The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

* Learn Happiness Habits from Positive Psychology * Tame your Fear with Cutting Edge Neuroscience * Control your Time and Money like an Entrepreneur * Build Better Relationships through one Tested Technique

The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


The Happiness Habits Experiment

Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience have shown that you can raise your individual happiness set-point, learn to become more optimistic, increase your self-efficacy, as well as overcome anxieties and personal stumbling blocks. Whilst there is no quick fix to achieving all of the above, there are a number of exercises - all of them simple, sensible and scientifically supported - that will help you on your way.

In the Happiness Habits Experiment we have chosen six easy-to-perform daily exercises that we believe will fundamentally alter the way you experience your life. The exercises are devised to help you adopt new ways of thinking about things and new ways of doing things. Applying yourself to these exercises will help you do just that, cumulatively building your positive power and reshaping your viewpoint.

In the same way that the habit of consistent physical exercise makes your body stronger and more able, the exercises we have chosen for the experiment will help your incredibly flexible brain work for you in every aspect of your life. We ask only that you perform the daily exercises for at least three weeks - to prove to yourself that you can effect change in your life. We believe you will find them helpful, as we and many others have done. Here is a brief run-down of the exercises we have chosen and the research that supports them.

Smile - yes, really!
Just as happiness leads to success rather than vice versa, smiling can be used to create pleasure and not just express it. The physical act of smiling stimulates the pleasure centres in your brain, increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins and reduces the level of stress hormones – so get more pleasure out of life by smiling more often. The act of smiling also slightly cools the face and brain, which is associated with positive mood, whilst frowning warms them and activates changes that can make you feel sad and grumpy. Smile when you’re happy, but smile especially, perhaps, when you’re feeling down.

If you need any more persuading, smiling has been shown to make the face more attractive to other people and influence their choice of you as either a friend, colleague or potential partner.

Another more surprising finding from research concludes that fake smiling works, and it even works on ourselves. In a landmark study*, students were told that they would be helping to test different ways for paraplegic people to hold pens. Some were asked to hold a pen between their teeth - an action that produced an involuntary smile. Others were asked to hold it with their lips, which induces a frown. Immediately afterwards, the students were shown a cartoon and asked to rate how funny they thought it. The teeth holders (that is, the smilers) were unequivacally more amused.

If you'd like to join the experiment then just sign up here - Happiness Habits Experiment

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll look at the second exercise in our Happiness Habits Experiment.

post by Annabel

* Strack,F. et al., (1988) Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (54) p. 768-777


How To Get Teenagers To Tidy Their Rooms

We had a request on Twitter asking "What do you recommend for getting stroppy teens to clear squalor from their rooms?"

We have a whole Step in The Real Secret devoted to "Richer Relationships" and a technique that will wonderfully improve relationships with partners and children of all ages. But at the end of this Step we give you these tips to "Negotiating with Loved Ones" - not always an easy process! But following these steps can really help:

1. Explain Your Feelings For Wanting Change
Tell your partner, children or other family member that you’re finding a situation very stressful. Apologise if you’ve been, perhaps, bad-tempered or unsympathetic lately. Explain, without playing the martyr, that the situation has got on top of you recently, acknowledge that it must have affected them badly too and that you’ve been thinking about how to improve things for them and for you.

Bear in mind the sentence structure, “When (x happens), I feel (describe your own emotions)” and substitute it for sentences that begin, “You always…”, “Why should I…?”, “You’re so….”. This avoids the blaming and name-calling which inevitably leads to retaliation and the opposite of empathic listening.

2. Outline Your Preferred Options
Having some alternatives ready can be useful. For example, suggest to your partner the options of either giving you half a day to yourself every other weekend, or a whole weekend every other month. Tell your children they can either clean their bedrooms once a week or they can choose another household chore that they are totally responsible for. Ask your elderly father whether he would rather go into respite care or stay at home with another family member while you go away.

3. Describe What’s In It For Them 
In return, your partner would also get half a day every other weekend, or a bi-monthly weekend to her/himself; your children can earn points or money for treats from their chores; you’ll take your father for a day out every time you get back from a week’s break.

