UP the volume on positive emotions, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and click on the yellow book icon. Just enter your name and email for instant access to your copy!

For more info on John’s revolutionary online course on the positive psychology of anger management, visit http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com. There are

four free anger management videos you can check out right now!

Follow John on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnschin.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anger.management.expert

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 (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, 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 http://www.GuidetoSelf.com 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 WebAngerManagement.com

Are You Rational When It Comes to Money?

I just read a great blog post by Ben Hayden on Psychology Today. I tried leaving a comment but was enable to due to website difficulties. Instead I’ve reprinted the post here with my comment below. Click on the article title below to go to the original blog post on Psychology Today…

The Decision Tree

Decision-making from all perspectives.

by Ben Hayden, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester.

Are you rational?

What do economists mean by rational and irrational?

Published on June 26, 2011 by Ben Y. Hayden, Ph.D. in The Decision Tree

My last post raised a lot of questions about rationality. Rather than reply to them individually, I decided to devote this column to the topic.

I talk to the public a lot about economic discoveries that violate assumptions of rationality. And one thing that always surprises me is just how pleased people are to hear about these violations of rationality. Gleeful even. Relieved to not be the only dummy out there.

It’s surprising that people are so excited because, when it comes to economics, violations of rationality are pretty darn recondite.

An economically rational individual is someone whose preferences obey certain formal rules that insulate them from economists’ bugbear: intransitive preferences. Intransitive preferences means I prefer an apple to an orange, an orange to a pear, and a pear to an apple. This pattern of preferences is distressing to economists because some opportunistic evildoer could come along and offer to trade me an apple for my orange plus a small fee, and then offer me a pear for that same apple plus an additional fee, and then offer me an orange for the pear plus another small fee. Then that evildoer winds up with a free lunch from me. And there’s nothing economists hate more than a free lunch. (Economists would say that this evildoer has turned me into a ‘money pump’).

Bottom of Form

But the real reason this bothers economists goes much deeper than their annoying perennial reminders about free lunches. In the early 20th century, economics struggled to establish itself as a formal and rigorous science. Economists craved respect. (Anyone who has heard economics called the dismal science knows it’s been an uphill battle). Many brilliant economists built the field a solid foundation that was axiomatic – based on a few simple and obvious rules – the same way Euclid did with geometry and Peano did with arithmetic. And to make these axioms, economists had to come up with an economist’s equivalent of mathematically true and false. And they chose the terms rational and irrational.

Aristotle and Plato

Aristotle and Plato Discussing Reason and Emotion

These words were not intended to describe what people do. Humans are not robots; most (but not all) economists know that. Even if we were, our brains are finite. We have to take mental shortcuts. We are approximately rational and even that only sometimes. We economic psychologists love the phase ‘bounded rationality’.

Economics 101 is one of the most popular undergraduate courses in the United States, and it often gives rationality a central place. But we all have money anxieties, so we are predisposed to hear personal judgment coming from our economics professors. Every year, a new crop of students thinks their teachers are criticizing them about how they manage their personal finances.

But that’s not it at all.

Violations of rationality are nothing to be ashamed of. They are like optical illusions in vision: they are universal and they provide clues to how the visual system works. We study irrationality because it gives us essential clues to help us learn how the brain makes economic decisions. And we do that because it leads us to solutions for the real irrationalities: depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and so on.

Invite your local economists to the bar, buy them a round of beer and ask them about it. They’ll admit (in my experience, cheerfully) that when they go to the store, they make the exact same mistakes as the rest of us do. Because we are all human. We are all irrational.

          Ben

 ——————————————————-

Dear Ben:

Thanks for the insightful blog post! I have this difficulty with clients frequently – they want to believe the illusion that they are primarily, if not solely, rational individuals. This would be great if it were so, but as you point out, it’s not the case. And I find individuals vary on a spectrum as to how much of the time they spend being rational vs. emotional. My challenge, for years, has been to decipher how to become aware of and train the emotional mind.

 

Different emotions can increase or decrease our rationality, reasoning and focus. Anger, for example, makes us more focused and rational – to a point. Think of anger on a 1 through 10 scale with 1 being calm and 10 be enraged.  Anger can  be useful below a 5. Once you go above a 5, the emotional mind is in charge, rationality goes out the window and we become atavistic and primal.

 

Thank you for pointing out our ubiquitous illusion of rationality.

Best regards,

John L. Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self

Award-winning author, blogger and anger management coach

For a free copy of John’s award-winning book on reason and emotion, visit GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon and enter your name and email.

New Course – Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice July 16, 2011

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m teaching a CEU course for JFKU entitled, Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice.

The course is in Campbell, CA on July 16th, 2011 from 9 am – 5 pm.

For more information, visit the JFKU site at https://secure.jfku.edu/cecart/index.php?act=browse&id=502.

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

For a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, just visit www.GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon on the left side of the page, and enter your name and email address on following page. Once your email address has been verified, you will be emailed a link to download the book in seconds!

