Spring Forward into Happiness!


Traditionally, psychologists have focused their attention on what makes depressed people depressed. Yet recently, a small group of scientists has turned the question on its head. Now they are asking: “What makes happy people happy?

Why Happiness?

According to a wide-ranging international study, depression is the most disabling disease in the world:

Nearly twenty percent of U.S. citizens experience some form of depression during their lifetime. Americans are taking so many antidepressants that, according to the New York Times, the water supplies of major U.S. cities are now contaminated with traces of these drugs.

The problem is not limited to adults. The American Psychological Association reports that “as many as 9% of children will experience a major depressive episode by the time they are 14 years old, and 20% will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school.”

Statistics show that children who have suffered from depression are more vulnerable to depression as adults.

Depression, anxiety, and other negative psychological experiences have been researched from almost every angle. So we know a lot about what causes negative psychological responses, but not a lot about what might cause positive psychological effects. Positive Psychology has shifted the focus toward such research.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

If perspective is reality, then a positive perspective could be a game-changer. Research shows that engaging in techniques for positive growth and change can help:

Buffer against, manage and overcome problems
Improve your relationships
Enhance health and overall well-being

How Do I Get Happy?

Working with a licensed therapist can be beneficial in order to explore one’s life experiences more fully and from a trained clinical perspective. Below are some examples of techniques that can be done on your own to promote positive growth and change.

Clear Mind Procedure

  1. Write down everything that’s on your mind on one piece of paper (use more than one piece if you need).
  2. Create three columns on a second piece of paper, and label them: To Be Done; Maybe Later; and Delete. Sort all the items on the first piece of paper into the three columns on the second piece of paper.
  3. Take each item from the Delete column, send it off into space, and tell it never to return (with a corny little ceremony if that helps).
  4. Take the items from the Maybe Later column and put them on a Maybe Later list. (If you don’t keep one, start one).
  5. Take the items from the To Be Done column and put them into your planning system. (If you don’t have a planning system, get one).

Gratitude Moments

Gratitude journals can be extremely beneficial when attempting to shift one’s perspective; however, many clients find it a daunting task to journal at length and often do not follow through long enough to see real results.

Build in gratitude “moments” throughout the day:

    1. Recognize moments of joy, thankfulness, comfort, and peace.
    2. Acknowledge both the positive emotion and the positive effect.
    3. Say out loud a statement of gratitude. For example, “Thank you for this moment” or “I feel joyful” or “That was nice.”
    4. Repeat as often as possible.

Art Promotes Happiness Too!

Art and expressive therapy have also been shown to demonstrate healing and happiness. Stuckey and Nobel (2010) reported: Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person. When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making. Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.

At Art It Out, we believe in the positive impact art, color, and creativity can have on a person’s outlook and wellbeing.

How Do I Learn More?

Potential clients – Give us a call today to find out more about Art It Out and our therapeutic services. Reach us @ 770.726.9589 or www.artitout.com


Professionals – Join Janet Burr, LPC for her upcoming CEU seminar THE ART OF ENCOURAGEMENT: CREATIVE INTERVENTIONS FOR POSITIVE GROWTH AND CHANGE on Friday, March 17th at Art It Out Therapy Center http://www.artitout.com/workshops/ or on Friday, April 21st at Ridgeview Institute http://www.ridgeviewinstitute.com/hosp_info_calendar_prof.htm.


  1. WHO report,  Mental and Behavioral Disorders, 28.
  2. NYT, Drugs Are in the Water. Does It Matter?
  3. American Psychological Association, School-Based Program Teaches Skills That Stave Off Depression, October, 2003.
  4. Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

Using Games to Help Improve Behavior

Written by Janet Burr, MS, LPC  Family playing boardgameGame playing is one of the most effective (and fun!) ways to help children develop important skills and positive behavior. Some of the many skills practiced and developed during game playing include: taking turns, listening, following directions, impulse control, frustration management, emotional control, perspective taking, forethought, forward thinking, strategic planning, problem solving, behavioral flexibility, communication, team work, and sportsmanship. In addition, game playing promotes face-to-face interactions and connectedness that can boost a child’s self-esteem and self-worth. Game playing can also help teach children appropriate emotional expression. Who knew sitting down for some fun could be so valuable?

