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Off the couch with 'Dr Happy'

Dr Tim Sharp is Australia's very own 'Dr Happy', at the forefront of positive psychology movement and founder of the Happiness Institute. He developed the curiously-named "Happiness Diet", which argues that "rather than waiting until you succeed to feel good, it's far more effective to feel good first and turbo-charge your chances of success". The Happiness Diet turns on its head what Dr Sharp refers to as "the tyranny of when"… I'll be happy when I lose weight.

 

Your "eureka moment"?

The epiphany that triggered my move into positive psychology and the establishment of The Happiness Institute occurred when, working as a clinical psychologist (which

is my background), I was in session with a client, preparing her for discharge and I realised that although she was no longer "depressed" she wasn't really "happy"! I couldn't help but think I wasn't doing enough for my clients to really help them live their best possible lives.

 

What's your take on happiness?

Real happiness is much more than just the absence of depression or distress; it includes, not surprisingly, minimising and/or managing negative emotions such as depression and anxiety (we can never totally eliminate these) but it also, importantly, includes the promotion and fostering of positive emotions such as happiness and joy, satisfaction and pride, calm and contentment. All of these are important in different ways and so it's important to value the full range of positive emotions (not just happiness). Why are positive emotions important? Because the research clearly shows that happy people are healthier, have better quality relationships and they perform better in every area of life!

 

Happiness is as much aboutdoing goodas feeling good: how do you "pay it forward"?

By understanding the difference between real and meaningful happiness… and selfishness. The happiest people know that other people matter (and good quality relationships) are vitally important for health and wellbeing. Accordingly, they devote time to caring for the important people in their lives because they know that what's good for others is, more often than not, good for them. We need to break down the false

dichotomy between selfishness and selflessness; rather, it's more helpful to think of the two constructs as mutually compatible and reinforcing. Accordingly, paying it forward is ultimately, a way of paying oneself!

 

What are some of the major causes of unhappiness?

They are many and varied, but the top few would probably be (problems with or stresses and strains associated with) finances, relationships, work and health. The good news, however, is that all of these can be resolved with conscious and considered action, and/or (in some cases) professional assistance.

 

Best advice you've ever been given?

Oh, there's been so much! But if I had to choose just one thing it'd probably be: there is nothing either good or bad except thinking makes it so. Our attitude determines so much: get it right and the rest will follow.

 

[This article was originally published in Diabetes Queensland iQ Magazine 2015]