ADHD, Poor Emotional Control Run in Families – New Study

I’ve seen this phenomena for years in my private practice where I teach clients anger management tools – parents bring in their teenage son and want me to ‘fix’ his anger problem. The adolescent often has ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and trouble managing his emotions (i.e., mainly anger, but also anxiety, shame, guilt and sadness). As I begin to work with the troubled teen, it becomes obvious that he is not the only person in the family with difficulty managing anger and other negative emotions.

Anger Management Difficulties & ADHD Run In Families

Online Anger Management Class For Parents Plus Individual Anger Management Coaching for Teenager

Typically, I’ll suggest that the parents take my online anger management course, in conjunction with individual coaching for their teenager. This has been highly effective in creating families that are cooperative, peaceful, and respectful.

This study just came out today demonstrating that ADHD and difficulty managing strong negative emotions, such as anger, run in families. In my mind, it’s a genetic predisposition which is activated by an emotionally volatile environment.

You may be interested in a guide book to your mind if you are reading this. If so, I have just the thing, and it’s free! You can instantly get a complimentary PDF copy of my award-winning book (Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought). It teaches you concrete steps to turn down the volume on anger and other negative emotions (as well as proven methods to turn up the volume on positive emotions). All you have to do is visit my main website at www.GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon at the top left of the page and enter your name and email address.

For more information on my online anger management class, visit http://webangermanagement.com. There are even four free online anger management classes available there!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Anger management coach

Proudly Serving San Ramon, Danville, Alamo and Walnut Creek CA since 2000

Here is the write up of the study from Science Daily…

ADHD and anger in teens and families 

Combination of ADHD and Poor Emotional Control Runs in Families, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2011) — A subgroup of adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also exhibit excessive emotional reactions to everyday occurrences, and this combination of ADHD and emotional reactivity appears to run in families. A study from a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-based research team finds that siblings of individuals with both ADHD and deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) had a significantly greater risk of having both conditions than did siblings of those with ADHD alone.

The study, which will appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry, has received early online release.

“Our research offers strong evidence that heritable factors influence how we control our emotions,” says Craig Surman, MD, of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program, the study’s lead author. “Emotion — like capacities such as the ability to pay attention or control physical movement — is probably under forms of brain control that we are just beginning to understand. Our findings also indicate that ADHD doesn’t just impact things like reading, listening and getting the bills paid on time; it also can impact how people regulate themselves more broadly, including their emotional expression.”

Along with the classic ADHD symptoms of trouble paying attention, excessive physical activity and poor impulse control, many individuals with ADHD display high levels of anger, frustration and impatience. In contrast to mood disorders, which are characterized by the persistence of specific emotions and behaviors, DESR involves emotional expressions that are brief and occur in reaction to situations that would be expected to produce similar but much less extreme responses in most individuals. For example, an individual who consistently reacts to minor disappointments by snapping at family members or co-workers or who displays great distress in response to small inconveniences may have DESR.

While some investigators have proposed that poor emotional control be included among the defining symptoms of ADHD, previous studies have not clarified whether the two conditions are separate conditions that appear together by chance or if they are related. Also previously unknown was whether DESR is transmitted among family members, something that is well known to be the case for ADHD.

The current study began with a group of 83 participants — 23 with ADHD alone, 27 with ADHD plus DESR, and 33 comparison participants with neither condition — and then enrolled one or more siblings of each of the original participants. Researchers conducted standardized diagnostic interviews with all participants to determine whether they met the criteria for ADHD and other mental health conditions. Diagnoses were confirmed by expert clinicians who were blinded to participants’ diagnoses or their sibling status. Participants also reported their current frequency of DESR-associated symptoms and were determined to have DESR if their control of emotional reactions was worse than that of 95 percent of a large group of individuals without ADHD, which included the comparison sample in this study.

As expected, ADHD was more common, in the siblings of original participants with ADHD than in the comparison group. However, co-occurrence of both ADHD and DESR was found almost exclusively among siblings of the original participants who reported both conditions.

“Other research that we and another group have conducted found that individuals with ADHD who also display emotional overreaction have a reduced quality of life and difficulties with personal relationships and social success,” Surman says. “Studies have shown that 4 percent of the adult population has ADHD, and this investigation is part of a larger study that found DESR in more than half of the enrolled adults with ADHD, suggesting that roughly 5 million adults in the U.S. may have the combination of ADHD and poor emotional control.”

He adds, “Increased recognition of emotional dysregulation, its frequency in adults with ADHD and the potential consequences of both conditions will help people get support for these challenges. Future research needs to examine both medication- and non-medication-based therapies and improve our understanding of who could benefit from these therapies.” Surman is an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.
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Journal Reference:
1. C. B. H. Surman, J. Biederman, T. Spencer, D. Yorks, C. A. Miller, C. R. Petty, S. V. Faraone. Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation and Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Family Risk Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10081172