Happy happiness! And by default, I tell you also, “Happy maximum mental health!” It’s a great day to start celebrating being happy. What, though, does this actually mean? I’m happy you asked, and I’m happy to share my own humble answer.
Is happiness simply the opposite of sadness? I think it transcends that. Sadness, strife, and struggle are part of the human experience. So are happiness, harmony, and exhilaration. We humans are complex, and we don’t live in an either-or state. We can be happy overall even though we grapple with difficulties.
Happiness is also more than a fleeting emotion. It’s an integral part of mental health and well-being. Positive psychology, also nicknamed the science of happiness, seeks to discover what it is that constitutes a life worth living, and perhaps more important, what people can do, what traits they can hone, to create their own life worth living.
The exciting and probably not-so-surprising news is that these happiness scientists are learning that it’s not what happens on the outside that induces a state of happiness and mental health but instead what we attend to on the inside. (Yes, attend to. All humans have inside of us the stuff that creates happiness. It’s just a matter of personalizing it and nurturing it.)
The science of happiness points to, among other things, the practice of gratitude, of flow, and of identifying and using our strengths. Shifting our outlook, our “inlook” (as in how we view ourselves), and our actions can help us intensify our state of happiness and sense of peace.
One outspoken champion of mental health, well-being, and happiness is Aleks George Srbinoski. An expert in success and happiness strategies, he’s the founder of FulfillingHappiness.com. His latest, recently released book is titled Maximum Mental Health: Overcome Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mental Illnesses with 20 Principles for Happier and Healthier Living. In this practical and insightful book, Srbinoski presents useful information and tools in a way that helps people enhance their mental wellness immediately and long term.
A large part of happiness, related to our ability to find flow, practice gratitude, and recognizing and using our strengths, is how we see ourselves and how we feel about ourselves. This is the “inlook” to which I referred to above. (Yes, I made up the word. Don’t judge.) What do we discover when we reflect inward into the core of who we are? Srbinoski address this concept in Maximum Mental Health. He discusses the relationship of who we are on the inside, what we do on the outside, and how these impact mental health.
To celebrate the release of Maximum Mental Health as well as International Happiness Day, Srbinoski has shared one of his favorite chapters from the book—Sensational Self Image: Construct New Beliefs and Emotions to Strengthen identity, enhance self-esteem and build empowering belief systems.” Another happy surprise: he has placed the first two chapters of Maximum Mental Health on FulfillingHappiness.com, and they’ll be there for people to read in full until early next week.
In addition to the rest of it, I love this line from the chapter: “Like movie watching, it is not the canister that people look at, but what shines from it it.” Now, Aleks Sribinoski and I present to you this chapter from Maximum Mental Health and ways to create and enjoy the movie within you.
Sensational Self Image: Construct new beliefs and emotions to strengthen identity, enhance self-esteem and build empowering belief systems
She is ugly and defective.
She spends almost all her waking hours (and some of her sleeping ones as well) obsessing over her appearance. Whatever she tries, nothing can hide her unsightliness. If only she was taller and thinner, especially around the waist. She can hide her knees, legs and feet, but not always her rough and bony hands. Then, of course, there is her face.
Eyes are too far apart, ears stick out, nose is crooked, teeth are stained, lips too thin, cheeks are droopy, forehead overly high and hair too frizzy. Make-up can only do so much!
Next stop – surgery.
Followed by – more surgery.
Then – a little more surgery and maybe a little more after that …
He is dumb and dopey.
No matter how hard he tries, he always loses. He was only accepted into his third choice university. He foolishly chose not to study medicine and only completed a Masters but not a Doctorate. It took him six whole months to find a suitable position in his obscure profession after graduation. Nobody respects him or his profession. They know he is a fraud.
He needs to find a way to do more. If only he was quicker. If only he hadn’t made all those stupid choices and did those higher courses. Just like his degree, he’s practically useless!
Next stop – medical school.
Followed by – business school.
Then – law school …
He thinks she is beautiful. She thinks he is intelligent. Neither love themselves or feels good enough for the other. She loves him and he loves her but they don’t believe each other!
Before a major cosmetic surgery, patients are often advised to see a Psychologist. This is for two basic reasons. One is to see if a change on the outside will actually be accepted as a positive change on the inside (to their self-image). Secondly, will the surgery just lead to more imperfection seeking and obsessiveness, or will the change be appreciated and lead to greater overall happiness and life satisfaction?
Our true problems are rarely visible! Changing your face or having more diplomas on your wall will not change who you are. Only an internal adjustment can change who you are. Who you are is what you project. Like movie watching, it is not the canister that people look at, but what shines from it. What shines from it is based on how the film has been shot and organized inside of it.