4.  Listen (Empathically - see TRS Step Eight!) To Their Objections
They may be valid and it’s important for all parties to have their reactions and feelings taken into account. If everyone involved feels they have contributed to the final decision, they’ll be much more likely to stick the agreement.

5.  Revise And Finalise
Re-think your plans in the light of the responses and put forward an amended position, perhaps after everyone has had some time to think about it. At the very least you should be able to get a trial agreed to – the fortnightly half day for a month or one weekend away; two weeks of chores/room-tidying with appropriate rewards; a few days’ break – and then reassess.

Consider this: your teen probably would prefer to live in a tidier environment, but may not know the way to go about it. By the time we've got to parenthood, it seems obvious to most of us how to go about tidying and keeping a room tidy. But to the adolescent brain, it may not be so obvious and explaining the basics could help. The following is adapted from Step Three of The Real Secret, "Take Control".


The way to keep your room in order is to create a filing system. You need a filing system for clothes - hanging clothes, folded clothes, underclothes, dirty clothes, shoes, coats.... You need a filing system for your school or college work, your CDs, games & DVDs - in fact for whatever you keep in your own room. Whether you use a piece of furniture, a set of shelves, or the floor (your teenager may already be using the last - but is it just chaos or oragnised chaos?), the important thing is to have a place for everything. The amount of time that is lost and wasted looking for items of clothing or work can be considerable, not to mention the annoyance and stress that losing important things creates. Always know exactly where to find anything, and always, always put things back in their place after use.

“Nothing will work unless you do”.
Maya Angelou, writer

Know what “organised” looks and feels like for you. This will be personal, even idiosyncratic. Create a system that works for you, bearing in mind that organised spaces are simple to use; they have an internal order and enough room for the items they hold. Just because you may not keep things out of view doesn’t mean you’re not organised. Piles of papers on your floor might be the most efficient system for you, even if it doesn’t look pretty. The allocated space, though – closets, files, drawers, piles – must make sense to you and you should know what is in them and where.

Being in control of what works best for you is not the same as allowing a mess to surround you simply for want of care and attention. Make sure that organised chaos is not obscured by unneeded or useless junk. Don’t keep what you don’t need; get into the habit of regular de-junking. If you don't need it or don't love it, pass it on or recycle it.

Remember, your room is an expression of you, and while you may love and be loved for your cluttered environment, make sure the clutter is all wanted and organised to suit your needs. To really get organised, you might need to start by clearing out and organising your entire room – over time if necessary. You will know when you've reached “home” because it will feel calm, open, and welcoming. You will enjoy being in it, and so will your friends - even your parents!

“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
William Morris (1835-1896)

Let us know if it works for you. Here, or on Twitter or Facebook

There's more good advice for you and your teenagers in The Real Secret on and
posted by Lucy


How to Get That Job - The Science of Persuasion

Professor Robert Cialini’s work on the psychology of persuasion* is ..well, it’s very persuasive. Cialini is a renowned expert in the field and his work has had an enormous influence on the way in which we think about persuasion; he has turned what we thought was the art of persuasion into the science of persuasion. He’s the one who persuaded us to re-use our hotel towels instead of having them fresh every day, by placing a card in the bathroom asking us to think of the environment. He has worked on climate change and green issues at the highest levels in an effort to effect change that lasts. If there’s a book that needs reading it’s his.

Here’s a piece of advice he offers to those wanting to do well in a job interview. I’ve taken this excerpt from an interview he conducted with The American Pychological Association.

He begins by talking about the importance of consistency as a good weapon of influence in job-hunting — the idea being that if you make a public statement, there are strong pressures to remain consistent with that statement. Here is his example;

Let’s say you’ve got a job interview, and you know that you’re among a variety of candidates. What you could do - to stand out from the crowd, as well as harness the consistency principle - is to say something like,

“I’m very pleased to be here, and I look forward to giving you all the information you’d need to know about me, but before we begin, would you mind telling me why it is that you selected me to interview?”

