Lynn Ianni (Psychotherapist) gives expert video advice on: How do thought patterns affect happiness?; Do happy people think differently from unhappy people?; What are some characteristics of depressed thinking? and more...
Do happy people think differently from unhappy people?
When a happy or optimistic person looks at a neutral situation, they will see it optimistically and positively. When a depressed or pessimistic person looks at a neutral situation, they will see it negatively. It's very interesting. I read that pessimists might be more realistic, but optimists are happy. And it's interesting because it's almost like whether or not you're in touch with reality to the most specific extent possible. If you choose optimism, you will create happiness. Do you really want to know in such a specific way, like every bad thing that's happening in the world, or do you want to feel good while you're here?
What are some characteristics of depressed thinking?
An unhappy person may look at an obstacle as being their fault. They may look at an obstacle as manifesting some truth about them like they are the victim. They don't deserve to be happy. So when you notice yourself talk and you start identifying, "What am I saying about this situation, which will then reflect on me or determine how happy I feel generally?" You will learn a lot about your process and you will also have opportunities to change it if it is not working for you. Truly, bad things happen to everybody. So again, how you look at the bad thing and what you do with it is really the determining factor about whether or not you move through it successfully and recreate your joy or whether you sit and look down and say, "Oh, no."
What is 'self-talk'?
Self-talk is the way that you speak to yourself in your mind; I know that you have like 36,000 thoughts that go through your head every day, but it's a patterned way of looking at yourself or your world that is repetitive and it could be positive self-talk: I'm okay, generally I think I'm a pretty good person. Or it could be negative: I am not okay, I never do this well, bad things always happen to me. So it's either a victim mentality or self-criticism, usually, or the blame that I mentioned earlier.
Does self-reflection make people happier?
I think you need to know yourself, so to the extent that self-reflection allows you to know how you work, who you are, and how you function both in a positive and negative sense. It's helpful, but if it becomes that kind of self-reflective, navel-gazing, self-analysis that's so introspective that you become distant from the world, and disengaged, and obsessive - I don't think it's productive.
What is optimism?
Optimism is looking at a neutral object, experience or situation and seeing it framed in a positive way. The glass is half full.
Can a person learn to be more optimistic?
I think it's definitely possible to learn to be more optimistic. And in fact, one way you can work on doing that in a very simple way is invite your friends and family to tickle you or nudge you a little bit if you say something self-critical or something that's critical of others. So if you're really working on saying something positive out loud, you will automatically have that reflected in your thoughts because you have to think something in order to say it. So, when you've stopped yourself from saying negative things, when you're forcing yourself to focus more positively, you will then starting thinking more positively automatically, and that'll help you.
Does optimism create happiness?
I think that optimism does generate happiness. I think it's the neutral framing, positively framing something neutral that really allows you to the world, the best in the world, the best in yourself and the best in others. And that generally will give you a feeling of well-being. And also the spiritual foundation of, "I'm here for a reason, I'm ok, I'm doing my best and I deserve to, as I'm learning, as I'm growing, you know this is a school room, and the more I learn the more I grow the more I will be fulfilled, satisfied, the more I will benefit others and somewhere, someday I will be somewhere else that's going to be even a better growth experience for me than this one."
Does complaining help or hurt the quest for happiness?
Well, it's interesting. A therapist named Virginia Satir once said, "You cannot be depressed and fly a kite." It's physiologically impossible. Partly because of where you are looking. Because the eye patterns, if you're looking up, it's absolutely physiologically impossible to feel down. You'll notice that if you watch anybody, on the television or movies or something, if they're depressed and they're looking up, it would read so incongruent that nobody would think they were a very good actor. Depression is down. You look down, you feel down, it's down. So when your focus is up and is positive, you continue to create that. If your focus is negative, you continue to create that too. Where do you want to be? Up or down? Your choice.
How does complaining affect happiness?
Another thing about complaining is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a bit along the lines of the secret which I think talks effectively about how when you focus on the negative, you co-create that. You experience it more often. If you complain about pain, you feel more pain because you are putting energy into pain. If you complain about something that is negative in your life and know that everyone has negative things in their lives, why would you choose then to focus on that as a way of waiting all the good things in your life and not noticing that those are going on? You do it because it feels familiar, you do it because somebody else did it when you were little. That was a way of bonding with other people. Sometimes it is that misery loves company and a way of engaging or relating with sort of the standardized, “Let's talk about our litany of complaints and somehow that will help us feels like we are all sharing.” But it does not really work to help you feel better, it just works to help you feel connected. There are better ways to help you feel connected if you join and enjoy.