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Happiness Is All in the Mind

I believe the right attitude and beliefs can go a long way toward optimizing one's happiness and health. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by a new study that found people with severe health issues or disabilities aren't necessarily mired in the dumps and wallowing in self-pity all the time, despite perceptions of the more able-bodied. Moreover, they can be just as happy, on the whole, as those without such challenges.

This outcome, experts say, adds to a growing body of evidence that ill and disabled people adapt to their condition and show a resilience of spirit that many healthy people can't imagine. What's particularly clever is how scientists used technology to determine this result.

Researchers monitored the moods of 49 pairs of kidney dialysis patients (receiving treatments for at least three months for three to four hours at a time) and healthy people who recorded their mood levels throughout the day, at two-hour intervals, over the course of a week, using personal digital assistants (PDA) which were programmed to alert patients to report their moods at those random moments by completing a quick series of ratings. The big advantage of using PDAs: Because these devices are portable and can be easy to use, patients could quickly record "snapshots" of their moods rather than catalog impressions of their daily lives. Those snippets revealed a truer picture of a patient's mood which wasn't much worse than that of a healthy person, researchers said.

Even more interesting were faulty perceptions by healthy people who grossly underestimated the extent to which patients can adapt to challenges like dialysis treatments. Generally, the able-bodied believed they would experience negative moods most of the time, and on average have moods that were much lower than what the real patients actually experienced.

That's why choosing to be happy can be very easy to say and difficult to practice in the real world: So many of us are blocked by conscious and subconscious negative emotions that blur our thinking and damage our health. That's why I strongly recommend learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), the proven energy psychology tool I use daily in my practice to address those emotional triggers.

EurekAlert February 10, 2005

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