Category Archives: Happiness

Love One Another

Last week I was dancing and singing in India at my nephew’s wedding. This week I’m jet-lagged in Missoula. But the afterglow continues.

Being at a wedding, it was hard not to think of my mother. She loved weddings and always wished for everyone to find love.

My sisters had similar thoughts. We reminisced and projected my mother into the scene of my nephew marrying an Asian Indian woman in a Hindu ceremony. We wished she could pop back into the world and join in.

Mostly, my mother was shy and insecure. She didn’t learn to drive until age 34. I often wished she had more confidence.

But there was one place where my mom found her voice, early and often. For mysterious and obvious reasons, she became anti-racist in the 1950s, before anti-racism was a thing. She delighted in visits from my father’s Japanese friend, Carl Tanaka. When a Black family moved onto our all-White dead-end suburban street, she was the first to greet them with welcome gifts. She then sat my sisters and I down, and told us with piercing clarity that we would ALWAYS treat every member of that family with nothing but respect and kindness. They quickly became our friends. I have great memories of hanging out with my friend Darrell, who was the closest to me in age and in school.

What I didn’t understand about my mom’s anti-racism—until last week—was that she also had a solution. My sisters told me that my mother’s favorite solution to all that ails the world was inter-racial, inter-cultural, and inter-religion marriage. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think that any single strategy could solve racism, but last week, during a three-day Hindu marriage ceremony, I returned home transformed and preoccupied with the idea that we can and should love one another.

The internet tells me that love one another has Christian Biblical origins . . . and more. Here’s an excerpt from a site that discusses “love of neighbor” in Hinduism.

Love of the neighbor or the “other soul” is a fundamental requirement for a functioning Hindu who aspires for final liberation from this world. Any injury or insult inflicted upon the other soul is ultimately injury inflicted on oneself—or worse still, the higher being. Neighborly love is integral for one’s social existence in this world. The Anusana Parva (113:8) in Mahabharata encapsulates this wisdom and dictates that one should be unselfish and not behave toward others in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. [From: http://what-when-how.com/love-in-world-religions/love-of-neighbor-in-hinduism/]

The facts were that Stephen Klein married Sahana Kumar last week, in a beautiful coastal setting just south of Chennai, India.

In a marvelous stroke of luck, I happen to be Gayle Klein’s brother and Stephen’s Uncle John. Along with the dancing singing (which I may have overdone), I was completely taken by the intercultural love and acceptance. The Kumar family welcomed Stephen and all of us to be with them not only in the celebration, but in relationship. At the Sangeet, we were invited to dance a Bollywood and a Hollywood dance. We were terrible AND we were completely accepted. To be immersed in another culture, to learn about Hinduism, to experience glimpses of the Southern Indian cultural ways of being . . . was AMAZING.

In love and in relationship, we often fall short. It’s hard to love our politically different family members. It’s hard to love when we feel annoyed. Sometimes, as I heard the famous Julie and John Gottman say, it’s even hard to find the time and timing to love our romantic partners. But love is big and, thanks to my sisters and Stephen, Sahana, and the Kumars, I understand love a little better this week. The intent to love people who are different than us; the invitation to be in relationship across cultures and generations; the desire to be as loving as we can be . . . those are the ways of being my mom might be shouting from the heavens.   

Update on the Wright Stuff on Happiness

Several weeks ago, Dylan Wright (of Families First Learning Lab in Missoula) and I had a successful, albeit (speaking for myself) embarrassing fundraiser for his show, The Wright Stuff on Happiness, at the Missoula Public Library. At that time, we didn’t have the schedule for the show’s debut and season. Now we do . . . and so I’m happily sharing it here with you, so you can tune in and then share it with the world (or vice versa). 

The release of The Wright Stuff on Happiness has been scheduled to air, beginning December 12, on MCAT’s TV, channel 189 (Spectrum Cable) or https://mcat.org/watch/  on Mondays at 4:00 PM and Wednesdays at 6:00 PM! The schedule is below. You will also be able to watch the show anytime after it airs by going to The Montana Happiness Project YouTube Channel. We will post each episode as they air. To re-watch or share the teaser that we showed at the release party, please use the following link – https://youtu.be/t3YfBmjzqUo

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and here’s THE SHOW SCHEDULE! 

Dec 12th (4:00 PM) & Dec 14th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Dan Salois

Dec 19th (4:00 PM) & Dec 21st (6:00 PM) – Dr. Emily Sallee

Dec 26th (4:00 PM) & Dec 28th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Jayna Mumbauer

Jan 2nd (4:00 PM) & Jan 4th (6:00 PM) – Lillian Martz

Jan 9th (4:00 PM) & 11th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Nancy Seldin 

Jan 16th (4:00 PM) & Jan 18th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Sidney Shaw

Jan 23rd (4:00 PM) & Jan 25th (6:00 PM) – Hana Meshesha

Advanced Mental Health for the Jackson Construction Group

Three years ago (2019) I had the honor and privilege to be the first outside person to speak at a Jackson Construction retreat. The topic was suicide prevention. During our time at the Jackson retreat at Big Sky, Rita and I were touched by the kindness, authenticity, and engagement of the Jackson community.

On this rather frigid Montana day, I’m back with 130 Jackson employees at Fairmont Hot Springs. Once again, I’m honored and humbled to have the chance to speak. Knowing how hard it is to gain and maintain positive mental health, I deeply appreciate the chance to speak, and I hope the words and experiences I share are of use to the Jackson community.

Here is a one-page summary handout:

Here are the ppts:

Talking to MOLLI About Eudaimonic Happiness

Last night I had the honor of helping facilitate the World Premiere of “The Wright Stuff on Happiness” along with Dylan Wright and Hannah Zuraff and the Families First Learning Lab staff. Hannah posted a short video clip of the event on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6995246199964413952/?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A(ugcPost%3A6995246199159095297%2C6995248345623527425)&dashCommentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Afsd_comment%3A(6995248345623527425%2Curn%3Ali%3AugcPost%3A6995246199159095297)

After watching the video last night, I experienced an unplanned two-hour bout of insomnia wherein I replayed all the ways in which my behavior at the event (singing as a part of a group name that tune trivia contest) was embarrassing and regrettable. The good news is that I’ve studied insomnia and negative cognitions in the night enough to know that the middle of the night is a particularly easy time to exaggerate and negatively evaluate oneself. I (mostly) pushed out the cognitions with some mindfulness meditation, three good things, and music from David Bowie’s “Changes” (which had randomly or unconsciously gotten stuck in my brain).

This morning I’m presenting on the Art and Science of Happiness with the University of Montana’s Osher Center for Lifelong Learning. One core message from last night woven into today is that that we’re not striving toward unreflective toxic positivity, but instead, we’re working toward an awakened eudaimonic happiness, in the Aristitotean sense of living a balanced and meaningful life.

Here are the ppts for today’s talk:

I’m looking forward to spending time with the good folks and folx of MOLLI

Happy Monday!

Today: CBT Conference in Helena — Powerpoints

Happy Friday!

I’m in Helena today, learning and presenting at the Montana CBT Conference. This is a very cool event, organized by Kyrie Russ, M.A., LCPC, and including about 35 fantastic Montana professionals interested in deepening their knowledge of CBT principles and practice.

I’m presenting twice; below I’ve included links to my two sets of ppts (which may be redundant/overlapping with ppts I’ve posted here before).

Exploring the Potential of Evidence-Based Happiness

Using a Strengths-Based Approach to Suicide Assessment and Treatment in Your Counseling Practice

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: The Question of Quitting Twitter

Photo, courtesy of @rksf2/twitter

Last week, I tweeted that I was quitting Twitter, “For obvious reasons.” In response, several of my Twitter friends (you know who you are AND I appreciate YOU) noted that staying on Twitter and having a positive voice might be a better option than retreating to a location under Zuckerman’s umbrella. Hmm. Point taken. And so instead of completely quitting Twitter, this past week I put myself in Twitter time-out.

Over the past couple years, I’ve come to mostly like Twitter. There’s lots of aversive stuff, but following selected news outlets, researchers, a few Twitter-friends, and various renowned individuals helps with cutting edge news and perspective; it also contributes to me feeling “in the loop.”

Problems with Twitter, however, are legion. There’s an odd plethora of so-called mindfulness practitioners engaging in self-promotion. That’s ironic, but my understanding (and experience) is that Twitter is very much about self-promotion. That’s probably why the former guy (TFG) used it so prolifically. But only so many voices can fit into a Twitter feed, which leads to INTERMITTENT YELLING IN HOPE THAT SOMEONE WILL HEAR YOUR TWITTER-VOICE. Even TFG did lots of ALL CAPS. There may be no better means for getting your perspective “out there.” Whether the perspective is worthy of public viewing, that’s harder to discern.

Part of my current conundrum stems from the fact that I have a small sense of a small “Twitter community.” I enjoy liking and being liked by them. I can find cutting edge suicide-related research straight from several academics. But, along with the benefits, two days prior to the Musk takeover, my Twitter feed became suspiciously littered with so-called republican politicians. I saw despicable Unamerican, divisive posts from Marsha Blackburn, Marco Rubio, Kevin McCarthy, Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan, and others whose names I’m conveniently suppressing. It was a line-up of political partisan trash the likes of which couldn’t have been better designed to push my buttons.