And then let them speak. Let them, in a public, active way, describe your plusses. And they will spend much of the rest of the interview validating what they have on record as having valued about you, because people want to stay consistent with what they’ve previously claimed.

How interesting is that? Mind you - I’d probably find it a little intimidating. But I’m sure with a little tweeking the principle could be altered to fit my particular personality (shy and a bit nervous in the interview situation).

* Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Another interesting piece of research that might be useful when you go for an interview is the question addressed by Stewart et al.,*  

How much does a firm handshake matter during a job interview? 
The authors examined how an applicant's handshake influences hiring recommendations formed during the job interview. A sample of 98 students (Ok, so students are a breed apart, but lets pretend they're just like you and me  - once were, perhaps?) provided personality measures and participated in mock interviews during which the students were given ratings of employment suitability. Five trained raters independently evaluated the quality of the handshake for each participant. 

Quality of handshake was related to interviewer hiring recommendations - even after controlling for differences in physical appearance and dress. Although women received lower ratings for the handshake, they did not on average receive lower assessments of job suitability. Results suggest that the relationship between a firm handshake and interview ratings may be stronger for women than for men. Well that's interesting I thought (but I'm not saying why I thought it interesting.)                                         

*Exploring the handshake in employment interviews. from Journal of Applied Psychology - Vol 94, Iss 6 by Stewart, Greg L.; Dustin, Susan L.; Barrick, Murray R.; Darnold, Todd C.

post by Annabel


What to do when you're made redundant

No one wants to lose their job, but in the past few months a massive number of us have been made redundant, and it’s happening to more of us every day. Every day we hear about more cuts to services - and that means jobs and that means people. It might mean you, or someone in your family; without a doubt it means people you know and care about as friends or colleagues.

Coping with the loss of your career, or without a job, takes its toll not only on your finances, but also on your relationships, your health and your feelings of self-worth. Like divorce or the death of a loved one, redundancy is one of the major life-disrupting events.
Even if we ourselves haven’t been affected, most of us feel worried because it could happen to us – the current economic situation puts millions of us in a state of uncertainty about the future.

If you have lost your job recently, or feel you may well in the near future, here are some strategies that can help you deal with the situation – even turn it to your advantage.

One of the dominant feelings that you may have when you’ve been made redundant is failure: you feel you have failed to do your job well enough; failed to impress your bosses. You feel like a failure, perhaps, in other ways like being able to provide for your family or to maintain your financial or social status.

Consider this, though: most successful people have experienced major difficulties in life, many of them have been through many “failures” of one kind or another. If you manage to cope with repeated failure and go on to achieve success, you have what psychologists call “self-efficacy”. People with high levels of self-efficacy do not give up easily; they believe they have it in themselves to achieve their goals. When you believe in your own power to exercise control over your life, you are healthier, more effective and more successful. People who believe they are capable approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than as threats to be avoided. They are invariably successful – and you will be too.

In The Real Secret, our aim is to help you become increasingly self-efficacious, successful and happy by asking you to undertake a series of Steps to form Habits of happiness, most of which are not hard at all, but require focus and commitment. They are all do-able, even if you find some more difficult than others. Once you have mastered them, you will have increased your levels of self-efficacy. You will have proved to yourself that you are capable and can effect change in your life – such as finding a new job or new ways to earn a living.

Here are some ways to help deal with redundancy and unemployment:

Choose to be Positive.
Long term research has shown that happy people have better relationships, more successful careers, earn more money, maintain closer links with friends and family and savour life more. So the best way to re-join the ranks of the successful and satisfied is to get happy. Sustainable satisfaction and success is not simply about earning and spending money; it’s about reaching for the real sources of human happiness and ensuring that we keep in touch with those things that bring us true joy and fulfilment.

Whilst you can’t change your own situation, or the economic climate, or government cuts, what you can do is take control of your outlook, make choices and develop habits which promote happiness in all the important aspects of your life, of which work is but one, albeit an important and necessary one.

Learning to find pleasure in the smallest details of a life that might not that seem that great, coupled with enthusiasm and excitement for how much better it can become, offers you the quick win of feeling happier right now, as well as establishing the essential framework for your long term well-being.

