Reframing Sadness: The Movie

>> Saturday

I just watched the movie, Inside Out. It's an animated Disney movie about what goes on inside a young girl's mind. Pixar consulted with two scientists — Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner — to make sure the brain, emotions, and memory were depicted accurately. It was quite a movie. It was entertaining, and in some ways, illuminating, especially its depiction of how sadness helps us be happy, and how memories can be colored by emotion. I felt enriched by the movie.

Apparently others have been enriched too. In an interview, one of the consulting scientists (Keltner), said, "The emails I'm getting are astounding. I’ve gotten emails from grandfathers who are like, 'I went with my grandkids and I was crying.' Sixty-year-old men are saying this movie is changing their relationship to their wife. I got an email from a mom who took her highly functioning autistic boy to the movie, and seeing the movie was the first time that this young guy had insight into his emotional difficulty. He said: 'Mom, I know I have anger, fear, and disgust, but I really struggle with sadness and joy — I don't know where they are.' And she said it was their breakthrough moment. I was blown away."

If you'd like to read more about the science behind the movie, here are a few articles I recommend:

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Heighten Love by Capitalizing

>> Friday

When your spouse tells you some good news, how do you respond? Shelly Gable, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA who studies what makes marriages great, discovered that the way you react matters a lot. When a husband or wife tells some good news to their spouse, the spouse's reaction can raise the husband's or wife's mood, or lower it.

Gable divided the possible responses into four categories. For example, if your spouse told you s/he just got a promotion at work, you might respond in one of these four ways:

Enthusiastically: "That's great, Honey! You're on your way!"

Negatively or critically: "Are they going to make you work longer hours?"

Positive, but subdued: "That's nice."

Uninterested: "Did you see they finally opened the new Macy's on 8th Street?"

When you typically respond enthusiastically, as opposed to any of the other ways, studies show it makes a big difference in how satisfied your spouse is in your marriage, how committed s/he is, and how in love s/he is with you.

And, of course, if your spouse is more satisfied with your marriage, is more committed to you, and more in love with you, that'll really raise your mood, and that's why I'm talking to you about it.

The moral to this story is clear: If your typical response is not enthusiasm, a simple way to make your relationship better is to pay attention to those moments, and heighten your response to them.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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100 Great Tips To Improve Your Life

>> Thursday

In the excellent post, 100 Great Tips to Improve Your Life by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Leo compiled a list of principles, each with a link to an article. Improve your life in almost any way and it will improve your mood.

These were some of my favorites:


The Power of Ten Minutes. Ten minutes has gotten a bad rap. You can get an amazing amount of work done in a short spurt, and thinking about doing something for only ten minutes isn't daunting in the slightest, which encourages you dig in.

What Google Can Teach Us About Self-Image. The Google focused on what they did well and made their search engine as great as possible. Their success gave them confidence to branch out. But they do not rush into new things. They take their time and do things well.

Photographing Your Mementos. Save on space and lower clutter. A trophy, a teddy bear, and that gift from Aunt Mildred are great mementos but they all take up space. Digital photographs of those things can serve as mementos but don't take up any space.

Increase Personal Productivity with the Top 11 Multiple Positives. A multiple positive is something that benefits you in multiple ways, like biking to work (you're getting to work and exercising) or listening to audiobooks in the car (you're going where you need to go and reading a book you want to read). "The more multiple positives you use, the easier it is to get everything you want done without feeling stressed. They also free up loads of time and create a pleasant feeling of satisfaction and efficiency."

A Primer on Getting Things Done. David Allen's book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, is full of fundamental insights on staying organized while staying flexible. This article shares the meat of Allen's work.

Stick to a Regular Schedule of Exercise. The list of benefits you get from exercise is enormous. The hard part is doing it regularly. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, shares 14 hot tips on how to make exercise a regular part of your life. Excellent.

How NOT to Multitask – Work Simpler and Saner. Multitasking is more complicated and less efficient than doing one thing at a time. This article has some great principles and tips on how to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of multitasking.

Getting Things Done Cheatsheet. This is kind of a CliffNotes for Getting Things Done. It's a great overview of the process.