Your self-image, how you view and refer to yourself, influences all your major life decisions. Although “Behavior is King,” and continuing to act in a way that corresponds with your values and goals will lead to changes in your self-image, developing empowering beliefs about who you are makes it easier to feel good about yourself and the process of acting towards your values much easier.
Our Deepest Fears
To figure out our deepest fears, consider the babies in the orphanage from the chapter “Praise Pays.” What was it that the children were starved of?
Physical expressions of … love!
What would someone who receives little to no love from significant people conclude about themselves? That there must be something wrong with them, that they are “not good enough.” All disempowering beliefs stem off these two—that “you’re not good enough” and because you’re not good enough, you won’t be loved.
Failure, embarrassment, rejection, and so on, all these natural and inevitable painful experiences if not dealt with in an empowering fashion will lead to feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness (both relating to not being good enough) and to question whether you can be loved. It’s true, not everyone receives as much love as they should, but that doesn’t mean that difficult past experiences should have to dictate your present self-image and future possibilities.
Rules of empowerment
Harness Your Uniqueness: You are you. There is only one of you, and that is the source of your power. No one looks like you or can do what you can as a whole. As discussed in “Authentic Achievement” you have your own unique strengths and limitations. When you do utilize your strengths in the right way, no one can create what you can create. To do this you must …
Seek Self-Acceptance: The ultimate confidence comes when you have nothing to hide. You do have physical imperfections and knowledge gaps. Self-esteem that is too low will limit you. If it is too high you run the risk of not valuing and avoiding the true effort required for success. To do this you must …
Move beyond Labels: You are more than “good” or “bad.” Those labels are far too simplistic. We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all done wonderful things. Who you are depends not on the past, but what you are moving towards right now! If you are moving towards your values (not those of others) and progressing at the right speed for you (in acceptance of fears, doubts, and previous failures), then you are on the right path. When on the right path, you must …
Praise Your Potential: Be curious, open and appreciative of what you discover. If you allow it, your own potential will surprise and humble you. It has happened to you many times in the past. Do not try to force progression, inspire it. Always seek lessons from positive and painful experiences. To do this you must …
Decide what it will mean: Whether you face a positive or painful experience, the answer should always be the same. “How do I use this in an empowering way?” All scars and setbacks have a story and once accepted can be transformed into symbols of strength and greater purpose. To do that, it is important to re-frame difficult experiences in order to replace limiting beliefs.
Example Re-frames for Common Limiting Beliefs
- I’m not good enough
You know what, you’re right! You’re not good enough. If you were, you would already have whatever it is you are working towards. The point is that no one is instantly successful. No one is good enough in the beginning. It’s a process. Therefore, one way to directly challenge this belief is…
Re-frame: My competence grows with effortful practice.
- I don’t deserve it (unworthy)
Why not you? Why does some other chump deserve the win more than you do? The way I see it, everybody (except for the truly troubled and cruel) deserves a great life. Everybody deserves to win. Now of course, not everybody will, which means when you do get a win, it should be doubly celebrated. The trouble of course is guilt. Somewhere along the line you were taught others deserve more than you because they worked harder or are more disadvantaged or whatever. Rubbish! If they get a win, great, good on them. If you’re smart, you’ll pay attention to what they did so you can do better next time. If you get a win, even better, good on you! It’s that simple.
Re-frame: Whether I win or not, I deserve success.
- I’m a failure
If you were a failure, you’d be dead by now. As long as you’re breathing and moving, there is only one way to fail and that is to stop trying to learn. Now it’s actually pretty hard to stop learning. Considering we are designed to learn, you would actually have to interrupt your very nature in order to attempt to do so. The only sure-fire way to do that is to die. It’s never about failure, but rather how you perceive the learning process.
Re-frame: I’m a learner (and a pretty darn stubborn one too).
- I don’t have the money/time/resources
Neither does that guy, or that girl, or that annoying 15-year-old kid tinkering in his or her parents’ shed and on their way to becoming a multi-millionaire. It’s never a question of money/time/resources but passion, perseverance and resourcefulness. There is always time if you want it bad enough and are patient. There is always a way to find more money/resources if you keep connecting to more and more people and are patient enough. The key is patience and perseverance. Both are essential traits.
Re-frame: I will consistently work at it and find the money/time/resources.
- I’m going to get laughed at (embarrassed, rejected)
Yes, yes you are. If not laughed at, then you will be ridiculed in some other way. There is an a-hole in every bunch. However, also realize it’s a lot rarer than you think. Most people, and hopefully that includes the ones closest to you are supportive. The question is what does it mean? The answer is what people say about others is much more a reflection of them than of the person they are referring to. In other words, being laughed at is more about them attempting to mask their own fears and inadequacies than yours.