In Step One of The Real Secret you will find some very simple exercises which will help you maintain a realistic and positive outlook.

The first is to remember to smile. Yes, really! Smiling isn’t just a response to something good; the act of smiling activates pleasure centres in our brain, reduces stress chemicals and makes us more attractive to others as a partner, friend, colleague or client. So get into the habit of smiling more, not just when you’re happy, but especially when you’re down. You may have been made redundant but don’t allow that to ruin the whole of your life. You are more than the job you once did.

Appreciate yourself

Being made redundant can often exacerbate feelings of negative self worth and may even reconnect you with old, damaging feelings about yourself. It could be that throughout your lifetime, other people – and you yourself – have fed you negative messages about yourself, sometimes in words, other times by implication; sometimes on purpose, other times by accident. The most destructive of these are the ones that have been reinforced by repetition of someone else’s opinion, by circumstances that seem to validate this view of you – such as redundancy, through negative comparisons to other people who are in work, or your own continual acceptance of these limiting beliefs.

These negative views of yourself affect your ability to be happy, to enjoy life and be at ease with yourself, even when you’re not consciously aware of holding them. They transmit themselves to other people via your body language, your turn of phrase, your attitude and your whole approach to life; they hold you back from enjoying good experiences, strong relationships and positive developments.

Positive people with high self esteem find it much easier to find work, so try this exercise to keep your self-worth high.

Write down two negative things you think about yourself and two things you think you can’t do. Cross them out and write the positive opposite of these statements – such as “I am a great xxxx (your job), “I can get a better job”. Read or repeat these affirmations as often as possible to raise your confidence and self esteem and replace bad attitudes with good ones. After a month of daily repetition, write some new ones and repeat for a month.

For more details on writing affirmations see Step Two of The Real Secret.

Take control
In The Real Secret we talk about the importance of taking control of the administration of your life so it runs like a well-oiled machine and you no longer have to waste any excess time and energy on it that could be better spent on other, more important things. Being well organised and feeling in control becomes even more critical at times when aspects of your life are in crisis - such as losing your job.

We introduce five organisational habits in the book, but the one habit you should certainly adopt when made redundant is the habit of making a daily to-do list. Your list should never be more than five items long, or else you're taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure. Mark one or two of those items as things you absolutely must get done that day, and pursue those tasks relentlessly until you get them done. Make your first job each day to write and check your list for what needs doing. As you complete a task, cross it out or tick it off. At the end of the day, review what has been done and transfer any uncompleted tasks to the next day or reschedule to a more realistic date.

More details on how to do this in Step Three of The Real Secret

Money matters
The importance of money to our emotional and physical well-being is not in contention. We all need money in order to meet basic needs. However, whilst we need food for survival we may also want to eat at an expensive restaurant. Whilst we all need clothes for warmth and protection we also seem to want designer fashion. Therein lies the difference – the difference between needs and desires. A difference that becomes increasingly relevant the moment you lose your job and the income that it provided.

We talk quite a bit about money in The Real Secret and introduce a number of strategies for dealing with money issues which research has shown to be useful and effective. One tip is to simply be aware of every penny you spend. What you may discover after a few weeks of paying close attention to your spending is what is called the Hawthorne Effect - the scientific finding that the mere fact of being aware of your spending habits will make you spend more wisely.

This is advice that we all need, but it becomes critical when money is in short supply.


Goal-directed activity – motivation, goal-seeking and achievement - is wired into our brains and keeps us happier and more successful. This cycle activates pleasure centres, embeds memories of success, helps you feel in control of life and therefore happier. One difference between a dream and a goal is simply the written word. A 1953 Harvard University experiment identified ten percent of graduates who had set themselves some goals and four percent who had actually written down their goals. By 1973 the net worth of the four percent was double that of all the rest. So setting goals is not enough - you need to write them down!

In The Real Secret we introduce exercises that clarify in writing what you really want to accomplish in the long term; identify how you see it taking shape in the mid-term – say within the next year, or couple of years; then plan short-term steps towards getting there – right down to what you’re going to start doing this week.