Here are 4 simple steps you can use when playing games to teach and develop these important skills:
(1) Verbalize
(2) Be flexible
(3) Use encouragement
(4) Be a good sport

These sound a lot like the positive behaviors we want the child to demonstrate, right? We need to model this for them to teach them how! Let’s break it down.

Verbalize everything, and I mean everything. For example, “First, I’m going to deal our cards. How many cards do we each get? [Wait for response or help them with the answer.] Ok. Help me count out loud….” and so on. Or, “Man, I just got skipped twice! That stinks because I really wanted a turn. But that’s okay because I know I’ll get another turn soon.”
By modeling verbalization for the child, we are teaching them to say what is going on in their head. Imagine if a child said to you, “I am feeling frustrated because I really wanted a turn” versus throwing their cards, kicking the game board, and throwing themselves on the floor? As a child develops the skill of verbalization, they can more effectively tell you what they need, want, or how they feel. This is a foundational skill for effective emotional expression.

Be Flexible
In order for a child to learn to “go with the flow” we have to be willing to show them what that means. So, you must be willing to lose. You may have to overlook that double jump you can make with your king in a Checkers game. Or, you may have to hold back on using your draw two card in Uno to allow the child to win. Additionally, if the child’s answer does not fit exactly but is pretty close when describing who they are in Hedbanz, just go with it. Then, follow it up with (in the Checkers example), “Oh man, I really thought I was going to get to jump you. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get a jump soon.” Or (in the Uno example), “Wow, you totally beat me! Great game! You worked really hard.”
By modeling behavioral flexibility, we are teaching the child that even if things do not go their way, they can still have fun and be okay. This decreases emotional outbursts and increases positive social interactions. This also helps the child develop perspective taking skills (e.g., I feel good when I win, so Sam probably feels good when he wins) and good sportsmanship.

Use Encouragement
Encouragement is one of the most effective tools you can use with a child. Encouragement emphasizes the process. In contrast, praise emphasizes the product. We are used to using praise. For example, “Great job, you got an A!” focuses on the end result (the good grade), which is certainly worth rewarding; however, it infers an external control (e.g., “You are worthwhile when you do what I/the teacher/your coach wants”).

Encouragement builds self-efficacy and confidence by teaching the child that they can control themselves. For example, “You worked really hard to get this grade” sends the message that they are a responsible and capable person. Helping a child believe in themselves can tremendously impact their behavior. They quickly strive to make you proud, in turn boosting their own self-esteem and self-worth. Soon they want to prove that they can control their behaviors, act appropriately, be a leader, etc.

Here are some examples of encouraging phrases to use during game playing:
“Wow, you really thought hard about that move.”
“Waiting for your next turn took a lot of patience.”
“That was a tough one but you figured it out!”
“How did you know that? That was great!”

Be a Good Sport
Practice good sportsmanship. At the end of every game I play with even my littlest of clients, we shake hands, make eye contact, and say something positive (e.g., “Great work,” “It was fun playing with you,” “You did great”). Because they love to hear it said to them, they begin to enjoying saying it to others. This develops respect for others and the game. Practicing sportsmanship also helps build perspective taking skills, emotional regulation, and empathy.

Any game can help teach and improve individual behaviors and social interactions. Below is a list of some of the most effective games for developing the positive behaviors listed above.

Uno Attack
Connect 4 Launchers
Spot It
Count Your Chickens
Pop the Pig
Apples to Apples

Positive behavior skills can even be taught by making up games, playing cars, or having a dance party. The options are endless!