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.

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


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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