However ambitious your goal, you can make your way towards it with regular, incremental, achievable steps, being flexible to adjust your aims to changing situations.

Finally, if you find it difficult coming to terms with the loss of your job and moving on, take some time to process your emotions. Left to themselves, anger and resentment can circulate endlessly in our minds, invade our dreams and hijack headspace we don’t want to waste on them. Dwelling on unhappy or unpleasant episodes stops you enjoying the good things in your life and having the self-confidence to achieve more. Writing is an immensely effective way of processing these episodes and our reactions to them, freeing us from associated negative emotions and allowing the events themselves to pass quietly into history.
If you are used to getting up at 7am and leaving the house by 8.30am there is no reason you shouldn’t stick to this timetable when redundant. Set yourself your own working day and between the hours of 9.30am to 5.30pm dedicate your time to working on your CV, searching for jobs, visiting recruitment agencies and getting in touch with old contacts. Once it gets to 5.30pm you can allow yourself to switch off and enjoy your evening.

Being made redundant means that you now have a new job - the job of finding new employment or a different way of gaining an income. In order to do this successfully you will need to be in control and you will need to be organised. If you haven’t already, then now is the time to get yourself sorted!

Why does writing help you? Because putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain.

James W. Pennebaker has probably done more research than any other psychologist on the “writing paradigm”. He explains how the actions of putting life events and our reactions to them into written form causes us to pay attention to the words we use to describe them and the structure of our “story”; which in turn forces our brain to integrate the emotions with our understanding and interpretation of them. Though the process of expressing feelings may be painful at times, Pennebaker’s expressive writing experiments have demonstrated major improvements in not only the mood and distress levels of his subjects, but on their immune systems, stress levels, self-esteem and productivity.

Perhaps of most interest, if you have been made redundant, is his comment: “Not only are there benefits to health, but writing about emotional topics has been found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades, and… aid people in securing new jobs.”

In the penultimate Step of The Real Secret, we show you how to take any problem, large or small, old or new, and test this process of laying it to rest. As a starting point, spend no more than 15 minutes a day writing about the events of your redundancy and the emotions you are feeling about it. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation and don't show your writing to anyone else. In a few days time you should feel more relaxed about the past and more positive about the future - a future which will be full of unexpected benefits and openings.

The Real Secret is available in paperback or kindle format from and


Choosing To Be - Lessons in living from a feline zen master

This deceptively simple narrative dextrously weaves a tale of survival and renewal around an introduction to meditation and a conversation with a cat (or feline zen master).

I have to admit this last aspect made me a little wary as I started to read; I'm neither a cat lover nor a fan of literary anthropomorphic cuteness (at least not in adult books). However, what Kat Tansey achieves through this device is to seamlessly embed a discourse on meditative practice within her personal chronicle; to underscore the intense loneliness of the depressive with almost zero human interaction; and to create two likeable, entirely "human" characters who add depth, not cutesiness, to her journey.

This account takes us through (the aptly named) Kat's passage from high flying career woman to debilitated chronic fatigue syndrome sufferer and depressive. Her suicidal thoughts are presented without drama and the painful monotony of mental and emotional struggle without self-pity. Equally, her heroic and painful steps back to wellness are depicted with self-deprecating and often humorous honesty and the revelatory "conversations" with Poohbear come across as unaffected and authentic.

Choosing To Be (a clever title, evoking Hamlet's soliloquy as well as the Buddha's teachings) is structured around the "lessons" of meditation under the technical headings of Ordinary Mind, The Hindrances and Buddha Mind, which make it an easy-to-follow and inspirational guide book. The fact that Tansey has also written an absorbing memoir with the flair of a fiction writer, however, draws you effortlessly through her story and makes the learning seem incidental - until you reach the end and realise that the tale of a woman, a cat and a kitten has reminded you that there is a better way to live, and how to do it

Review by Lucy

Happiness Brings Success - Not The Other Way Round

Have you ever wondered why people who are already contented and confident seem to get all the best breaks, have the most satisfying relationships, seem to enjoy more fun and exciting lives? It seems so unfair when they’re not necessarily better at their jobs, nicer people or more deserving than you. Yet they get what they want out of life, achieve their goals and feel at ease with themselves in a way that often manages to escape you.