Re-frame: The people that matter will appreciate and respect my efforts. I appreciate and respect my efforts.
- I won’t be able to maintain it if I am successful
This one’s a doozy. Welcome to the strange world of self-sabotage. Self-sabotage is based on a real problem, being that maintaining and growing success takes more effort and sustainable growth than the initial achievements. It’s hard work! So the critical part of you in its constant effort to protect you may try to get you to fail because it will be easier in one sense but of course disappointing in the grand scheme of things. The key here is to remember that you are deserving and you are built to learn. Otherwise you never would have succeeded in the first place.
Re-frame: The first time is the hardest. If I’ve done it once, I will be able to do it again and again …
- I could lose everything (large or small risks – emotional, social, financial, or physical)
Too true. But then again, many things could happen to you. You could be struck by lightning or picked at random to win a prize. The next person you meet may become your best friend or someone who is trying to take advantage of you in some way. Who knows? I don’t think it has to be about winning or losing, but rather a careful consideration of risk-to-reward. You take a risk every time you leave the house and sometimes by staying in it. What you really want to consider is “Do I want this and what is the smartest way to go about it?” My motto is: always follow your dreams but cover your responsibilities. Take as many calculated risks as you can but never risk more than you can afford to lose.
Re-frame: I will always seek a healthy balance between risk and reward and cover my responsibilities.
- I don’t want to feel alone (especially if going against an influential person)
I respect your honesty. The truth is, humans are social creatures, and the decision to go off and work on things (often by yourself) is a difficult one to make. However, by taking those sometimes lonely leaps of faith you get to finally learn how to rely on the most important person in your life. Yourself! You learn that you are more resilient than you thought and that you can cope. It’s a crucial lesson that must be learnt. Self-reliance is an extremely attractive trait. Ironically, this also tends to improve your relationships because you become more appreciative and efficient with the time you do have with others, and of course, less in need of their approval.
Re-frame: I will become comfortable with my own company and make the most of my time with others.
Beliefs into Targeted Stories (Mind Movies)
Once you have your empowering re-frames, you can then safely work on further enhancing your self-image. As much as we enjoy language, sensory experiences are what drive us the most. Positive beliefs and language must be integrated with your imagination. This of course happens naturally, but we can amplify the process.
This is where you create your mind movies and imagine your best-self performing at your peak (see Peak Performance Principle) with full experiential power. You work to see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and positively focus on being at your best across a range of different experiences. This is very much what hypnotic brain re-training is based on.
You can go into your past with the lessons you now have and re-imagine and enhance a memory. You can amplify the present. However, what is often most useful is the targeting of important future events, problem solving and experiencing them as successes before they happen, thus becoming more prepared and creating a stronger and more realistic expectation of success.
The goal can be as simple as going for and enjoying a walk. It can be more complex such as doing well at a job interview or being charming at a social gathering and highly complex like finishing a massive long-term career or lifestyle project.
As you know by now, at times an unwanted “elephant” (thought or feeling) may pop up in your experience. Notice, accept, let go and re-focus on what you do want as often as you need to. As you continue practicing, your mind will surprise you by showing you another path beyond your previous limits. Then it simply becomes time to “act now.”
Sensational Self Image: Construct new beliefs and emotions to strengthen identity, enhance self-esteem and build empowering belief systems.
How you view and refer to yourself shapes your identity and influences all your major life decisions. You need to actively build empowering beliefs and “mind movies” of future success that reinforce your uniqueness and show how you are good enough and worthy of love.
- Reflect on the three most common things you say about yourself that could be seen as negative or disempowering. Create an empowering re-frame for each and write them down. Keep the written reframes in your wallet or on your phone and read over them regularly, especially if feeling negative or disempowered.
- Look into a mirror, breathe deeply and imagine previous experiences of love, kindness and curiosity. As you look at yourself, repeat these sentences based on the rules of empowerment out loud. “I am unique, I accept myself, I am more than any label, I am worthy of love and my life is meaningful.” Repeat daily for one week.
- Practice creating mind movies (with amazing and empowering special effects) of yourself being at your best and problem solving important future challenges. Aim to experience success before the event occurs. As previously stated, the goal can be as simple as going for and enjoying a walk. It can be more complex such as doing well at a job interview or being charming at a social gathering and highly complex like finishing a massive long-term career or lifestyle project. If negative thoughts or beliefs occur, notice, accept, let go and re-focus on your empowered re-frames and what you do want as often as you need to.
***The complete “Maximum Mental Health” book is available at: