Tag Archives: happiness.

“I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing.”

by Dr. Ken Larsen

The above quote from Wm. James somehow has always made sense to me, even if I don’t fully understand the reason the meaning is so intuitively insightful.

singingI envy musicians who can sit together and jam with impromptu abandon and not only enjoy themselves, but they bring happiness and joy to those sitting around them watching.  It’s a language and a connection that goes above and beyond what us non-musicians enjoy.  They don’t even have to share the same language.  Music is their language.

A friend of mine is a retired trumpet player/ entertainer.  I enjoy listening to him tell me about some of the nuances in the musical arts that are not evident to the uninitiated.  His stories about rubbing shoulders with well known entertainers in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe are interesting and memorable.  I’ve gotten to know some celebrities through Mike without ever having seen them.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that when I sing, I can lift my level of mental health and happiness.  There is something in going to another internal place to sing and make music that is soothing to me, and distracting from the ordinary cares of life.  Listening to music is OK. But I find being actively involved in singing and perhaps playing to be much more fulfilling.

As an undergrad a friend taught me a few chords on a guitar.  I’ve used what I learned often throughout my life since then.  When people ask me if I play guitar, I smile and respond, “I play at it.”  And indeed I do.  Good mental health and happiness require a certain amount of “play” time in our lives.  Playing guitar and singing old favorites is good therapy for me.

Even if you can’t play an instrument, you can go to YouTube and find some of your favorites available as Karaoke recordings, so you can sing your favorite songs with high quality accompaniment and arrangements in the quiet of your home.  And if you have a dog, he or she may sometimes join you in a doggy harmony.  J

My wife is tolerant of my caterwauling because she knows how much I enjoy it.  We even sing together from time to time, but not as often as I’d like.

Life is sometimes hard and at the end of the day it’s good to go to another place to be refreshed in our mind.  I used to do that with booze and TV, but today I find an hour of singing in my study is far more restful and refreshing to my beleaguered psyche.

If you ask what music I enjoy, I would have to say anything with melody and harmony.  The vocalists I like to emulate are Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Kris Kristofferson, and Elvis of course.

So try it sometime, remembering Wm. James insightful words:  “I don’t sing because I’m happy.  I’m happy because I sing.”


You make me so miserable!!!

Dr. Ken Larsen

miserable_kenDr. Glasser told us that we choose our own misery.  That’s just what a miserable person wants to hear, right?  WRONG!  When I ‘m miserable I want someone to blame.  I want to feel helpless and a victim of the fickle finger of adverse circumstances.  Something, someone OUT THERE is causing my misery and suffering.

The problem is whose behavior can I control?  If my suffering is caused by someone or something outside of myself, I am condemned to a prolonged period of suffering.  I am a victim.  No one understands me.  Poor me.

Please forgive my mocking tone as I make this point.  The hopeful message that Dr. Glasser was bringing us is that if we are choosing our own misery, we can choose something else.  If we stop criticizing, blaming and complaining about external causes, we can take responsibility for our life and our total behavior.   A good way to recapture the mental health and happiness that has slipped away is to look at what we can change, our behavior.

total-behaviorDr. Glasser talks about total behavior as the four wheels on a car.  The front wheels are what steer the car.  They are how we choose to act and to think.  The back wheels are often the result of what we are doing with the front wheels.  Our actions and our thoughts have an impact on our emotions and our physiology.  The evidence for this is conclusive.

The hard part is turning away from the misery that shelters us from responsibility.  It takes courage and determination.  To change our miserable feelings, we need to move away from the back wheels and work on what we are doing and thinking.  This can be as simple as taking a walk, and reading an inspirational account of someone who has overcome their misery.

I have had bouts of depression and melancholy many times throughout my life.  I have learned to pay attention to what I’m telling you here.  It’s hard to stay miserable and depressed when physically active.  I’ve learned to take a walk, ride a bike, go the club for a workout, call a friend.  Anything to shift the focus of my attention from the navel gazing “poor, poor, pitiful me” to something that refreshes my appreciation for the life that I have.

For many of us, this message is a review of fundamental insights from Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory.  It is good to review fundamentals from time to time to refresh the wisdom we have learned.

Toward an understanding of mental health

by Dr. Ken Larsen

Years ago I came to the realization that what might be considered “normal” within a social culture is not necessarily healthy.  Smoking was a “normal” behavior, but it was and is killing people.  This is not healthy.

Then I looked at how many people really wanted to change the seeming inevitability of dental disease.  Even though most of these folks did what was recommended, which was to brush their teeth regularly, the problem continued.  What was needed was an understanding of the cause of dental disease which could then lead to steps to remove the cause and prevent the disease.  As a result of this learning, more and more people are living a lifetime with their own teeth.

Now I want to look at mental health and happiness through the lens of these insights.   With understanding comes the power to change.

One thing common to both the issue with smoking and uncontrolled dental disease was that significant progress was made when they were treated as public health issues, rather than individual problems.

I believe we have begun to see mental health and happiness in this light.  The rise in violence in our culture, most dramatically seen in the incidents of school shootings, have gotten our attention. This along with the alarming trend in suicide among our troops, and the quiet desperation experienced by much of our population are certainly indications of a problem.