It’s not that they’re happy and fulfilled because they have all those things. Long term research has shown that it’s entirely the other way round: happy people have better relationships, more successful careers, earn more money, maintain closer links with friends and family and savour life more. So the best way to join the ranks of the successful and satisfied is simply to get happy. These days we’re all discovering that sustainable satisfaction and success is not simply about earning and spending loads of money; it’s about reaching for the real sources of human happiness and ensuring that we keep in touch with those things that bring us true joy and fulfilment.

Some of us are born with a higher happiness “set point” than others, but we can all improve on the hand we were born with and the cards life has dealt us so far. Some of us have to deal with more knock backs and difficulties than others, but these are not an obstacle to leading a happy life – indeed, they can actually help us achieve it. So if you are feeling a little defeated at the moment, take heart; we’re here to help.

"Success is being yourself at your very best"
John Garnett, industrial campaigner (1921 – 1997)

If you manage to cope with repeated failure and go on to achieve success, you have what psychologists call “self-efficacy”. People with high levels of self-efficacy do not give up easily; they believe they have it in themselves to achieve their goals. When you believe in your own power to exercise control over your life, you are healthier, more effective and more successful. People who believe they are capable approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than as threats to be avoided. They are invariably successful – and you will be too.

So happy people are successful and successful people have high levels of self-efficacy.

The Real Secret is going to help you become increasingly self-efficacious, successful and happy by asking you to undertake a series of Steps to form Habits of happiness, most of which are not hard at all, but require focus and commitment. They are all do-able, even if you find some more difficult than others. Once you have mastered them, you will have increased your levels of self-efficacy. You will have proved to yourself that you are capable and can effect change in your life.

From "How The Real Secret Works"


Words of Love

From the Greek* we have four different forms of love; eros, philia, agape and storge.

Eros - this is passionate love which is characterised by sexual desire, longing, jealousy and a heightened awareness. Eros is exciting - it gives spikes of happiness rather than a constant feeling of well-being. It’s the love we feel at the very beginning of a love affair. It’s the ‘falling in love’ stage and the inspiration for artists. Eros doesn’t last long - about two years - on its own; to last any longer Eros needs to be supported by the following forms of love.

Philia - this love is serene and more akin to friendship. You love each other for the care and support you experience in the relationship. It’s the kind of love that can last a very long time and the longer it lasts the more precious it becomes. Whilst philia has no need of eros, eros cannot survive for long without philia.

We talk about the neurological basis of Eros (lust and romantic love) and Philia (long term attachment) in this blog post.

Agape - this is a selfless love that only wants the best for the other person. It can apply to universal themes such as the love for mankind as taught by Buddha, but is also the love you feel for your partner, even when they no longer love you back. Agape brings happiness to those who give it and doesn’t ask for anything in return. In this way Agape can love all on its own - it needs no-other.

love means "affection". It is the kind of affection felt by parents for their children, or between members of a close knit community. This is not a romantic form of love but a necessary understanding for other forms to develop.

There is more information about how we find, attract and are attracted to new friends, lovers and partners in this post. Or check to see whether your relationship or marriage is likely to be long lasting and happy by clicking here.


posted by Annabel


How Gullible Are You?

A few blogs ago I looked at why it was that so many people ‘bought into’ the best selling book The Secret. You can read it here if you want.

When I was writing that blog I remembered a brilliant study first published in 1949* but which seems even more relevant today. In this study psychologist Bertram Forer looked at why it was that so many people believe in fortune tellers. Forer was apparently prompted to investigate this question after being accosted by one, who when asked what evidence he had for the accuracy of his readings, replied that his clients usually confirmed that he was correct.