Eliminate All But the Absolute Essential Tasks. If you find that your workload just keeps increasing, and you find yourself squeezed for time you don't have, this is a good checklist for how to reduce and eliminate what isn't vitally important.

Use some of these great ideas to improve your life and improve your mood. Don't overwhelm yourself: Just choose one that seems promising, and put it into action. You can always come back to the list later and find another one.

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Reading Fiction Improves Relationships (and Improves Your Mood)

>> Saturday

In an interesting study, researchers found that reading fictional stories will increase your empathy for others, improve your ability to see things from another's point of view, raise your social awareness, and make you more open to new experiences.

All these results improve the quality of relationships, which is, of course, one of the most important generators of good moods.

Reading fiction gets its power from your emotional connection to the characters in the story. While reading, you temporarily set aside your own point of view and goals and take on the goals and point of view of the characters in the story. This functions as a kind of training. "Just as computer simulations have helped us understand perception, learning and thinking," writes Keith Oatley, "stories are simulations of a kind that can help readers understand not just the characters in books but human character in general."

In another article, Oatley wrote, "In fiction...we are able to understand characters' actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have. And it turns out that psychologically there is a big difference between these two points of view. We usually take the exterior view of others, but that's too limited."

In addition to the long-term benefits, the process of reading stories is also relaxing and enjoyable. Reading is one of the most reliable ways to produce flow — a psychological state that positively influences your mood (read more about that here).

So reading fiction can improve your mood immediately, and then improve it again in a different way with its long term effect.

Reading books has gone out of fashion, especially in the last ten years, and especially among college-age people. It is probably not a coincidence that another study has shown a thirty-year decline in empathy in college-age people, "with an especially steep drop in the past ten years," says Jamil Zaki in a Scientific American article published earlier this year.

There is no need for this to happen to you. You can improve your relationships and be happier using this simple tool: Reading fiction.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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Masterful Life Coaching

>> Thursday

Sometimes it can really help to receive coaching from someone outside your life — someone with whom you have no personal history, no baggage, and no pre-existing patterns of interaction. A coach can help you gain perspective about your life and will listen differently to your goals and feelings than anyone already familiar with you, including yourself.

My wife, Klassy Evans, collaborator and editor of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Principles for Personal Growth, and the creator of How to Handle People Who Bring You Down, has been employing a life coach and it has greatly accelerated progress toward her goals.

For raising your mood, few things work better than blasting through obstacles and gaining traction on your most important goals!

Her coach's name is Bob Boyle. He has considerable practical training in a high-level personal growth environment — he was the Ropes Course Manager of the famous Six Day Course for five years. His job entailed taking a group of untrained volunteers and guiding them through the process of competently running a physically dangerous and emotionally challenging ropes course, which was the high point of the most arduous self-help training course ever devised, and bringing these volunteers up to their maximim level of competence, to do it quickly, and to deliver a perfect performance that week. It had to be perfect. Lives were at stake. "Good enough" was not good enough.

The following week, he got a whole new batch of untrained volunteers to work with. He hardly slept for five years.

This kind of trial-by-fire honed his skill. His ability to cut through nonsense is amazing. He knows the way the mind works, and he knows it so well he is able to prevent you from being taken in by its games and tricks and traps.

If you're ready to take your life to the next level, I highly recommend Bob Boyle for life coaching. His work is about personal growth. It's about commitments and accountability. He commits himself to your goal, so you'll have a powerful personal ally in your process of breaking through the obstacles that have been holding you back.

If you're ready to take the next step — especially if you have something you've wanted for a long time and you haven't gotten it yet — here's an opportunity to step into the future you want.

I asked Bob how he would describe what he does. He said, "I offer people the opportunity to discover who they are so they will be empowered to fulfill their dreams by unleashing their power and creativity." His work is about assisting you in living a bigger life. He will focus your attention on what really matters to you, and give you a clarity you've never had about your goals and who you really are.

The coaching is done over the phone. Bob suggests a three-month commitment with one phone call, 30 - 60 minutes long, once a week. The service costs $250 a month. If you're interested or want to find out more, give Bob Boyle a call: 360-356-6503 or email him at committedcoach@gmail.com. Or check out his web site: Committed Coaching.

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Feel good more often and become more effective with your actions. Check it out on Amazon: Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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