Of course, as someone close to me accurately observed (I’m paraphrasing now), perhaps rather than living in my own partisan echo-chamber, I should be more open to hearing messages from the “other side.” Not surprisingly, my buttons were pushed, yet again.

Maybe it’s already obvious to everyone else, but MY biggest problem with Twitter (and mainstream media and other social media and political debates and any opinion other than my own) is more about me than anything else. My inability to self-regulate and manage my own emotional buttons make the best case for exiting Twitter. If I can’t read antivaxxer Twitter posts without feeling the need to slap them upside the head with a rolled-up copy of the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine or bash them in the face with David Quammen’s “Breathless,” then maybe it’s time to stop tweeting. On the other hand, if I can recognize that all Twitter disagreements end the same way—with elevated animosity and mutual disgust—and instead, focus on being the most positive voice I can be, then maybe Musk won’t dysregulate me into quitting something I enjoy.

This past week without Twitter has been fine. I found plenty of alternative ways to agitate myself (haha). But I didn’t feel any Tweet-generated-angst. I also was out of the news loop. My wife had to tell me Lula won the Brazilian election. Woot-woot! If I’d been Twittering, I’d have known right away. I also missed following my daughter’s non-profit, social justice Upper Seven Law firm. Her tweets are awesome and she—along with other people in the habit of consciousness-raising and justice give me hope.

Here’s my new plan. I’m returning to Twitter this week, with adjusted expectations, and will closely monitor myself. Can I be a positive voice? Can I accept the reality that some people (and Bots and Trolls) are purposely spreading misinformation (without feeling agitated and unhappy)? Can I accept that I’m mostly powerlessness and irrelevant in the fight against racist, sexist, ableist, and classist forces seeking to inhibit growth in the lower and middle class, while sowing fear and hate? Can I add my voice (and Tweets) to the social media soup and stay mostly positive, while managing my expectations and NOT FEELING THE URGE TO YELL?

We shall see.  

The World Premier of “The Wright Stuff on Happiness”

On Sunday, November 6 from 6pm to 7:30pm on the 4th floor of the Missoula Public Library (the recent winner of the International Library of the Year award) Dylan Wright and I will co-host the brief and fantastic world premier of “The Wright Stuff on Happiness.”

You may be wondering, “What is The Wright Stuff on Happiness?”

The Wright Stuff on Happiness is a new Missoula Community Access Television show featuring Dylan Wright discussing, interviewing, and pontificating on individual, family, and community happiness. The Wright Stuff on Happiness is a program of Families First Learning Lab and is one of the initiatives of the Montana Happiness Project, L.L.C. (specifically, the Happy Media initiative).

At the World Premier, Dylan and I will introduce the show and Dylan will present a short series of video clips of never-before viewed footage. And then, we will engage the group with a never-before hybrid version of “Name That Tune” and Pub Trivia wherein Dylan and I sing songs and participants work in teams to win prizes by identifying the song title and artist.

Although the World Premier is a fundraiser for Families First Learning Lab and the Happy Media Initiative, you can also attend to learn and participate in the highly acclaimed and world renowned Name That Tune trivia competition.

Here’s the fancy flyer. I hope to see you there!

Eye Contact, Influencers, and Self-Care CBT

While searching for updated guidance on cross-cultural eye contact in counseling and psychotherapy (for the 7th edition revision of Clinical Interviewing), I came across a young therapist with over 1 million YouTube subscribers. She was perky, articulate, and very impressive in her delivery of almost-true information about the meaning of eye contact in counseling (from about 5 years ago). There were so many public comments on her video . . . I couldn’t possibly read or track them all. Sadly, although she waxed eloquent about trauma and eye contact, she never once mentioned culture, or how the meaning of eye contact varies based on cultural, familial, and individual factors. Part of my takeaway was her retelling a version of a John Wayne-esq sort of message wherein we should all strive to look the other person in the eye. Ugh. I’m sad we have so many perky, articulate influencers who share information that’s NOT inclusive or deep or particularly accurate. Oh well.

Curious, and TBH, perhaps a bit jealous of this therapist’s YouTube fame, I clicked on her most recent video. I discovered her in tears, describing how she needs a break, and detailing a range of symptoms that fit pretty well with major depressive disorder. Oh my. This time I felt sad for her and her life because it must have turned into a runaway train of influencer-related opportunities and demands. My jealousy of her particular type of fame evaporated.

Many therapists—including me—aren’t as good at practicing as we are preaching. Every day I try to get better and fail a little and succeed a little. Life is a marathon. Small changes can make their way into our lives and become bigger changes.