Not happy with this as an explanation, Forer decided to investigate. This is what he did. He gave a personality test to his students and afterwards, he told his students they were each receiving a unique personality analysis that was based on the test's results. He then asked them to rate their analysis on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) on how well it applied to themselves.
  • You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
  • You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
  • You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
  • While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you.
  • Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
  • At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
  • You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
  • You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.
  • You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
  • At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
  • Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
  • Security is one of your major goals in life.
In reality, each student received the same analysis (all of the above). On a scale of 1-5, students rated the accuracy of their profile, on average, as 4.2. They all thought that the personality analysis based on their earlier test was pretty damn accurate! These profile statements were taken from horoscopes printed in newspapers.

Now how many of those personality characteristics do you recognise as yours? Well I kind of thought they represented me very well. I came out 5. And that’s even knowing about the study (need to figure that one out)

The ‘Forer effect’ shows that people tend to accept generalised descriptions of their personalities without realising that the same evaluation could apply to nearly anyone else, because people want the results to be true. Whilst the Forer effect is most often applied to fortune tellers, it has also been cited as criticism of personality tests themselves - so just because the person is a psychologist doesn't mean they aren't tricking you.

So be on your guard whenever you’re asked to confirm as ‘true about yourself’, statements that could be applied to everyone! When it comes to reading horoscopes or having your palm read - just say NO (thank-you)
* Bertram R. Forer (1949) The Fallacy of Personal Validation: A classroom demonstration of gullibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1949 (44)

posted by Annabel


Happy Pills - take two or three without water whenever you feel unhappy

If you ever go to Barcelona then you really must try very, very hard to visit The Happy Pills Shop. It's just wonderful - have a look at their website here . That sound, by the way, is the sound of pills popping! If you click on the English sentence on the home page it'll talk to you in English. I like the Spanish best. And don't leave the site until you've looked at the cure for love sickness by clicking on the printer.
Tested by Annabel


How to be happy - tips from recent research

It appears that people suffering with mild to moderate depression focus too much on the bad and the sad*, and that socially anxious people tend to remember negative rather than positive experiences*. When trained to shift their attention, both groups experienced a major improvement.

In the case of the research on depression, sad faces seemed particularly attractive to people with mild to moderate depression, whereas non-depressed people found neutral or happy faces more attractive. The question is whether the increased attention paid by depressed people to unhappy or sad themes is simply a byproduct of depression or might it be a cause?

Researchers looked at the question of whether biased attention towards sadness plays a maintaining role in depression and, more specifically, they looked at the question of  whether modifying the attention for sadness, by training participants to shift their attention toward neutral stimuli, could reduce depressive symptoms.

The study provided evidence for the first time that training attention away from unhappy or sad stimuli to neutral stimuli reduces depressive symptoms. In addition, these effects lasted beyond the duration of training. Perhaps most notably, these results provide additional evidence that, rather than being by-products or symptoms of depression, attentional biases towards sad themes play a causal role in the maintenance of depressive symptoms.

These findings worked with people with mild to moderate cases of depression, and those are also the people for whom anti-depressants often don’t work. Since we are all prone to episodes of mild depression, it may well be worth remembering to keep a tab on the amount of attention you pay to sad or unhappy events - and try to stop yourself.

In the study that looked at people who suffer from social anxiety, results showed that socially anxious individuals more easily forget socially positive words and experiences than do non-anxious individuals. It’s not that socially anxious individuals have fewer positive experiences than non-anxious individuals, it’s just that they appear not to recall them as readily.

Martin Seligman’s research is worth noting here. He found that the habit of writing down Three Good Things that went well each day increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months after the single week of testing.

So if you can get into the habit of writing Three Good Things that went well, and reasons - preferably to do with you - why they went well, even if you only manage it twice a week, you’ll have clocked up over Three Hundred Good Things that have happened to you in a year.

The first and last Steps of The Real Secret "Choose to be Happy" and "Smell the Roses" give you Habits that promote focusing on the positive and have been shown to raise happiness levels. Get your copy from or in paperback or Kindle

* Tony T. Wells and Christopher G. Beevers (2010) Biased Attention and Dysphoria : Manipulating selective attention reduces subsequent depressive symptoms Cognition and Emotion, Vol. 24 (4)
* Chi-wen Liang et al., (2011) Absence of a positive bias in social anxiety: The application of a directed forgetting paradigm" Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 42 (2)

Post by Annabel

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