We are experiencing a growing awareness that there is a significant portion of our population who are being “treated for a disease they don’t have with a drug they don’t need”, quoting Dr. Wm. Glasser.  The high incidence of depression and anxiety conditions has provided a lucrative market for drug companies.  Unless there is a diagnosed organic disorder, most of these brain drugs simply treat the symptoms without treating the underlying cause.    Is the underlying cause of these conditions a lifelong “mental illness” or an unsuccessful effort to cope with the challenging circumstances of life?

ken-piecesI have not found a simple “one size fits all” answer to the question of mental health and happiness.  I do believe strongly that we need to think about the mental health of the individual in the context of relationships as well as in the context of the social and physical environment.

I see health, (mental health, physical health and spiritual health) as more than the absence of disease.  There is no absolute state of health.  It is best to think of health as a process, a journey if you will.  This process is primarily about integration.  The coming together of the components of life into a functioning whole.  Our words for “health”, “whole”, “holy” all derive from the same root word in old anglo saxon “hal”, which means “whole”.  This move toward health and wholeness is the process of linking the parts of our self with our connections with others and our social and physical environment.  This coming together of parts, this “integration”, is what I call “health.”


Choose FEAR or Love

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

choicesRight now, at this very moment I am standing at a crossroads. As I look in one direction I see doom, peril and potential ruination. In the other direction I see nothing. It’s as if vaseline is over my eyes and I cannot see anything except blurry blobs of ill defined shapes and sizes.

I blame myself for being in this predicament. If I had done a better job of paying closer attention perhaps I could have taken steps to avoid arriving at this particular spot in my life’s journey.

Hold on though. I am not a careless person. Each decision I’ve made along the way was based on doing the best I could at the time with the information that I had. Hmm . . .

I’m discovering that too frequently I blame myself for circumstances, events and outcomes that were not dependent only on my actions or inactions. If blaming is among the deadly habits that contribute to the deterioration and destruction of relationships, how does my blaming myself help me? Hmm . . .

Am I willing to dig a little deeper? Instead of going to self-blame can I better understand my frustration, anger and confusion?

Upon further reflection and some helpful meditative reading I discover that I’m full of fear! If I wasn’t afraid would I be stuck at the crossroads?

Here are some discoveries that have helped me:

FEAR = thinking + time. Decrease either and fear disappears

                                    F.E.A.R. – FORGET EVERYTHING AND RUNor

                                                     FORGET EVERYTHING AND RISE

                                                                                    (Thank you Dave Romanelli for this idea

Happy is the new Healthy, 2014)

What if I face my crossroads, my potential peril, doom or ruination with love instead of fear? Now what?

Yes! Yes! Yes! The choice of direction is clear even though the clarity has not eliminated the blurred and unclear road before me. With love as the guiding light and my total behavior of loving in every step I am propelled forward with confidence and competence.

I choose LOVE and with that choice my Mental Health & Happiness improves. Even though the present “bump in the road” felt more like an overwhelming and insurmountable mountain, with each loving step I am able to continue moving forward.

Are there areas in your life where you’re choosing fear instead of love?


Activities that will make you Happier

Submitted by Denise Daub

Psychologists Say Doing These 7 Activities Will Make You Happier

by Drake Baer

canstockphoto0374035Happiness is good for you.

Psychology research shows that happy people make more money, perform better at work, live longer, and have better marriages than everyone else.

But the causes of happiness are elusive — philosophers have been trying to figure it out for thousands of years.

Over the past few decades psychological science has found a few consistent trends in what makes people happy. As the Gym Lion blog reports, happiness is less a matter of what you have than the things you do.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/happiness-activities-2015-1#ixzz3TL7Ndg7k


Comparing your insides with others’ outsides

by Dr. Ken Larsen

insides_kenI’ve been with Toastmasters for a couple of years.  One of the most frequently reported reasons for joining Toastmasters is to overcome the fear of speaking in public.

After hearing person after person report the same fear, I began to see this as a “normal” response.

Then when I see the frequently reported hierarchy of fears, with public speaking ranked above death, I am once again convinced this is a normal reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Just because I see it as “normal”, (which is actually a statistical term not a psychological description,)   I wonder just what causes this nearly universal terror that seriously afflicts the mental health and happiness of many.  Especially five minutes before giving a talk in front of others.

I have a suspicion, however, that one cause of this terror is the conviction that to be afraid of public speaking is NOT normal, and it is a sign of weakness or some character flaw.  This is often triggered by seeing an apparently confident speaker seem immune to stage fright, giving a relaxed talk with no evidence of nervousness.

This is what I call comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know what is going on inside the seemingly confident person.  I remember Johnny Carson talking about his anxiety before giving his nightly monologue.  And this was after decades in broadcasting.

Bruce Springsteen talks about using the energy of the pre-performance jitters to push his performance to a higher level.

I believe that once we accept the fact that just about everyone else has the same butterflies before a performance, we can settle down, accept our jitters, and move on.

Buddhists have an interesting insight into suffering from an affliction.  There is the affliction itself, such as fear of speaking, and then there is what is called “the second arrow”.  This second arrow is when we add to our affliction by thinking of ourselves as weak, or inferior, or in some way different than the rest of our species.

If we will choose to avoid this “second arrow” of self-blame, we can focus on doing what others have done before us.  Feel what you’re feeling, understand it for what it is, and then move beyond it.

This is an important part of our ongoing quest for mental health and happiness.