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Aaron Beck – Psychology and HappinessAaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness


Aaron Beck (1921- )


American psychologist and the founder of cognitive therapy, now known as cognitive behaviour therapy.


His most famous book is...

Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders (1976)


His tips on happiness and stress management

 Aaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness

1. Be positive

Cognitive therapy believes that depression and emotional problems are caused by negative ideas about yourself, the future and society (“automatic thoughts”) – see points 2 and 3.

Don’t be self-critical, or expect to fail.


2. Avoid “distorted thinking

Distorted thinking is problematic thinking arising from 11 “cognitive distortions” that result in faulty assumptions and preconceptions:

  • all-or-nothing thinking – being a perfectionist and seeing things in black and white (something is right or wrong without any compromise in between).
  • overgeneralization – constant negativity resulting from one single negative event.
  • mental filter – dwelling on a single negative event. Aaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness
  • disqualifying the positive – rejecting positive experiences and evidence contradicting negative beliefs.
  • jumping to negative conclusions – without good reason.
  • magnification (or minimization) – exaggerating negative feelings and minimizing your strengths.
  • emotional reasoning – assuming your negativity is reality.
  • should statements - punishing yourself with musts, oughts and shoulds.
  • labelling and mislabelling – attaching negative labels to yourself and others.
  • personalization – blaming yourself for something you’re not responsible for.
  • self-worth – assuming that your self-worth depends on behaving in a certain way.


Aaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness

3. Remember the “cognitive thread”

Cognitive thread refers to three factors that unhappy people distort into something unnecessarily negative:

  • yourself (negativity leading to low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability).
  • present experiences.
  • the future.


4. Learn from Albert Ellis (1913-2007)

Beck was greatly influenced by Ellis’s  ABC Model which says that unhappiness is caused by:

Activating a distressing event.Aaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness

Beliefs (that are inappropriate for the event)

Consequences (damaging emotional responses to the beliefs).

Ellis's (pictured right) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) says that people and things will upset us, only if we believe that they can.

So, like Beck, he was a big supporter of positive thinking.


Key quote on happiness

By correcting erroneous beliefs, we can lower excessive reactions.



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