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March 17, 2016
by Anne Kip Watson

Generating Happiness: A New Way to Look at Depression

March 17, 2016 19:41 by Anne Kip Watson

Fifty years of research on depression may have done a disservice to people aiming to move out of the dumps and into a happier state of mind. Brendon Burchard, a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most followed personal development coaches in the world, recently called out the history of depression studies at his High Performance Academy in San Diego, California.

Burchard notes the research, while valid and reliable by scientific standards of operation, focused on norms established by studying college students. Therefore, the base group, he contends, is not a sound one for understanding ‘high performance’ and what leads people to be happy and fulfilled (Burchard, 2016). To truly gain insight on joy and happiness, Burchard investigates the outliers, those who are ‘abnormal’ and perform at an advanced level outside the average.

Traditional Psychology Examine What is Wrong Rather Than What is Right

Mental illness and other psychological difficulties were the focus of traditional psychology. Now, in contrast, there exists a strong and relatively new movement to examine Positive Psychology, or the study of healthy mental states such as happiness, purpose, and depth of character.

About ten years ago Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, began putting a voice to changing what psychology is known for: rather than the disease model and studying what’s wrong with people, he fostered exploring what’s right and what makes life worth living (Talk, 2004).

Seligman does not deny the good that came from traditional psychology and the disease model. The research yielded better classifications, treatment, and according to Seligman helping ‘miserable people be less miserable’ (Talk, 2004).

What Seligman and his team deemed not so good about the experiments was the failure to examine and comprehend what worked well about human strength and depth of resolve. He said psychologists ‘forgot about improving normal lives and a mission to make relatively untroubled people happier, more fulfilled, and more productive’ (Talk, 2004).

Positive Psychology Paving the Way to High Performance

From the Positive Psychology movement along with research in neuroscience, physiology, productivity, and persuasion, Burchard created High Performance Academy, a well-attended four-day seminar on achieving and sustaining success. ‘If you can’t master your mind, your body, your ability to get things done, and your ability to influence others to help you on your journey, then you’re stuck forever in mediocrity. But master those things, and life changes forever and high achievement is yours’ (Burchard,, 2016).

Sustained happiness is possible according to the positive guru who recently trained Oprah Winfrey’s staff on his high performance formula. Burchard believes normal people don’t have depression, they generate depression. And, he espouses this shift from depression to happiness is tied specifically to how people view the three main time periods in life: past, present, and future.

Too often, people decide their current happiness based on what occurred in days gone by. People form judgements on current events after filtering them through the past which is something they have no control over changing. Burchard believes people limit themselves when their ‘self talk’ ruminates on the past. Maturity, he reveals, means letting go, accepting what happened, finding the marks of satisfaction, and creating fondness and gratitude for what the past contained.

Getting Beyond Self

In a recent article in Psychology Today, Clinical Psychologist, Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and author of The Worry Cure, Robert Leahy, Ph.D. says ‘awe is the opposite of rumination; it clears away inner turmoil with a wave of outer immensity’ (Flora, 2016). Being in awe initiates a shift from ‘it’s all about me’ to ‘it’s not about me’. The article describes how nature and the outdoors produces this shift. Awe can be found in the birth of a child or in a beautiful sunset with extraordinary color.

Leahy also indicates experiences of appreciation and gratitude are found in spiritual dwellings of worship where prayer, music, and even architecture combine to move people outside of self (Flora, 2016). Similarly, Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety, describes how he relieved himself of ‘morbid self-involvement’ by seeking spiritual encounters during a difficult time by resting under a tree each day for months near his New York City apartment (Smith, 2012).

Appropriate Expressions of Self

Expressing self well hallmarks Burchard’s view of happiness in the present moment. Disclosing dreams and frustrations and speaking openly reflects a life that works, he says. Burchard encourages his attendees to stop being so scared to demonstrate more caring. It’s losing self in a loved one’s eyes and expanding the sense of conscious connection. The author charges his audience to be givers rather than takers who intentionally bring delight to others (Burchard, Happiness, 2016).

Happiness in the future does connect to the present according to Burchard. Most people can look forward to the future because of the positive regard they have for today. When people face victory as well as tragedy with a sound approach, the future equates to the same attitude of optimism rather than depression.

Finally, Burchard insists future happiness also means having a ‘role model’ mindset in the present. At the end of life, it is too late to think about leaving a legacy. Therefore, adopting the objective to be a living example yields a future happiness built by being consciously focused in the here and now (Burchard, Happiness, 2016).


Burchard, B. (2016, March 13). Retrieved from

Burchard, B. (2016). Happiness. High Performance Academy. San Diego: Brendon Burchard.

Flora, C. (2016, March/April). It's not about you: the real antidote to negative thinking is the wondrous immensity of the external world. Psychology Today, pp. 48-56.

Smith, D. (2012). Monkey Mind: A memoir of anxiety. New York City: Simon & Schuster.

Talk, T. (2004). Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology [Recorded by M. Seligman]

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