Browsing Tag


Comedian on Technology and Happiness

Yesterday evening I found wisdom in an unexpected place.  I was watching Conan O’Brien.  Mostly this was because the Big Bang Theory rerun had just ended, and I had not wanted to move yet.  Then Louis C.K., a comedian who I had never heard of, came on began to tell Conan why he won’t let his kids have cell phones.  I was impressed.  As a wordy, long-winded and serious psychotherapist by nature, I appreciate this comedian’s short and funny explanation better than my own.  Check out how his view on why over use of technology can rob us of learning empathy, the ability to just sit there, and emotional experience.

If you are having issues seeing the video, click here


Here are some great quotes from this clip.

“Just be sad…stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck.”

“Sadness is poetic.  Your lucky to live sad moments.”

“I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness.”

“You never feel completely sad or completely happy.  You just feel kinda satisfied with your product and then you die.”

I wonder if Louis C.K. is aware that he is talking about principles of mindfulness.  Clearly he understands better than most that pain is a normal part of life and when you avoid it you create suffering and miss joy.

The Road to Happiness

“Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”

– Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

I came across this quote recently and saved it because it succinctly states a truth that I face with clients daily.  Every client that comes to my office is with me because they just want to be happy.  Sometimes it is after a divorce or marriage problem that seems impossible to solve.  Others worry and panic to point of not sleeping at all.  Irregardless of the circumstances the effectiveness of whatever avoidance or management technique available has run out and they simple desire help to feel better.

So frequently I am taking on the role of the bearer of the bad news. There is no way to happiness except through your pain and discomfort.  You can continue to ignore pain and discomfort.  Distractions and abound to help us avoid the pain and discomfort of life.  However, freedom from it only occurs after “becoming aware of your mental afflictions.”  Also, this is usually not an easy or comfortable thing to do.

I wish I could share with everyone the feelings of triumph when after several weeks or months of hard work, a client that is ready to get to know their “mental afflictions” makes a breaks through and tells me about how much better they feel.  It would be amazing if others starting the process could experience the tears of joy and a little sadness when I meet with the clients at the end of 1 or 2 years of work.  When they realize that we can’t come up with any more goals, and we talk about all the changes we have seen along the way.  The sadness comes from knowing that you will not see the each other regularly anymore, but at the same time a joyful satisfaction comes as you know someone’s life has been changed for the better.  The feeling is indescribable and unbeatable.  I usually tear up at least a little.

It is these times that I am reminded of how all the hard work and discomfort is worth it.  I only hope some people considering seeking help will read this post and take that first step…and then stick with it when the hard part comes.


photo credit:  Travel by Nature Photography

How to be Happier: What really works?

We all want to be happier, but everyone tends to be terrible at predicting what will make us happy. Believe it or not there is actually a whole body of psychological research studying what works and what doesn’t. It is strange to me that we don’t discuss this subject more often as our society seems so obsessed with health.  In one study of 678 elderly nuns  the group that tested as the happiest lived 9.3 years longer than the least happy group.

Did you know that Pessimism is a more powerful risk factor for a shorter life span than smoking or alcoholism. We all wonder about those people who eat right and exercise and seem to be doing all the right things and then pass at a seemingly early age.   When someone you know of passes away from a heart attack at age 55 after taking up marathon running everyone comments and tries to make sense of it.  But no one ever says, “Well how happy was he really?” or “I never really thought about it before, but maybe his pessimism had an affect.”

Perhaps we should take these events not as an excuse to skip a few weeks at the gym, but as wake up call to spend a little more time learning about happiness and emotional well being.  So lets look at what works to make us happy and what doesn’t.

Some things that Don’t Work:

  • Wealth (after meeting basic needs)
  • Education or high IQ
  • Sunny days
  • Being young

What does work:

  • Mindful savoring – being connected to or attending to what you are doing
  • Engagement or flow –  full immersion in and enjoyment of the process of an activity, an energized harrenssing of emotions and in the service of learning or performing a task, often referred to as being “in the zone,” “on a roll,” “in the grove,” or “on fire”
  • Meaning & Connection – strong ties to family and friends, giving attention to something larger than yourself, performing acts or altruism or kindness

So don’t stop exercise, don’t take up smoking, and eat your vegetables.  However, if you are going to go to all the trouble of doing all that consider giving equal attention to learning more about how to be happy.


Research information source:  Workshop presentation of Ronald D. Siegel, Psy. D.  The Power of Mindfulness:  Mindfulness Inside and Outside the Therapy Hour

Photo credit: UNE Photos

Happiness is Chocolate Cake?

We all try to be happy every day. But what actually works?

One thing that always makes me happy quickly is a really good piece of chocolate cake.  Imagine it.  You sit down at a quiet table.  At this moment you may have any number of worried thoughts that you just can’t seem to get out of your mind.  Unpleasant anxiousness about unfinished tasks or problems that can’t be solved hang over you.  But then a waiter brings you the enormous piece of chocolate cake.  It’s the thick kind with layer upon layer of cake and icing and chocolate sauce drizzled on top.  From the moment of the first sweet taste the thoughts and uncomfortable emotions instantly disappear.    The strength of this pleasurable experience pulls you away from anything that you were hanging on to before.  However, only moments later you find yourself in the car driving home, and all your worries return along with additional worries about all the calories you just consumed.

If you really start to think about how to be happy you have to quickly toss out the temporary happiness these chocolate cake experiences.  They really don’t solve the problem of the general malaise and overall depressed or anxious feelings we have.  In fact after the temporary high is over we often feel worse.  The same effect occurs with slightly longer results when we get a promotion, buy the newest gadget, or finally lose weight.  So many things that we think will make us happy turn out in the long run to be just another chocolate cake experience.  They give us a brief high and then afterward return you to the state you were in prior to the cake being served.  So here is a twofold principle about how happiness works.

Any enduring happiness must:

1)      Happen in the present, the current moment, the now

2)      Come from your internal experience

Number 1 is best explained by this Tic Nac Han quote.  “Peace can exist only in the present moment.  It is ridiculous to say ‘Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.’  What is ‘this’?  A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt?  If you think that way, peace will never come.”

Number 2 refers to “internal experience.”  By this I mean your own internal thoughts and emotions which constantly stream though your mind and body.  The opposite of these would be any external experience.  We talk about these all the time. I will happy when I lose 20 pounds, get the job I want, finish school, get a new house, meet my soul mate and get married, or purchase a certain product.  All of these ultimately work about as well as the chocolate cake.

Our confusion about getting happiness from external experiences is understandable.  We are bombarded with messages about how external things will make us happy every day.  Also, they do work …for a while.  Sometimes the high lasts for moments and sometimes for months.  But sooner or later we get used to the new thing and we have to chase again.

In addition, we almost never talk about current or internal experiences.  Once we start to explore and pay attention to our internal, present experience there is a struggle to describe what we find.  We simple lack the language to talk about.  This is one thing I hope we can develop here in our discussion.

photo credit: Leslie Kalohi /