Orlando Therapist Shares How CBT Can Help Improve Mood
When someone tells you that they are unhappy and you ask them why, they will probably tell you all about the people, situations and life events that are making them unhappy. Most people tend to blame their unhappiness on external factors. And often, in an attempt to feel happier, they will do things like move to a new city, get a new job, buy something new or get a new partner. Unfortunately changing people, places and things rarely fixes things and once the newness of the attempted change wears off, unhappiness comes creeping back in.
The dictionary defines happiness as an emotional state of well-being ranging from contentment to intense joy. Most of us know happiness when we feel positive emotions such as contentment, gratitude, joy and pride. We often say that we feel happy when we feel that life has meaning and we are living with a sense of purpose.
Researchers use the term “subjective well-being” when they write about happiness and studies have found there are three main factors that influence happiness and well-being:
- Genetics. Research shows that we have a “set point” for happiness that is determined by our genetics and ingrained personality traits and it is believed that our set point for happiness contributes approximately 50% to our overall happiness. This set point is similar to the set point we have for weight, which means that just like some people have to work harder to maintain their weight at a desirable level, some individuals have to work harder to achieve and maintain happiness.
- Life Circumstances. Research suggests that our life circumstances, which includes our income, social status, looks, possessions and relationship status, contributes only about 10% to happiness. Yet it is this factor that most people focus on changing when they attempt to become happier. Although we may initially feel a burst of well-being when we make more money, move to a new house, date a new person or change our appearance, these bursts are temporary and trying to find happiness through changes in life circumstances is certainly doomed to fail. Even the best, most amazing changes will eventually be taken for granted and their impact on our overall happiness will be negligible. This is due to a factor psychologists call “hedonic adaptation”.
- Intentional Activity. The remaining 40% of our happiness is determined by “intentional activity” which consists of the things we do, the choices we make and the way we think. Although we have limited influence over our happiness set point, we have a great deal of influence over our intentional activity. If we observe people who are genuinely happy, we will likely find that they intentionally control their thoughts and feelings, take care of their bodies, practice gratitude, cultivate healthy relationships, pursue enjoyable interests, are committed to meaningful goals and take time to help others. By learning the habits of a happy person, we can increase our overall happiness.
This is not to say that happy people are not without problems, stresses, crises and tragedies. Happy people tend to also be more resilient. Resilience refers to the ability of coping with and recovering from negative and difficult life experiences. Resilience is accomplished primarily by being able to manage negative thoughts and emotions and take proactive actions that help us to cope, recover and bounce back negative experiences and once again experience well-being.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists utilize well-researched Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) interventions that include intentional happiness activities to counteract negative, maladaptive thinking and bolster healthy, rational thinking. This leads to increased happiness and overall resilience. If like many people, you’ve been waiting for happiness to “happen” or just show up, we encourage you to take the steps necessary so you can lead a meaningful life and cultivate what is best within yourself.
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