Your Magic Wand to be Measurably Happier, Starting Today

Photography: Polina Downar Photography

By Dr. Laura Markham

“Everyone has a “set point” for happiness, just as they do for weight.” – Martin Seligman 

The world has been pretty challenging lately. Do you, like me, have a list of things you’d like to change? We could start with society, move on to our children, and finish up with ourselves. Do you think you’d be happier if you could wave a wand and make things more perfect? Join the club! I wish I could hand you that wand. 

But I’m afraid I have bad news. Your life will never be perfect. You will never be perfect. Your child will never be perfect. And while we’re working on evolving our society, perfection is probably not on the cards. None of us will ever be perfect; we’re human!  

There’s something even worse, I’m afraid. Research shows that even desirable changes in our lives don’t necessarily make us happier for long, UNLESS we change our happiness set points.

But I have good news, too. 

You actually already have that magic wand, not for perfection, but for more happiness, even with things exactly as they are.

Scientists have proven that you can change your happiness set-point so that you feel measurably happier. 

Here are five strategies you can use, starting today. 

1. Choose gratitude 

Feeling appreciation and gratitude makes us measurably happier. There is suffering in every life, and sometimes it seems there is a whole lot more dark than light. But even in the hard times, there are so many blessings. Try to find a way to focus on those as much as you can. (If it helps, remind yourself that much of our growth comes from overcoming those challenging hurdles.)  

For parents, simply appreciating your child — delighting in them, enjoying them — can put the joy back into being a parent. Side benefit: Feeling our delight in them is transformative for children.  

Want some ideas on incorporating gratitude into your life? Gratitude Practices to Change Your Happiness Set Point.

2. Choose to make the most of life by seeing the bright side, even when there’s a setback 

Optimists are healthier, happier, have more fulfilling relationships, and live longer. Want to retrain yourself to see the glass as half-full? See this article on helping your child, and yourself, develop optimism. 

3. Choose to stay conscious and present, even with discomfort

Humans don’t like discomfort. So when we start to feel uncomfortable, we run in the other direction, or we numb ourselves out. But that just deadens our feelings of aliveness and joy. The only way around uncomfortable emotions is through. Those feelings of sadness or frustration are there for a reason — they’re messages. Once we’re willing to feel them, we get the message, and the emotions begin to dissipate.  

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