Because of our Clinical Interviewing revision, I’m saying “No” to presentation opportunities more often than usual. That’s a good thing. Setting limits and taking care of business at home is essential. However, in about one month, I’ve set aside a week for a gamut of presentations and appearances. These presentations and appearances all include some content related to positive psychology, positive coping, and how we can all live better lives in the face of challenging work. Here they are:

  1. On Friday, November 4 at 8:30am, I’ll be doing an opening keynote address for the Montana CBT conference. The keynote is titled, “Exploring the Potential of Evidence-Based Happiness.” The whole conference looks great (12.75 CEs available). I’ve also got a break-out session from 1:15pm to 3:15pm, titled, “Using a Strengths-Based Approach to Suicide Assessment and Treatment in Your Counseling Practice.” You can register for the two-day Montana CBT conference here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/montana-cbt-conference-registration-367811452957Helena
  2. On Monday, November 7 at 11am in Missoula I’ll be presenting for the University of Montana Molli Program. Although in-person seats are sold-out, people can still register to attend online. https://www.missoulaevents.net/11/07/2022/the-art-science-and-practice-of-meaningful-happiness/ The presentation title is: The Art, Science, and Practice of Meaningful Happiness. Molli is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UM – which focuses on educational offerings for folks 50+ years-old.
  3. On Wednesday, November 9 from 12:30-4:30pm I’ll be doing a Strengths-Based suicide assessment and treatment workshop for Bitterroot Connect in Hamilton, MT. https://sites.google.com/starckcounseling.com/adrianna-starck-counseling/bitterroot-valley-connect

In closing, I’m posting something everyone needs, an 11-second video featuring one of our new piglets, Alfalfa, doing her “lay down” trick.

Be well . . .

John S-F

Redundancy, Again

One of my long-time friends from graduate school in the 1980s had lots of corny, pithy, and funny commentary on life. He was adept at noticing when professors repeated themselves, often snarking that particular professors had graduated from the “Department of Redundancy Department.” I enjoyed his commentary so much that I forgot to snarkily notice the redundancy of his jokes.

Somewhat later, another colleague told me of his educational motto: “Redundancy works!” After years of counseling and doing presentations, he decided that most people aren’t listening very well and so saying things over and over gives teachers and counselors a better chance of being heard and remembered.

Back when we lived in Great Britain for several fortnights, we learned that the Brits used the term redundant to refer to employee layoffs. For example, when employers cut staff, they referred to staff as having become redundant (or unneeded), and consequently, unemployed.

I bring up redundancy today because I’m posting two things here that are almost exactly the same as what I posted earlier this week. Yesterday and today, I had and have the honor of presenting to STEM graduate students from Montana Tech (yesterday) and the University of Montana (today) on how to integrate a few happiness skills into their lives. The handouts (below) are virtually identical to those I provided on Monday (for the Belgrade Teacher presentation) . . . and so you should bear in mind that I’m clearly a graduate of the Department of Redundancy Department because I’ve learned that Redundancy Works! . . . and I’m hoping I’ve not quite become redundant myself.

To summarize (again). . .

The HOPES Powerpoints are here:

The HOPES Handout is here:

Have a great weekend!

John SF

Evidence-Based Happiness for Belgrade Schools: Advice is Cheap, but Knowledge is Power

Tomorrow I’ll be in Belgrade, Montana.

Back in May I received an email from a Belgrade High School AP Biology teacher asking if I could present to Belgrade teachers on mental health. The details have worked out. I’m super-excited to do this for several reasons:

  • I’m very passionate about supporting teacher mental health and well-being. For as long as I can remember (but especially during these past three years), teachers have been over-stressed, over-worked, under-paid, and under-appreciated. I even happen to have a grant proposal submitted that would give teachers access to very low-cost graduate credit on an Evidence-Based Happiness course. Happiness knowledge and mental health support for teachers is essential.
  • Education is the central “plank” on my personal political platform. IMHO, to quote myself, “The road to economic vitality, the road to environmental sustainability, the road to excellence in health care and social programs, and the road to good government always has and always will run through education.” We need excellent teachers and we need excellent public education. We need it now more than ever.
  • Belgrade is conveniently located just off I-90, a freeway that I regularly drive on my way from Missoula to Absarokee and back again.
  • And best of all, I’ll get to see the famous Nick Jones. Nick is a cool Aussie transplant, a former Carroll College basketball player, and a graduate of our M.A. program at the University of Montana. He also happens to be a school counselor at Belgrade High School.  

The ppts for tomorrow’s presentation are here:

And here’s a one-page handout/summary:

My big theme will be that although advice is cheap, knowledge is power. We all benefit from knowing more about mental health and happiness. One of my main topics will involve information on understanding sleep. . . because we all have better mental health when we sleep well.

See you in Belgrade tomorrow!