After a lot of complicated mumbo jumbo, psychology has found the key to happiness is positive thinking.  But we are in danger of losing this truth in an infrared brain image.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 9, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Psychology Is So Simple

Virtually all happiness/antidepression psychology breaks down to one recommendation - look on the bright side.

Any one of us can look at our lives in negative or positive terms. All of us have accomplishments, successes, good relationships, skills, hopes, pleasures, contentments. All of us have the reverse. And all of us have the capacity to dwell on one side or vision of our lives or the other.

Sometimes, either because of our dispositions or our current mood, or due to some recent rough seas, we get stalled in the negative part of the cycle. Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression and happiness psychology a la Seligman instruct us to focus on happier thoughts.

(The same distinction in thinking applies in evaluating the field of psychology. Depressive thinking: Is that all psychology has come up with after a century? My grandmother knew that. Positive thinking: Psychology has brought into focus the essentials in life, and it teaches us that we control our moods no matter what the situation.)

Happiness psychology tells us to enumerate our positives, then think about how we get them, and then to do more of those things. Antidepressive psychology tells us to do pretty much the same, but dwells somewhat more on how to reverse bad things so our mood arrow spends more time on the positive side of the meter.

It is good that all of mood psychology breaks down into such simplified ideas. If it were more complicated than this, we couldn't succeed at it. If we all had to learn to meditate to focus our brains, or carry out systematic relationship inventories, or practice completely healthy lifestyles - then we'd be doomed.

Instead, all we have to do is search our minds and our worlds for things we enjoy doing, that make us look on the positive side of our lives, that encourage us to dwell on what we are good at, that is good about us, that has worked right for us, and that demonstrates we are loved and that we love others.

That is why someone praising us or saying that they like us, or our doing a familiar activity that we enjoy, or experiencing some casual good fortune makes us so happy! The bad news is that the flip sides of all these things really bring us down :-( . Drugs are short cuts for the simple act of shifting this balance.

We're all like kids entering a candy store! Rejoice in the simplicity of psychology and the almost infantile way our minds work! That is so much better - both truer and more effective - than contemplating phantasmagoric, multi-colored, shifting brain images and believing they are really us.

Now that you know the secret, help others - loved ones and acquaintances - to have happy thoughts. And rejoice when they do.

I hope this post has made your day happier :-) .